Schools-FAQ K-12 Schools Reopening Framework and Guidance Q&A

K-12 Schools Reopening Framework and Guidance Q&A

Updates as of June 3, 2021:


Resuming in-person instruction is critical for kids, families, and communities throughout the state, and there is growing evidence that the right precautions can effectively stop the spread of COVID-19 in schools—especially in elementary schools.  The COVID-19 and Reopening In-Person Instruction Framework & Public Health Guidance for K-12 Schools in California, 2020-2021 School Year is a comprehensive framework to support school communities as they determine how to implement in-person instruction for the remainder of the 2020-2021 school year. 

Questions by Topic

General
Updated K-12 Schools Guidance January 14, 2021

General

Why are we re-opening schools now?

Resuming in-person instruction is critical for kids, families, and communities throughout the state, and there is growing evidence that the right precautions can effectively stop the spread of COVID-19 in schools—especially in elementary schools.  For a complete summary, including the scientific evidence and rationale for re-opening schools in California, please see the California Safe Schools for All Plan provided on the Safe Schools for All Hub website.

Is there a statewide standard on whether or not to open or close schools for in-person instruction?

The COVID-19 and Reopening In-Person Instruction Framework & Public Health Guidance for K-12 Schools in California, 2020-2021 School Year (K-12 School Guidance), which became effective January 14, 2021 is a comprehensive framework to support school communities as they determine how to implement in-person instruction for the remainder of the 2020-2021 school year.

Updated K-12 Schools Guidance January 14, 2021:

What is different with this new K-12 School Guidance and the previous guidance?

The COVID-19 and Reopening In-Person Instruction Framework & Public Health Guidance for K-12 Schools in California, 2020-2021 School Year (K-12 Schools Guidance) consolidates and updates prior state public health guidance and orders related to schools. Specifically, this document supersedes the following guidance, orders, and frequently asked questions:

  • COVID-19 Industry Guidance: Schools and School-Based Programs (first published in May 2020; last updated August 3, 2020).
  • The COVID-19 and Reopening In-Person Learning Framework for K-12 Schools in California, 2020-2021 School Year (July 17, 2020).
  • 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).
  • CDPH Schools Frequently Asked Questions (first issued August 3, 2020; last updated October 20, 2020).

What is the legal authority for enforcing the K-12 Schools Guidance?

Under operative executive orders and provisions of the California Health and Safety Code, schools must comply with orders and guidance issued by the California Department of Public Health and relevant local health departments (LHDs) to limit the spread of COVID-19 and protect public health.

Which schools are subject to this new guidance?

The K12 Schools Guidance applies to all public, charter and private schools operating in California.

What if the school is in a local health jurisdiction that is not the county?

School districts in local health jurisdictions that are cities are included as part of the county for purposes of tier assignment under the Blueprint for a Safer Economy. 

Do local health officers have to approve modes of instructional learning employed by schools or school districts?

No. Schools are not required to seek or receive approval from a state or local public health officers 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.

How should conflicting or inconsistent guidance between federal, state, and local authorities be addressed?

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, but in all cases where local or non-governmental sources may issue guidance that is less restrictive, this state guidance shall supersede.  Local public health jurisdictions may issue more restrictive guidance than the state public health directives. 

Definition of Open and Reopened

What is considered the first day a county has had an adjusted case rate of less than 25/100,000 population?

The first day is the day after the qualifying case rate is released on the Blueprint for a Safer Economy website. The website is updated weekly on Tuesdays.

What is the eligibility window for school reopening once a county has met the criteria of being in the Red Tier or with a case rate of less than 25?

