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New Guidance From the CDC and the California Department of Public Health on the Reopening of K-12 Schools
CDC Issues Guidance Regarding the Reopening of K-12 Schools, Summer Day Camps, and Child Care Programs
Last week, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) issued guidance titled, CDC Activities and Initiatives Supporting the COVID-19 Response and the President’s Plan for Opening America Up Again. The guidance contains information on the CDC’s activities and initiatives to support state and local authorities with the gradual reopening of the country. The guidance also contains specific guidance to assist certain types of establishments as they reopen, including childcare programs, K-12 schools, and summer day camps.
The guidance for childcare programs, K-12 schools, and summer day camps address topics such as:
- Promoting healthy hygiene practices with students and staff
- Intensifying cleaning, disinfection, and ventilation
- Promoting social distancing
- Limiting sharing of food, personal items, school supplies, and other items among students
- Training staff
- Checking for signs and symptoms of COVID-19 among students and staff
- Planning for when a student, staff member, or visitor becomes sick
- Maintaining healthy operations
- Closing temporarily in the event a person who has been onsite is diagnosed with COVID-19
The guidance on these topics also include links to resources to assist with planning and implementing a reopening plan. For example, the guidance on promoting healthy hygiene practices contains links to colorful, illustrative posters that may be posted onsite to demonstrate the proper way to wear a face covering and wash hands . Also, the guidance on checking for signs and symptoms contains a link to CDC guidance on symptoms of COVID-19, when to seek emergency medical attention, and digital resources on symptoms of COVID-19.
The CDC also has a Child Care, Schools, and Youth Programs webpage dedicated to resources to help these establishments operate safely in light of COVID-19. The page has guidance for schools, summer camps, and childcare programs that are currently open and contemplating opening, including decision tools, cleaning and disinfecting guidance, mitigation strategies, FAQs for administrators, teachers and parents, talking to children about COVID-19, checklists for teachers and parents, and communication resources, such as kid-friendly posters on handwashing, germs, and good hygiene practices. The page is updated regularly.
California Department of Education Provides Update on Statewide Guidelines
On May 21, 2020, during a webinar update presented by the California Department of Education (CDE), the State Superintendent of Public Instruction, Tony Thurmond, stated that the Department of Public Health is working in conjunction with the CDE on statewide guidance regarding the reopening of K-12 schools. Superintendent Thurmond stated that the guidelines would be issued in days to weeks. Superintendent Thurmond stated that the task force preparing the guidance and exploring implementation of different educational environments, such as the use of outdoor learning, smaller class size, blended learning (meaning a blend of remote and in-person instruction), and/or having only lower grades appear for in-person classes, while upper grades are taught remotely.
Dr. Gil Chavez, the Deputy Director, Center for Infectious Diseases, California Public Health Department provided an update. Dr. Chavez stated that the counties that have been approved by the state to move more quickly through stage 2 of the reopening potentially will be permitted to open schools in the next few weeks. Dr. Chavez stated that schools will need partner with local health departments on the reopening process. The State Public Health Department will be providing guidance on how schools should reopen, but these recommendations are to guide steps in close consultation with local health departments.
Dr. Chavez explained that the forthcoming statewide guidance will include recommendations on how schools should manage social distancing in classrooms, and there will be recommendations regarding students and employees wearing face coverings. Dr. Chavez explained that there will be recommended alternatives to wearing facemasks for those who are unable to wear them.