Reopening California: State Superintendent releases guidelines for reopening schools

There's a big question for parents in California this summer break: will school campuses reopen in the fall?
FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- There's a big question for parents in California this summer break: will school campuses reopen in the fall?

California State Superintendent Tony Thurmond gave his guidance on Monday on how that might safely happen. Still, it will ultimately be up to the leaders of each school district to determine when they want to reopen their campuses.

To enable social distancing, he's encouraging schools to accommodate students who want to continue distance learning but acknowledged that not possible for all families and students.

RELATED: California to allow schools, gyms, bars to begin reopening this week

State officials say that schools should consider staggered schedules for their students. Some examples suggested: having younger students, like kindergarten through third-grade, learn on-campus, and having older students continue distance learning for some of the time.

School staff members and teachers are required to wear face coverings. Thurmond said personal protective equipment would be made available for staff members as soon as Friday.

Students are highly encouraged to wear face masks, but they won't be required on the state level. Staff members and students will need to maintain six feet apart from one another while on campus.

For those students that do return to campus, things will look a little different from the moment they arrive, to the moment they leave:

ARRIVING AT SCHOOL

The state says that school buses should have the windows open when possible to increase airflow. Students should sit further apart, with one person per seat on each side of the bus, and skip every other row. That will drastically reduce the capacity of each bus.

State officials also suggest that schools stagger student drop-off times and increase the number of arrival areas available to allow for social distancing. It's also recommended that schools designate entry and exit points to the school to limit crowding.

CLASSROOMS

Thurmond recommended students remain in the same space, like their desks, throughout the day and that teachers limit movement between groups of students.

Desks will need to be spaced out six feet from each other and the teacher. The state recommends keeping students' belongings in designated areas throughout the day.

OUTSIDE THE CLASSROOM

The state suggests that teachers try to utilize outside space for instruction to increase the distance between students for part of the school day.

It's recommended to limit large masses of students in hallways by staggering movement times or keeping students in one room for the day.

State officials say that lunches should be served in classrooms or outdoors, not in the cafeteria. Recess for students should be in designated areas keeping classes together.



Cleaning procedures at schools will be ramped up, and staff is encouraged to limit shared spaces and equipment.

State officials say schools should add hygiene stations for students and staff to wash their hands regularly throughout the day. Thurmond noted that having portable hand washing stations could minimize students' movements, or having them wash their hands in intervals.

Frequently shared areas around campuses, such as water fountains, are recommended to be closed off, and students encouraged to bring reusable water bottles.

Thurmond said schools should enforce frequent cleaning of shared-touched surfaces, such as door handles, light switches, sink handles, students' desks or chairs.

Districts will need to develop a plan for closing parts of a campus if a student or staff member becomes infected with COVID-19.

Staff members will also need to be trained in recognizing symptoms for the coronavirus.

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Thurmond said that many school districts expressed concerns about funding for providing additional laptops for distance learning and for implementing physical distancing on campus, especially during the state's economic crisis and budget cuts.

Thurmond said that while instruction will look different, state officials will continue to work with districts to close digital divides between students and to maintain the course for their learning.

The document did not include rules for extracurricular activities or school-based sports, but Thurmond said those guidelines would be released soon.

Fresno Unified's top leader is planning, at this point, to bring back all students with the exception of those who prefer distance learning.

"Stay home and we'll provide you a robust digital learning option or come and we will do everything to make sure safety above everything else. But for a lot of families, they really don't have a lot of wherewithal to make digital learning function and function well for them," said Fresno Unified School District superintendent Bob Nelson.

Meanwhile, Central Unified is piloting a summer school program on two campuses with 150 students as a test case to see how classes can be set up and carried out using the new normal.

Local school officials say school principals will have a big job this summer - figuring out how to use every inch of space on campus efficiently, including outdoor areas.

For more news coverage on the coronavirus and COVID-19 go to ABC30.com/coronavirus
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