Schools in counties that have met the relevant criteria for school reopening per the K-12 Guidance have a three-week period to open, starting the day the county meets the criterion for reopening, even if the county stops meeting the criterion during that window (i.e., case rate is ≥25 in a subsequent calculation or the county assignment goes back to the Purple Tier during the window). The window will be determined as follows: The first day a county is considered in the Red Tier is the Wednesday following the weekly county tier assignments are announced and posted on the Blueprint website (Tuesdays).  Similarly, the first day that elementary schools in a county are eligible for the elementary reopening process is the Wednesday after a weekly case rate of less than 25 is posted. For example, if a county is assigned to the Red Tier on Tuesday, March 9, the first full day the county is in the Red Tier is Wednesday, March 10. The window of eligibility for reopening would continue until the end of the day on March 30 regardless of any change to Purple tier assignment during that time. On March 31, schools in that county would not be able to open if the county had gone back to the Purple tier. If the county is in the Red Tier on March 31, then the schools remain eligible to reopen. The goal of the three-week window is to facilitate calm and safe school reopenings.

The January 14, 2021 K-12 school guidance originally required a county to meet the relevant reopening criterion (case rate of <25/100,000 population, or being in the Red Tier) for 5 consecutive days. The guidance was updated on February 22 to clarify that schools can reopen the day after the criterion is met per the Blueprint for a Safer Economy (updates posted weekly each Tuesday, allowing schools to open on Wednesday). Can you explain the change in guidance?  

The Blueprint adjusted case rate reflects a 7-day average and a 7-day lag in its calculation, so reflects consistent and ongoing downward trends of being below a case rate of 25.  In addition, counties need to have met Red Tier criteria for two weeks prior to entering into the Red Tier, so Red Tier status captures the time period in the prior 14 days.  Using the Blueprint calculation therefore captures more than a 5-day period of lower and down-trending numbers and simplifies the process of sharing that information and determining whether a county has met the criterion. Using the Blueprint calculation allows for transparent and predictable access to information for all interested parties.  

How do I find my county tier status and the posted adjusted case rate for my county on the Blueprint website?

Go to the Blueprint for a Safer Economy website. At the top of the page is a box labeled "Tracking COVID-19 in CA."  In that box, click the link at the bottom of the box to the "County Map."  This will bring you to the map.

In the map section, type your county name into the "Find a County" box next to the map. This will highlight your county and the color will indicate the Tier for your county. To see the adjusted case rate for counties that are in the Purple tier, click your highlighted county on the map. This will lead to a display of county specific information. In the display, under "County metrics," locate the "Adjusted case rate for tier assignment" number. This is the number used to determine whether your county has an adjusted case rate of less than 25/100,000 population. The map is updated weekly on Tuesdays.

For more detailed information on tier status and case rates, you can also access the Blueprint data chart (excel file) that is posted every Tuesday on the CDPH Blueprint for a Safe Economy website. Current and archived data charts can be downloaded. Adjusted case rates for each county can be found under the column titled: "Case Rate Used for Tier Adjusted Using Linear Adjustment (7-day avg, 7-day lag)."

If a school opened while the county was in the Red, Orange or Yellow Tier, will schools be required to close if the county reverts to the Purple Tier?

No, each individual school site that had already opened will not be required to close. Closure requirements are outlined by the CDPH criteria laid out in the  K-12 Schools Guidance.

Once a school starts in distance learning, is it required to remain that way for the entire quarter, semester? 

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 if the conditions are safe for both students and staff, and the school has met all necessary requirements for reopening as defined within the K-12 Schools Guidance.

My county was once eligible for school reopening (while the County was in the Red tier) but has since become ineligible when the county reverted back to Purple tier. Is my school still permitted to reopen for in-person instruction?

Schools must have actually reopened for in-person instruction while the county was in the Red Tier in order to remain open if the county moves back to Purple Tier. For a school to be considered reopened, it must have given all students in at least one grade the option to return for in-person instruction for at least part of the school week to be considered to "open" or "reopen." This includes a school that has offered all students in at least one grade the option of receiving in-person instruction for only certain days during the week (commonly referred to as a "hybrid" model). There are no specific time thresholds related to this requirement.

Schools that were providing in-person instruction to just a sub-set of the entire population of a grade, or schools that were operating only in the manner permitted under the Cohort Guidance are not "open" or "reopened."  

