This Q&A is no longer in effect and is for historical purposes only.
All CDPH and Cal/OSHA guidance can be found on the covid19.ca.gov Industry Guidance to Reduce Risk webpage. These include:
The Governor has ordered, in multiple executive orders (PDF), that all California residents heed the guidance and directives of the state public health officer. Government Code section 8665 provides that any person who violates or who refuses or willfully neglects to obey an Executive Order shall be guilty of a misdemeanor and on conviction shall be punishable by a fine.
The guidance applies to all public and private schools operating in California. This is a public health directive and the Governor has ordered, in multiple executive orders (PDF), that all California residents heed the guidance and directives of the state public health officer.
Education Code section 43504, enacted as part of the 2020-21 Budget, specifies that schools should "offer in-person instruction to the greatest extent possible."
The Framework for K-12 Schools in California (PDF) outlines standards for when schools should open and close for in-person instruction. Within those standards, local public health and school officials should collaborate to make decisions tailored to the circumstances and needs of the community.
If the local health jurisdiction has been on the county monitoring list within the prior 14 days, the school must conduct distance learning only, until their local health jurisdiction has been off the monitoring list for at least 14 days. The framework authorized local health officers to grant a waiver of this criteria, in order for elementary schools to open for in-person instruction under specified conditions. Further details about the waiver process are available in the COVID-19 and Reopening In-Person Learning Elementary Education Waiver Process document.
School districts in local health jurisdictions that are cities are considered to be included as part of the county if the county is on the monitoring list.
Yes, provided that adults on site engage in physical distancing and wear face coverings. School administrators should also consider precautions outlined in the guidance on office workspaces (PDF).
No. Schools are not required to seek or receive approval from a state or local public health officer prior to adopting particular instructional models. However, schools and school districts should work closely with local public health officers to ensure that in-person instruction is conducted in a safe manner consistent with state and local public health guidance.
Governmental and non-governmental entities at all levels have issued guidance relating to the safe reopening of schools for in-person instruction. Under the operative executive orders (PDF) and 2020-21 Budget Act, schools must comply with orders and guidance issued by the California Department of Public Health and relevant local public health departments. Schools may comply with guidance from other federal, state, local, and non-governmental sources, to the extent those guidelines are consistent with state and local public health directives.
As explained in the Framework for K-12 Schools in California, school staff should be tested, including teachers, paraprofessionals, cafeteria workers, janitors, bus drivers, or any other school employee that may have contact with students or other staff. School districts and schools should ensure that staff are tested periodically by their primary care provider or by referring teachers to a community testing site, as testing capacity permits and as practicable. Examples of recommended frequency include all staff being tested over 2 months, where 25% of staff are tested every 2 weeks, or 50% every month to rotate which staff members are tested over time.
School employees and students who need testing would either go to their health care provider or a state-operated or other community testing site. The Department of Managed Health Care has filed an emergency regulation to require health plans to pay for COVID-19 testing for all essential workers, including school staff. In addition, tests are available at community testing sites throughout the state.
Since the original June 5th guidance, CDPH has recommended daily visual wellness and symptoms checks prior to individuals entering campus. In order to facilitate those checks, the California Office of Emergency Services has distributed multiple no-touch thermometers for each school throughout the state to local county offices of education. These checks can happen in a variety of ways, including: As the individuals enters the building or during morning homeroom. Students can be asked about their symptoms or can complete a short checklist of symptoms and hand it in. Follow-up to those checklists should occur whenever symptoms of COVID-19 are identified.
Close contact is defined as contact within 6 feet for greater than 15 minutes. The CDPH is following the Centers for Disease Control guidance on close contact.
CDPH recommends face masks (or face shields for very young children) at age 2 or older, so that those who cannot manage masks can nonetheless be protected. CDPH guidance requires all children in 3rd grade or later to wear masks. Increasing evidence suggests wearing masks or face coverings can significantly decrease COVID-19 disease transmission. Other countries' experiences (e.g., China, Singapore) suggests that virtually all students can be taught to handle face coverings at that age.
Schools should review the CDPH Guidance for the Use of Face Coverings (PDF) and any applicable local health department guidance and incorporate face covering use for students and workers into their COVID-19 prevention plan.
