Credit: Elizabeth Mee
Elizabeth Mee's classroom at Alliance College Ready school in Los Angeles sits empty after the coronavirus school closures.
Gov. Newsom released guidance for schools on July 18, affirming the contents of this report. For details, see the box below.

Gov. Gavin Newsom is expected to announce Friday that all public and private schools in California counties on the state’s monitoring list for rising coronavirus infections would be required to close for in-class instruction and meet strict criteria in order to reopen. 

Read the all documents released by Gov. Newsom and the California Dept. of Public Health on Friday, July 17 here, here, and here

Under the expected guidance, children in kindergarten through second grade who are being taught in classrooms would be encouraged, but not required, to wear masks. That’s according to several participants in discussions with administration officials and others familiar with the guidance. However, students in grades three to 12, along with staff, would be required to wear them. Those who refuse could be sent home to be taught exclusively via distance learning.

Students would be encouraged to stay as far apart as possible, but would not be required to maintain the six-foot distance expected of staff.

The guidance would represent a marked shift from leaving decisions over closing and reopening schools largely in the hands of local school district officials in consultation with county departments of health. The California Department of Public Health would now play a stronger role in setting the criteria for reopening school facilities.

As of July 16, 31 of the 58 California counties are on the monitoring list. They include all the state’s most populous counties, with the exception of San Francisco, San Mateo and Kern counties. If those counties were still on the monitoring list by the time schools open during the next several weeks, it would mean that the majority of California’s nearly 10,000 schools would be closed for in-person instruction.

In fact, many school districts, with enrollments totaling at least 1.5 million students, have already decided on their own to open with distance learning this fall. They include several in counties not on the monitoring list, such as San Francisco Unified.

The guidance reflects the crisis facing the state as health officials and elected officials try to control a virus that is increasing in scope and intensity. This week alone, the state set a record for new coronavirus cases, along with rising infection rates and more hospitalizations.

In order for schools to reopen, the counties where they are located would have to have 14 days of a declining number of Covid-19 cases, as well as meet other criteria that the California Department of Public Health are currently using to regulate businesses and other activities, including shopping malls, bars and nail salons.

At the same time, getting off the state’s county monitoring list would not mean that a district would automatically resume in-classroom instruction. That decision would still be left up to local officials, typically in consultation with their teachers’ unions.

“Districts wanted decisive action, after language in the state budget put an emphasis on in-person instruction while the rate of infection was going in entirely different direction,” said Kevin Gordon, president of Capitol Advisors Group, an education consulting company based in Sacramento. “And so the governor has stepped in to address the disconnect, and insulated local leaders from tough decisions that had to be made. Now parents cannot blame local boards for the decision.”

According to people familiar with the guidance, it is expected to lay out in detail at what point classrooms and schools would have to be closed. If 5% of students and teachers in a classroom tested positive for the virus, the classroom would be closed, followed by 14 days of quarantine. Effectively, that would mean a classroom would be closed if anyone in the class tested positive. If a school experienced a 5% positive testing rate of both students teachers, the entire school would have to close, with everyone subject to 14 days of quarantine. And if 1 in 4 schools in a district had a 5% positive rate, the district would shut down.

The guidance is expected to recommend that all staff be tested at least every two months, and at least half of all staff would be tested each month. They could be tested at state-designated testing centers, where practicable.

The guidance, at least as described so far, is silent on whether or how often students should be tested.

At a town hall meeting Thursday with state Sen. Steve Glazer, D-Orinda on Thursday evening, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond acknowledged that districts needed more clarity from state health officials about when to close or open, and had asked state health authorities “to create a metric for schools” that would include “when you might be in a danger zone” or when they could begin to reopen slowly.

He said he would be arranging a call for all school districts and the California Department of Public Health after Newsom releases his guidance. Schools, he said, must “be prepared to pivot” as health conditions change.

Theresa Harrington contributed to this report. 

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  1. School Staff Member 8 hours ago8 hours ago

    As part of a school staff, I feel that schools should begin the new school year with distance learning (100% online). Students and staff should not be required to return to school campuses until it is proven safe to do so. With the rising cases of Covid-19, we must continue to take precautionary measures to ensure the safety of all staff and students. As long as cases rise, we cannot afford to take chances. We … Read More

    As part of a school staff, I feel that schools should begin the new school year with distance learning (100% online). Students and staff should not be required to return to school campuses until it is proven safe to do so. With the rising cases of Covid-19, we must continue to take precautionary measures to ensure the safety of all staff and students. As long as cases rise, we cannot afford to take chances. We should not play Russian Roulette with human lives. I am in favor of distance learning and of staff members working from home until the health and safety of all can be accomplished.