If a school was implementing a phased reopening (e.g., only opened grades 9- 10 for in-person instruction with set plans to phase in grades 11 and 12) while the county was in the Red Tier, the school site may continue its phased reopening if the county reverts back to the Purple Tier, if authorized by local health officer. This is only applicable to individual school sites. If a school district has a phased reopening of their schools, the schools in that district that did not open for in-person instruction may not re-open until the county is back in the Red Tier prior to opening. 

What does it mean for a school to be "open" under K-12 Schools Guidance? 

For a school to be considered open, the school must have given all students in at least one grade the option to return for in-person instruction for at least part of the school week. This includes a school that has offered all students in at least one grade the option of receiving in-person instruction for only certain days during the week (commonly referred to as a "hybrid" model).

Schools that were operating only in the manner permitted under the Cohort Guidance are not "open" or "reopened." In addition, if only some students were being served in-person in a school in a county in the Red Tier or lower (e.g., only students with disabilities) and all students in at least one grade did not have the option to return in-person as described above, the school has not "opened" or "reopened."

Why are schools not able to open if case rates in the county are 25/100K or higher but schools can stay open for in-person instruction if they were already open?

The best available science shows that with the right precautions, schools can be safe learning and working environments, but this can require people getting used to new routines and practices. The reopening criteria promotes a phased-in approach in which schools are not attempting "reopening" for the first time when community transmission remains high.

Are schools that received a prior Elementary School Waiver, but had not opened prior to January 14th considered opened?

A school that had received an approved Elementary School Waiver, but had not begun its reopening for in-person instruction of at least one grade by January 14th, does not meet the criteria as "open" and must delay reopening until the county case rate drops below the threshold of 25 per 100,000 population.

If our middle and high schools were previously open, or were in a phased reopening, and the county currently has an adjusted case rate over 25 cases per 100,000 population per day, do our schools have to close?

If the middle and high schools were open, or were in a phased reopening, the schools are not required to close if the county moves to the Purple Tier or goes over a case rate of 25 per 100,000 population. If a school does not meet the definition of "open" above, the school may continue serving the students in-person, as it did as of January 14, 2021.

If my county is in Purple Tier, what can my school do to serve students in-person?

Schools serving grades K-6 may reopen for in-person instruction in the Purple Tier if they complete and post a CSP to their website homepage and submit the CSP to their local health officer  and the State Safe Schools for All Team and there are no identified deficiencies. Schools serving students in grades K-6 may not reopen for in-person instruction in counties with adjusted case rates above 25 cases per 100,000 population per day.  Schools of all grades can also serve students for in-person instruction under the Cohort Guidance.

Reopening Plan (COVID-19 Safety Plan)

What is the difference between posting a CSP and submitting a CSP?  Does everyone need to both post and submit a CSP?

For schools that are currently "open" as defined in the CDPH guidance – the local educational agency ONLY needed to post their CSP by Feb 1, 2021 – they do NOT need to submit that plan to the local health department or to the Safe Schools Team.

For schools that are not "open" as defined in CDPH guidance, but seeking to reopen elementary grades while in the Purple Tier, and are under the 25 case rate – local educational agencies need to post their CSP and concurrently submit it to their local health department and Safe Schools for All Team for review.

For schools that are not "open" as defined in CDPH guidance and have no current plans to reopen elementary grades while in the Purple Tier – local educational agencies do not need to post the CSP at this time.

Where can a school go to request technical assistance with their COVID-19 Safety Plan (CSP)?

School Administrators may request technical assistance from the Safe Schools for all Team.

Are schools required to follow the model for the Cal/OSHA COVID-19 Prevention Plan (CPP) or may schools use re-opening plans they may have previously submitted under the School Waiver process (or can they create their own template?)

The Cal/OSHA template included in the K12 School Guidance is intended to provide a model for a CPP.  Schools may create their own program or use another template. They can also create a written CPP by incorporating elements of this program into their existing Injury and Illness Prevention Program.

If a school has already received an approved waiver, but has not begun in-person instruction, and the county is currently in the Purple Tier, do they still need to submit a CSP to the local health department and Safe Schools Team?