The face covering guidance recognizes that there are some people who cannot wear a face covering for a number of different reasons. People are exempted from the requirement if they are under age 2, have a medical or mental health condition or disability that would make impede them from properly wearing or handling a mask, or when it would inhibit communication with a person who is hearing impaired.
Schools should develop protocols to provide a face covering to students who inadvertently fail to bring a face covering to school to prevent unnecessary exclusions. The California Office of Emergency Services has distributed appropriate face coverings for each school throughout the state to local county offices of education.
If a student refuses, the student must be excluded from on-campus instruction, unless they are exempt, until they are willing to wear a face covering. Students excluded on this basis should be offered other educational opportunities through distance learning. Disposable paper masks are thinner and may be less effective, but may still be used as a face covering to meet the requirement.
Face coverings are required on buses. The guidance acknowledges that a full 6 feet of physical distancing may not be practicable on buses, therefore face coverings are essential. Physical distancing should be maximized to the extent practicable.
Waivers for in-person instruction may be requested for grades TK-6.
The CDPH guidance provides that both public and private schools in counties on the County Monitoring List may request a waiver to conduct in-person instruction in elementary schools for grades TK-6. The private school-equivalent of a superintendent (in most cases, the head of school) may request a waiver from the local health officer to conduct in-person elementary school instruction, in consultation with labor (as applicable), parent, and community organizations. Local health officers, in turn, should review local community epidemiological data, consider other public health interventions, and consult with CDPH when considering a waiver request.
Based on the current best available scientific evidence, COVID-related risks in schools serving elementary-age students (grades TK-6) are lower than and different from the risks to staff and to students in schools serving older students. In particular, there appears to be lower risk of child-to-child or child-to-adult transmission in children under age 12, and the risk of infection and serious illness in elementary school children is particularly low.
Examples of community organizations include school-based non-profit organizations and local organizations that support student enrichment, recreation, after-school programs, health services, early childhood services or provide family support.
The guidance does not permit team competition, but does allow for individual or team physical conditioning and training and physical education where physical distancing can be maintained and ideally outdoors. Indoor physical conditioning and training is allowed only in counties where gyms and fitness centers are allowed to operate indoors. Please see the CDPH Youth Sports Guidance (PDF) for further details.
Yes, outdoor singing and band practice are
permitted, provided that precautions such as physical distancing and mask
wearing are implemented to the maximum extent possible. Playing of wind
instruments (any instrument played by the mouth, such as a trumpet or clarinet)
is strongly discouraged. School officials, staff, parents, and students should
be aware of the increased likelihood for transmission from exhaled droplets
during singing and band practice, and physical distancing beyond 6 feet is
strongly recommended for any of these activities.
This guidance applies to K-12. Please see separate childcare guidance.
Unless there is a local public health order stating otherwise, child care programs can remain open or re-open. There will be some variation for preschool programs that are based on a school campus: if the school campus is closed, then the local school district will decide if the childcare or preschool program can open
No, the residential components of boarding schools are to remain closed regardless of Tier status of their county until further guidance is issued. Boarding schools present unique risks compared to other K-12 schools due to the nature of the congregate living situation that brings together students and faculty from various communities across the state and from other states, which raises the risk of COVID-19 transmission. Additionally, as students may travel back to their home communities on weekends and holidays, this would further raise the risk of the spread of COVID-19 through multiple communities. The non-residential components of boarding schools (e.g., in-person instruction for day students) are governed by the same guidelines as other K-12 schools.
The benchmark will generally include the denominator of both students and staff, which should be tracked separately. The CDPH guidance provides that each school site should designate a liaison – the school nurse, if applicable – to help coordinate monitoring and communications to local health officials, as well as the school community. The liaison should monitor and report positive cases, and track whether the school approaches the 5% threshold during a 14-day period.
No, the school will not be required to close. Closure requirements are outlined by the CDPH criteria laid out in the COVID-19 and Reopening Framework for K-12 Schools in California (PDF) document.
No. Education Code section 43504 specifies that schools should "offer in-person instruction to the greatest extent possible." However, in-person instruction should be conducted only if the conditions are safe for both students and staff. If a school starts in distance learning, school and public health officials should collaborate to prepare to reopen for in-person instruction as soon as practicable.
More detailed guidance on conditions under which permissible in-person instruction and services for small sets of students, such as those provided pursuant to an individualized education program (IEP), is forthcoming.