SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF/AP) — Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Friday that counties currently on the state’s COVID-19 monitoring watchlist — including Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Napa, San Francisco, Santa Clara, Solano, and Sonoma counties — will not be allowed to open the school year with in-class instructions unless the counties remain off the list for 14 days.
Newsom said it was a difficult decision, but the recent surge in new COVID-19 cases in the state forced his hand.
“Schools can physically open for in-person instruction when the county they are operating in has been off our monitoring list for 14 consecutive days,” he said. “If you’ve tuned into these daily briefing, you are very familiar with our monitoring list…We are putting forth guidelines that say based on the data, based upon the background spread, the community spread of the virus.”
“If you are not on that monitoring list you can move forward (with in-class instruction) as a county, if you choose to physically open your campuses, physically open your schools, he added. “However, schools that don’t meet this requirement, they must begin the school year, this fall, through distance learning.”
Newsom’s order covers the 6.15 million public school students in the state.
Already in the San Francisco Bay Area, school systems in San Francisco, Oakland San Rafael, San Jose and other communities have announced they would begin classes remotely.
Elsewhere in the state, Los Angeles and San Diego, the state’s two largest school districts with a combined population of 720,000 K-12 students, also will begin with remote learning.
School district decisions were being made amid growing concern from teachers and parents over the state’s surge of coronavirus cases and uncertainty surrounding the safety of both students and staff on campuses. The state this week reported its second-highest one day totals in infection rates and deaths since the start of the pandemic and more than 7,400 have died, more than 1,100 of them in the past two weeks.
Durinig his press conference Friday, Newsom walked through several other guidelines he was ordering, including a new mask requirement for in-class instruction — all students 3rd grade and above have to wear masks as do all school staff members.
“For students in the second grade and below, we strongly encourage wearing masks and face shields,” Newsom said.
COMPLETE COVERAGE: CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC
When it came to physical distancing, the governor said, staff members must keep six feet between themselves and their students. The school day also needs to start with symptom checks and plenty of hand washing stations are a must.
Each school, on a rotating basis, must test a cohort of the teaching staff and other administrators.
When it comes to the new distance learning standards, Newsom laid out five specific requirements for all the state’s public schools.
- Access to devices and conductivity for all students — state would be increasing funding to cover costs
- Daily live interaction between teachers and other students
- Challenging assignments equivalent to in-class instruction
- Adapt lessons for English language learners and special education students
“Our students, our teachers, staff, and certainly parents, we all prefer in-classroom instructions for all the obvious reasons, social and emotional foundationally, but only, only if it can be done safely,” he said.
Newsom exhorted citizens to adhere to the current guidance on stopping the spread of the virus if they want to see the schools reopen sooner rather than later.
“The one thing we have the power to do, to get our kids back into school, is look at this list again,” he said. “Wear a mask. Physically distance. Wash your hands. Minimize the mixing. The more we do on this list, and we do it at scale, the quicker all those counties are going to come off that monitoring list, we’re going to mitigate the spread of this virus and those kids are back in school.”
“So if that’s your top priority, it’s certainly mine, then it’s incumbent upon us to practice not just what some of us preach, but to practice what we preach as individuals that desire to see our kids go back, to model the behavior that we know can mitigate the spread, model the behavior that actually can extinguish this virus.”