Los Angeles County and Other Counties Issue K-12 Reopening Guidance; The State Superintendent of Public Instruction Provides an Update on Statewide Guidance

CATEGORY: Special Bulletins
CLIENT TYPE: Private Education, Public Education
PUBLICATION: LCW Special Bulletin
DATE: May 28, 2020

A.  Superintendent Tony Thurmond Provides an Update on Statewide Guidance Regarding the Reopening of K-12 Schools

On May 27, 2020, State Superintendent of Public Instruction, Tony Thurmond, provided an update on the Department of Education’s efforts to assist schools with the reopening process during a virtual media check-in.  Superintendent Thurmond shared that the Department of Education would be releasing reopening guidance for schools in early June.  Superintendent Thurmond referred to the guidance for schools as a “guidebook” and stated that it will be a “how to” guide that answers schools’ questions about how to reopen.

Superintendent Thurmond mentioned that the statewide guidance will be similar to guidance issued by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) on how to keep students safe while at school.  He shared some examples of the guidelines that the Department of Education will be releasing, including the following:

  • Students and staff will need to wear face coverings
  • There will be staff taking temperatures of students at school and parents may be asked to take the temperatures of their children before they leave home
  • Schools will need to maintain physical and social distancing (e.g., fewer students on campus, smaller class sizes, and a smaller number of students on buses)

Moreover, Superintendent Thurmond stated that to maintain physical and social distancing, there will be recommendations to utilize hybrid / blended models of instruction with a balance between students completing some in-person learning on campus and some distance learning.  Likewise, schools will need to use every part of their campuses to maintain six feet of distance inside and outside the classroom.

LCW is closely monitoring the release of reopening guidance from the state and will provide an update once guidance is released.

B.  Los Angeles County Issues Guidance on the Reopening of K-12 Schools

On May 27, 2020, the Los Angeles Office of Education issued a 43-page framework for the reopening of K-12 schools, which is accessible here: https://www.lacoe.edu/Home/School-Reopening.   The framework was developed by a Task Force comprised of superintendents and educational leaders from the 80 school districts within the County.  The framework is to serve as guidance for local districts, but is not intended to be a directive, and the framework states that the guidance of local officers must be prioritized.  Private schools within Los Angeles County should review this framework in planning for the reopening of their schools, as they contain heath and safety recommendations that will contribute to the standard of care that schools within the County will be expected to follow when reopening schools.   We note that currently, the state has not approved the reopening of K-12 schools within Los Angeles County.

The framework is divided into three sections: (1) a section on a visioning process for school communities and establishing guiding principles; (2) a section on assessing student, staff, and organizational needs; and (3) a section with planning and organizational readiness templates (which include needs assessment forms for staff and students, a decision tree, plans for instructional modes, and planning templates to be used by a school task force).

The health and safety guidelines include, but are not limited, to the following:

  • Communication with students and staff about protocols and the importance of staying home when sick
  • Posting safety information, including protocols on social distancing, handwashing, and guidelines to reduce risk of exposure to COVID-19 while at work and school
  • Instructing parents/guardians to screen students in the morning for symptoms before arriving at school
  • Students and staff maintaining at least 6 feet distance from one another whenever feasible.  In order to implement this, the guidelines recommend:

•  Providing ingress/egress protocols and training for all school sites

•  Stagger start/end times

•  Stagger recess/lunch

•  Stagger passing periods

•  Decreasing the number of students in a classroom

•  Rearranging classrooms to provide 6 feet between tables, activity stations, and chairs

•  Whenever possible classrooms should have stable groups of students (meaning the same students each day)

•  Whenever possible, have teachers move between classrooms instead of students

  • Implementing social distancing for younger students by:

•  Eliminating circle time and other activities, which bring students closer together

•  Develop activities that model and reinforce hygiene and social distancing

•  Use of classroom materials to help students visualize staying 6 feet from one another

•  Limit the sharing of supplies and materials; consider an individual student supply as opposed to a bin

•  Providing adequate supplies for frequent handwashing, installation of automatic hand sanitizer machines in common areas, and     requiring handwashing at set times throughout the day

  • Have lunch or meals supervised in non-congregate settings, and avoid sharing tables whenever possible
  • Requiring staff and students to wear cloth face coverings at school, and making sure schools have an adequate supply for both staff and students
  • Providing Health Office Staff, Front Office Staff, Nutrition Services Staff, and Custodial Staff with Personal Protective Equipment
  • Providing barriers, such as implementing plexiglass barriers in areas where there is limited space for social distancing, the front office, and the health office
  • Ensuring there is a separate area to keep sick students away from others with supervision
  • Implementing frequent cleaning protocols to ensure that frequently touched surfaces are cleaned regularly
  • Ensure adequate ventilation in health office
  • Set up dividers or different locations to maintain student isolation, privacy, and safety for sick students
  • Stock thermometers and consider the purchase of infrared thermometers
  • Dedicate time for training of staff prior to reopening
  • If possible, placing a surgical face mask on a student who develops a cough or fever at school
  • Having emergency substitute plans in place if a staff member becomes ill at school
  • Requiring any student or staff member to stay home if they have symptoms consistent with COVID-19 and requiring them to stay home until at least 10 days after symptoms first appeared and at least 3 days after recovery
  • Any students or staff who were in close contact with someone diagnosed or suspected to have COVID-19 are to home quarantine for 14 days from the date of exposure.  Close contact is defined as being within 6 feet for more than 10 minutes with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 or is suspected to have COVID-19
  • Having a plan in place regarding what the School will do if a staff or student tests positive for COVID-19, and sharing that plan with staff and parents
  • Providing options for distance learning as needed, including for those children with underlying health conditions and encourage parents of children with underlying health conditions to discuss with their health care provider whether they should return to school
  • Encourage staff with underlying health conditions and those 65 or older to consult  with their health care provider to determine if it is safe for them to return to work and consider options for telecommuting and alternate work arrangements as needed
  • If childcare is provided before and after school, refer to County Public Health Department guidelines and CDC guidance for childcare programs