This is a joint news release with the Marin County Office of Education
San Rafael, CA – On July 17, Governor Gavin Newsom announced plans for how TK-12 public, private, independent and parochial students across California will begin the new school year in light of rising COVID-19 infections. The plan focuses on the use of local data to determine when students can safely return to classroom-based instruction. Most importantly, counties on the state’s monitoring list, Marin County included, are required to implement distance learning until the data shows infection rates are under control.
In addition to the Governor’s announcement, the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) issued a Framework for K-12 Schools in California that clearly defines reopening criteria for in-person learning centering on the state’s monitoring list. The framework includes guidance for schools about COVID-19 testing frequency for staff and how to respond in the event of an exposure by a student or staff member.
The state’s guidance does not apply to summer classes, camps, day care and sports practices that can operate under the Marin’s existing Public Health Guidance.
As of July 20, more than 30 counties in California were on the state’s monitoring list due to elevated disease transmission rates and/or hospitalized patients or limited hospital capacity. Marin County met the threshold for elevated disease transmission with 185.2 cases per 100,000 residents. To reopen the classroom to students, counties must be off the monitoring list for at least 14 days. A local health officer may grant a waiver for schools to open for in-person instruction if requested by school leaders in consultation with labor, parent, and community organizations.
“While this information is disappointing, we are prepared for the safe return of students and staff to the classroom where they belong,” said Marin County Superintendent of Schools Mary Jane Burke. “In the meantime, we want teachers to prepare by teaching distance learning from their classrooms and working with small groups of students in person to train them on the new protocols so they can begin to become accustomed to this new norm when we are ready to open.”
“We still think the best place for kids during the school year is in school and remain hopeful that we’ll get there eventually,” Dr. Matt Willis, Marin County’s Public Health Officer. “Doing our part to wear face coverings, practice physical distancing, wash hands frequently, and stay home as much as possible is something we can all do to turn the tide for both our schools and our communities.”
The Governor said distance learning practices would include access to devices and connectivity for all students, daily live online interaction with teachers and other students, challenging assignments that are equivalent to in-person instruction and adopted lessons for English language learners and special education students.
“This last period of distance learning emphasized the vast inequities across our county,” Burke said. “We cannot let students fall behind academically and must respond to the social and emotional effects of this pandemic. Our students deserve better.”
Marin schools closed site-based instruction on March 16 under the recommendation of Public Health to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19. During the remainder of the school year, school districts provided distance learning, regular meals and health care services to students in need.
The Governor emphasized the need for everyone in the state to take action to reduce the spread of COVID-19 by wearing a face covering, washing hands, and physically distancing from each other.