  2. Cheryl Shaw 8 hours ago8 hours ago

    Education is very important, but students should be educated in the safest manner possible. The risk and dangers of Covid 19 should not be taken lightly. Our communities have a responsibility to keep our staff and students safe. Even one death is far too many. Teachers, parents and support staff must do whatever is necessary to provide the best assistance through distance learning,

  3. Craig Morgan 5 days ago5 days ago

    Why doesn’t the state create instructional classes that kids can watch on TV? Not everyone has access to WiFi or have iPads or laptops.

  4. Will 2 weeks ago2 weeks ago

    Bad decision. Needs to follow scientific data regarding children and Covid. This will hurt the Democrats.

  5. Ross Pyle 3 weeks ago3 weeks ago

    Children need to be in school but if the public schools choose to offer on-line classes . . . . . well . . . . . . good luck with that. The majority of teachers will not do a good job with that and the majority of the students will not watch. You can book that! However, the governor should have absolutely no authority to enforce public school directives on to … Read More

    Children need to be in school but if the public schools choose to offer on-line classes . . . . . well . . . . . . good luck with that. The majority of teachers will not do a good job with that and the majority of the students will not watch. You can book that!

    However, the governor should have absolutely no authority to enforce public school directives on to private schools. Private schools (particularly religious ones) have smaller classes. Social distancing and other measures are “do-able”. Newsom has no constitutional right to interfere with the decisions of Christian school administrators, teachers, parents, and students (you know: “separation of church and state”).

    If we are to “follow the science”, it is clear that children are not that vulnerable to this virus and are just as safe in school as they are in their homes. Their parents are leaving their homes for work, for shopping, and for other reasons and are likely to bring the virus home to them. We are going to raise a bunch of neurotic kids if we keep making these kinds of decisions. It is ludicrous to enforce a one-size-fits-all standard. You can bet that the teacher’s unions have co-opted this issue with the governor so that they don’t lose students to private schools.

  6. Teacher Private sector 3 weeks ago3 weeks ago

    I personally think that for the safety of everybody all the schools including private schools should offer online classes only for fall and then see how everything goes starting 2021 and then hopefully open up again in person. These are times that regardless of our political views we need to be wise and we cannot expose our children to this virus. Everything must be handled very well for the health of every kid and staff … Read More

    I personally think that for the safety of everybody all the schools including private schools should offer online classes only for fall and then see how everything goes starting 2021 and then hopefully open up again in person. These are times that regardless of our political views we need to be wise and we cannot expose our children to this virus. Everything must be handled very well for the health of every kid and staff member. We’re facing difficult times around the world and this pandemic is not a joke. Let’s be conscious and smart!

  7. Chuck 3 weeks ago3 weeks ago

    If 5% percent of classroom testing positive triggers a classroom closure, then it seems regular testing will be required. I’m interested to know how that will happen.

  8. Dave Pierce 3 weeks ago3 weeks ago

    I heard there is a form that if I private school can prove it is doing everything expected to be safe they can request to open in California.

  9. Upset student 3 weeks ago3 weeks ago

    I live in California, and I want to go back so bad 🙁 I feel like crying just thinking of the thought of not being at school for my last year.

  10. Phillip Blake 3 weeks ago3 weeks ago

    This restriction of in-person education, using on-line teaching will ultimately be more difficult for the at-risk students. Students with strong family structure and financial means are going to hire tutors to teach their children and continue to excel in a good education. The gap between student education levels will be reflected in SAT/ACT scores. Gov. Newsom, you are creating a further barrier for at-risk students, you are being foolish. Gov. Newsom says he is for the … Read More

    This restriction of in-person education, using on-line teaching will ultimately be more difficult for the at-risk students. Students with strong family structure and financial means are going to hire tutors to teach their children and continue to excel in a good education. The gap between student education levels will be reflected in SAT/ACT scores. Gov. Newsom, you are creating a further barrier for at-risk students, you are being foolish.

    Gov. Newsom says he is for the children, he is creating a much bigger problem.

  11. Upset Teacher 3 weeks ago3 weeks ago

    I don’t agree with what California is doing to the families in closing down the schools. I teach student with special needs. Distance learning does not work and is so hard on all the families.
    The Los Angeles Teacher Unions are making this their political agenda platform and using the children and families.

  12. Cherie 4 weeks ago4 weeks ago

    How can Newsom mandate private schools to close when they get zero state funding? Can’t private schools make their own call?

  13. parent 4 weeks ago4 weeks ago

    Completely disgusted. This is capitulation to the teachers unions and sacrificing our children and our families without need. Let’s focus attention where it is needed – protecting the vulnerable. Which means helping the elderly and at risk to isolate. And simultaneously helping children learn and socialize and families to make it through this period without losing their homes, health and sanity. This is putting way too much of the burden onto children and families. Unacceptable.

