With schools across California poised to reopen for the fall, what that might look like still remains to be seen.
California State Superintendent Tony Thurmond offered some clarification Monday during a news conference, while also releasing a guidebook on how to reopen schools safely.
However, he did note that how schools reopen in practice will have to be decided locally by each individual district.
The guidance was developed by the state’s Department of Education, which consulted health officials and organizations, parents, educators and students.
Several examples were provided in the guidebook as to what options would exist for reopening.
One of them is a blended learning model. With this option, half of the student population would attend school in person for four full days a week, while the other half would engage in distance learning, and students would alternate each week.
With another option, students would report to schools on two designated days based on grade level. On the other days, students would participate in “enrichment opportunities aligned with academic goals established by the school…” conducted on-site or with community partners and would be coordinated by school instructional staff.
Each option was developed with the consideration that physical distancing would need to be properly observed, as well as other health and safety guidelines.
In that vein, Thurmond encouraged schools to accommodate students who want to continue distance learning while also recognizing that may not be suitable or possible for all students.
“We know that many of our students really need in-class instruction,” Thurmond said. “Their parents may need to work, they may be the children of essential workers and in many cases, these are children who just need to have contact again with peers and educators and support staff.”
Thurmond said that students and staff should wear face-coverings, but those who have breathing problems or medical conditions would not be required to do so.
“Our guidance really attempts to envision broadly many scenarios that schools will have to deal with and how to prepare,” Thurmond said.
To that end, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced last Friday that personal protective equipment would be provided to schools.
While arriving at school, the state said that bus capacities may need to be reduced, perhaps necessitating the use of seating charts.
To keep with social distancing, students would board the bus in the order in which they get off in order to not walk past each other. Students and staff would be required to wear masks.
Inside the classroom, Thurmond said that students should stay in the same space throughout the day and teachers limit movement between groups of students.
Meals could be served in classrooms, and shared tables among students would be suspended, and students who are at home could receive meals via curbside pickup, drive through and delivery.
The state suggests that instructors utilize outside space to increase physical distance between students.
Field trips could be replaced with virtual activities, and physical education should be limited to non-contact activities.