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New K-12 Schools Reopening In-Person Framework and Updated Guidance Issued
On January 14, 2021, the California Department of Public Health (CDPH), issued new 50-page guidance, titled COVID-19 and Reopening Instruction Framework and Public Health Guidance for K-12 Schools, which serves as both an update and a consolidation of previous K-12 school-related guidance issued by the CDPH and Cal/OSHA. The updated guidance supersedes the following previously issued guidance, orders, and FAQs: (1) COVID-19 Industry Guidance: Schools and School-Based Programs (first published in May of 2020 and last updated on August 3, 2020); (2) The COVID and Reopening In Person Framework for K-12 Schools in California, 2020-2021 School Year (issued on July 17, 2020); (3) The Elementary Education Waiver process and the associated School Waiver Letter and Cover Form and Local Health Officer Waiver Notice Form (all issued on August 3, 2020); and (4) CPDH Schools Frequently Asked Questions (first issued on August 3, 2020). This guidance does not modify or supersede the Guidance Related to Cohorts for Children and Youth (first issued on August 25, 2020 and last updated September 4, 2020).
The updated guidance sets forth many new, significant requirements for K-12 schools, including new COVID-19 Safety Plan Requirements, a new framework for the reopening of elementary schools that have not yet reopened for in person instruction, heightened face covering and mask wearing requirements, new procedures when there is a COVID-19 confirmed positive case or outbreak at a school, COVID-19 testing guidance, COVID-19 case and reopening status reporting requirements, and other important guidance. The new guidance applies to all public and private schools operating in California. The CDPH also issued separate Testing Considerations for School Communities, which includes guidance, considerations, strategy, and resources for schools with regard to testing students and staff for COVID-19.
One of the most significant new requirements is that all schools, prior to resuming in person instruction, will be required to create and publish a written COVID-19 Safety Plan (CSP). Schools that have already resumed in person instruction are also required to create and post a CSP to their website or homepage, or for schools that do not maintain websites, in another publicly accessible manner, by February 1, 2021, in order to continue operating an in person instruction program.
The CSP has two components: (1) The Cal/OSHA COVID-19 Prevention Program (CPP); and (2) the COVID-19 School Guidance Checklist. The Cal/OSHA Emergency Temporary Standards that went into effect on November 30, 2020, require a written CPP. In order to ease the burden of preparing the new CSP, the first and primary component of the CSP is the CPP, which schools were required to have already prepared. Liebert Cassidy Whitmore has created a template CPP for schools, which can be purchased here. Cal/OSHA has also made a template CPP available. The second component, the COVID-19 School Guidance Checklist, is available on the CDPH website.
We will be issuing a longer bulletin next week, which will go into greater detail regarding the important new requirements and guidance issued by the CDPH.