 Schools that have received prior waivers, but were not open as of January 14, 2021, are not considered to be open at this time, and will need to submit a  CSP to the local health department and State Safe Schools for all Team in order to  open elementary schools in the Purple Tier, following the procedures outlined in the Guidance

Does a school that is currently open and already providing in-person instruction still need to develop and submit a CSP to their local health department?

Schools that have already reopened for in-person instruction must complete and post a CSP to their website homepage by February 1, 2021.  They do not need to submit to, nor get approval from, their local health department prior to posting. 

Safety Standards (including masking and physical distancing)

Are masks required for all students?

Students in all grade levels K-12 are required to wear face coverings in accordance with the CDPH Guidance for the Use of Face Coverings , while at school, unless exempted.

What if an individual cannot wear a face covering?

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 must 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 public school throughout the state to local county offices of education. 

What if a student arrives at school without a face covering, and refuses to wear one provided by the school?

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.

What is the guidance on face coverings and physical distancing on buses?

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 and two windows on a bus should be opened fully at a minimum.

What are the current guidelines for physical distancing standards?  And is it measured from chair to chair or nose to nose?

For purposes of measuring distance when specifically addressing the distance between students participating in classroom instruction, the K-12 Schools Guidance was updated on March 20, 2021 to reflect new scientific evidence around physical distancing and to align with CDC national guidance updates. A minimum of 3 feet of physical distance between student chairs is strongly recommended, measured from the center of the back of the chair to the center of the back of the chair, when the chair is pushed into the desk or table. Distance teacher and other staff desks at least 6 feet away from student and other staff desks.  

Notification of Positive Cases, Quarantine, and Case Reporting

Who will be notified when a person at the school site tests positive or initiates self-quarantine due to confirmed or suspected exposure? 

Schools should maintain communication systems that allow staff and families to self-report symptoms and receive prompt notifications of exposures and closures, while maintaining confidentiality, as required by FERPA and state law related to privacy of educational records and other privacy laws. In addition, local public health departments will notify the school administration if a case and contact investigation reveal exposure at the school site.

What do I need to report to my local health department when I am aware of a positive case and when?

Schools must adhere to required COVID-19 Case Reporting by Schools and notify the local health department of any newly reported case of COVID-19 in a student or staff member, if the local health department has not yet contacted them about the case. Schools shall report all required information by telephone within twenty-four hours from the time the school is first made aware of a new case.

Why are public schools required to report PII for students testing positive, if we must comply with FERPA?

Schools are authorized under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) to disclose personally identifiable information without parental consent to local health departments regarding COVID-19 testing and cases.

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, California has been under a State of Emergency since March 4, 2020. The presence of students who are positive for COVID-19 on a school campus is an emergency that poses a risk to health or safety of students and staff on the school campus.  Reporting to the local health officer allows public health officials to adequately conduct case investigation and contact tracing, assess any school practices that may have led to the transmission, focus resources on prevention and mitigation strategies, and obtain the necessary data to assess the impact of school reopening on case rates within the community.  Additionally, California law also requires anyone in charge of a K-12 public or private school to immediately report the presence or suspected presence of any communicable disease, which includes COVID-19.

Therefore, every school (public, private or charter) in California shall notify its local health officer of any known case of COVID-19 among any student or staff who was present on the school campus within the 10 days preceding a positive test for COVID-19. 

Close contact, outbreaks and school closure

What is the definition of "close contact"? Is there a consistent statewide definition?

A close contact is defined as a person who is within 6 feet from a case for more than 15 minutes cumulative within a 24-hour period, regardless of face coverings.

What is an outbreak?

CDPH defines a school outbreak as 3 or more confirmed or probable cases of staff or students occurring within a 14-day period who are epidemiologically linked* in the school, are from different households and are not contacts of each other in any other investigation cases (e.g., transmission likely occurred in the school setting).

*Epidemiologically linked: if COVID-19 case was present in the setting during the same time period (e.g. same classroom, school event, etc.) within 14 days prior to the event date and where there is no other more likely source of exposure for identified cases (e.g. same household)

What defines an "exposed workplace".  Is this the entire school campus or a specific classroom or segment of the campus (e.g. cafeteria or school administration offices).

An exposed workplace is a work location, working area, or common area used or accessed by a confirmed COVID-19 positive case, including bathrooms, walkways, hallways, aisles, break or eating areas, and waiting areas. For more information, please visit COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standards Frequently Asked Questions (ca.gov).

What would trigger a school closure?

Individual school closure is recommended based on the number of cases and stable groups impacted. Closure should be done in consultation with the local health officer. Situations that may indicate the need for school closure:

  • Within a 14-day period, an outbreak has occurred in 25% or more stable groups in the school.
  • Within a 14-day period, at least three outbreaks (see definition above) have occurred in the school AND more than 5% of the school population is infected.

     The local health officer may also determine school closure is warranted for other reasons, including results from public health investigation or other local epidemiological data.

    If a LEA is closed due to meeting the criteria for closure noted above, when may it reopen?

    LEAs may typically reopen after 14 days, in consultation with the local health department.

Testing

Who should be tested and how often?

As explained in the K-12 Schools Guidance, when used in conjunction with other mitigation strategies, testing provides an additional tool to support safe and successful K-12 in-person instruction. There are several circumstances under which a student or staff might undergo testing. The Testing Considerations for LEAs and School Communities outlines the circumstances and considerations for testing implementation in K-12 schools.

In addition, any school currently open is subject to the minimum testing requirement standards established by Cal/OSHA. These standards include response testing for exposed cases and outbreak testing for everyone weekly until no longer considered an outbreak. Please refer to Cal/OSHA guidance for complete details.

Who will pay for the testing of school employees and students?

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, schools may partner with CDPH Valencia Branch Laboratory to expand COVID-19 testing in schools and local communities.  Please visit the California Testing Task Force website to learn more.

Are schools required to follow the cadence of testing identified in the guidance in order to receive grant funding?

The current grant program language, subject to final adoption by the State Legislature, requires LEAs to comply with testing cadences in order to receive grant funding.

Is testing required or voluntary for schools transitioning to in-person instruction?

Testing is voluntary for schools transitioning to in-person instruction; however, it is an important mitigation strategy and can provide a level of support for both students and staff.  The Testing Considerations for LEAs and School Communities outlines a variety of circumstances and considerations for testing implementation in K-12 schools.  Testing resources through the Valencia Branch Laboratory, including resources on student testing, are accessible through the Schools hub and also available here.

Cohort and Stable Groups

If a school is closed for in-person instruction, is it permissible for a small set of students—such as students with disabilities and other students with special needs—to receive in-person instruction on campus?

The Cohort Guidance continues to allow schools that are not permitted to reopen under state or local public health directives and schools (and any grades at schools) that have not yet reopened to serve students in-person in small, stable cohorts, as specified in the Cohort Guidance.  The Cohort Guidance provides a way for schools that are not open for in-person instruction to provide in-person supervision, instruction, targeted support services, and facilitation of distance learning for some students, especially high-need student groups and students who may not be able to benefit fully from distance learning offerings.

What is the difference between a cohort and a stable group?

A cohort, as defined in the K-12 Schools Guidance and specific Guidance Related to Cohorts for Children and Youth (Cohort Guidance), refers to groups of students (with no more than 16 individuals in the group) who are meeting for targeted supports and intervention services while the school is closed to in-person instruction.  A stable group is a term used when a school is providing in-person instruction not under the Cohort Guidance (i.e., when it has opened for in-person instruction per the "open" definition in the Guidance). In this context, a stable group is a group with fixed membership of students and staff that stays together without mixing with any other groups for any activities, including instruction, meal times and recess.  For examples on how to achieve stable groups for in-person instruction, view the Stable Group Guidance Considerations by Grade Level within the  K-12 Schools Guidance.

Are stable groups required in middle and high schools?

CDPH does not require schools to create stable groups. Instead, CDPH provides a number of potential approaches to stable groups for middle and high schools  and expects schools to follow the intent of why stable groups are important to reduce the risk of in-school transmission and to aim to develop the best stable group system possible within their school with their students that will limit exposure to the greatest extent possible. 

The purpose of a stable group is to decrease opportunities for exposure to or transmission of the virus. The stable group reduces the numbers of exposed individuals if someone with COVID-19 is present on campus, facilitates more efficient contact tracing in the event of a positive case, and allows for targeted testing and quarantine of a single group of students/staff instead of potential schoolwide closures in the event of a positive case or cluster of cases.

CDPH also recommends that schools consider working with their county's Office of Education for guidance regarding possible stable group scenarios that would work with each school's specific student population academic and service needs. Technical assistance for school administrators with additional questions is also available through the Safe Schools for All Hub.

Are service providers in school (e.g. speech and occupational therapists) allowed to move between cohorts or stable groups?

Under the Cohort Guidance, one-to-one specialized services (which includes, but is not limited to occupational therapy services, speech and language services, and other medical, behavioral services, or educational support services as part of a targeted intervention strategy) can be provided to a child or youth by a support service provider that is not part of the child or youth's cohort.  Services must be provided consistent with the industry guidance for Limited Services

Outside the Cohort Guidance, schools may determine how service providers should interact with stable groups of students.  The approaches to stable groups from the K12 Guidance provide a useful framework for determining how one-to-one specialized services are provided to students in different stable groups.

Field Trips

Are field trips allowed under the current K-12 Schools Guidance?

Yes, field trips are allowed, following the current K-12 Schools Guidance safety mitigation approaches (e.g. stable groups, distancing, and bus ventilation and spacing recommendations).

School Safety Review Process

Is CDPH still conducting a Safety Review Process?

CDPH updated its Guidance for K-12 Schools on Saturday, March 20, 2021, to align with the latest science, as reflected by the Friday, March 19th update from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) regarding physical distancing, and to update re-opening criteria and processes for middle schools and high schools in Purple Tier to align them with re-opening criteria and processes for elementary schools.  As such, the safety review request process is being retired, as it addressed those two specific elements of the guidance.

Prior Waiver Process

Does the previous Elementary School Waiver Process still apply?

The K-12 Schools Guidance, which became effective January 14, 2021, supersedes all previous guidance, including the Elementary Education Waiver process. School sites that had received waiver approvals and had subsequently begun their reopening of school sites of at least one full grade, prior to January 14, 2021, may continue implementing their phased-in process for in-person instruction.

What happens to Waiver requests that were submitted, but not answered before this new guidance became effective?

Because the K-12 Schools Guidance supersedes the previous Elementary Education Waiver Process, waiver requests that were submitted prior to January 14, 2021, but not yet reviewed and approved, will no longer be reviewed or considered. 

What if a school received a previous School Waiver but had not yet started their reopening process?

If a school previously received a waiver under the former Elementary Education Waiver Process, but had not yet reopened as of January 14, 2021, they would not be considered opened or reopened. Hence, the school would need to comply with the "In Person School Reopening" requirements outlined in the K12 Schools Guidance.

Other Related Youth Guidance

Does this guidance allow for sports activities?

 School athletic activities and sports should follow the CDPH Outdoor and Indoor Youth and Adult Recreational Guidance, as well as reviewing the "Implementing Distancing Inside and Outside the Classroom: Non-Classroom Spaces" under the K12 Schools Guidance.

Does this guidance allow for singing or playing instruments?

Yes, singing and band practice are permitted, however outdoors only, 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.

Does this guidance apply to childcare programs?

This guidance applies to K-12.  For schools offering before and after-school childcare for grades K-6, the Guidance Related to Cohorts must be applied. For other childcare outside the school setting, please see separate childcare guidance.

Do these new guidelines apply to preschool?

No. Unless there is a local public health order stating otherwise, childcare 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

Are boarding schools allowed to reopen residential dorms under this framework?

No, the residential components of boarding schools are to remain closed (with theexception of residential components of boarding schools that are currently operating with the permission of local health authorities, including those serving wards or dependents of the juvenile courts) 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.


Originally published February 16, 2021