  14. Concerned parent 4 weeks ago4 weeks ago

    What are working parents supposed to do when they are both out of the house for 12 hours? What about children with disabilities? Especially those who parents struggle to work with already. This is our new world, education should be essential and not 100% distant learning. How are teachers going to identify a potential disability if they don’t see the children?

  15. Dena 4 weeks ago4 weeks ago

    He did not address students in special Ed who are LEFT behind completely in all this. They age out at 22 and if this is allowed will miss out on last 2 years of schooling!! Distance learning for many of these kids is useless!

  16. kim lindsey 4 weeks ago4 weeks ago

    Newsom does not care about the kids, because if he did they’d be back in the classroom; watch CA drop to 50/50 on list. Huge learning gaps for those that do not have the support at home.

  17. Darcy 4 weeks ago4 weeks ago

    This is so upsetting. Education should be considered an essential service. Six feet and masks is enough at every grocery store in the state, but not enough for teachers? There is no meaningful instruction on-line. Zoom is a joke. 6 million children should not lose the benefit of school to protect the elderly and immune compromised from Covid. And, most importantly, this does not accomplish what it intends. I’m in Sonoma County. We are … Read More

    This is so upsetting. Education should be considered an essential service. Six feet and masks is enough at every grocery store in the state, but not enough for teachers? There is no meaningful instruction on-line. Zoom is a joke. 6 million children should not lose the benefit of school to protect the elderly and immune compromised from Covid. And, most importantly, this does not accomplish what it intends. I’m in Sonoma County. We are on a watchlist because we have had a rise in nursing home deaths. Closing schools does absolutely nothing to help this demographic. We are in the absurd situation of having closed schools while my teenager works at her fast food job, my kids play with friends, and go to camp, and every older person I know continues to go to every store in the county. Finally, this virus will eventually go everywhere. We are only slowing down the inevitable. And HARMING children. Please, if you are a grandparent, call your local representatives and tell them that you do not want your grandchildren to be denied an education.

    Replies

    • c h 3 weeks ago3 weeks ago

      In Poway USD, masks were not going to be required and there was going to be no social distancing, so only similar to a “grocery store” in which 40 kids are together shopping in a 40×50 foot store with no masks.

  18. Marissa 4 weeks ago4 weeks ago

    I wonder what a “classroom cohort” entails in a higher-education setting when students (normally) rotate throughout multiple classes in a day.

  19. Teresa Hicks 4 weeks ago4 weeks ago

    How about some funding to independent homeschool our children in the safest possible environment . It is really expensive to buy text books and all supplies on our own. It’s time to help out families that homeschool without charters.

  20. Debra Toliver 4 weeks ago4 weeks ago

    I work in San Bernardino County at Oro Grande school district as a school bus driver. Our school is due to resume on August 3. So just in a couple short weeks we are facing the possibility of resuming school and coming into contact with people who have already been known to test positive on our school grounds. This is concerning to me and I feel like that is going to be too soon for the school district to resume.

  21. Concerned Parent 4 weeks ago4 weeks ago

    Distance learning is a fail. Cutting instructional minutes is a fail. California public education system just went from 46th in the nation to 50th. Parents have rights and should know them. Know what is being offered by your district and what the unions are agreeing to in your district. If it doesn’t work for you, you have difficult choices to make.

    I do not believe this decision was made with education in mind.

  22. Louise 4 weeks ago4 weeks ago

    Thank you Governor Newsom!!! Since COVID has become more serious than last spring, and schools still wanted teachers and students back in the classroom, I was concerned. As a teacher, we need parents to understand that this is a huge learning curve for teachers too!! Changing to teaching online came overnight. Teachers had very little time to figure out how to do this. It’s a learning curve for them too. We … Read More

    Thank you Governor Newsom!!! Since COVID has become more serious than last spring, and schools still wanted teachers and students back in the classroom, I was concerned. As a teacher, we need parents to understand that this is a huge learning curve for teachers too!! Changing to teaching online came overnight. Teachers had very little time to figure out how to do this. It’s a learning curve for them too. We want to give our students the best education and we are still learning how best to do this online. Living with other members of my family who are required to work from home by their employer, it seemed irresponsible to send teachers and children back to school classrooms. Thank you for stepping in and helping my County to do decide to do what they should have decided , to do in the first place.

    Replies

    • Concerned Parent 4 weeks ago4 weeks ago

      If only all teachers were like you, Louise. Sadly, distance learning for most parents was completely inadequate. So signing up for another year of a completely inadequate education model is a bitter pill.

      Those who think this will be anything remotely similar to in person instruction are delusional.

  23. Anthony M Monjure 4 weeks ago4 weeks ago

    Hey PISSED OFF DAD,

    Your comments are selfish and ignorant. Guessing you have a direct twitter feed from the White House.
    CA and our Gov. Newsome are attempting to keep people safe. ALL OF US. The reason we’re in this mess is because people refuse to be team players. No “I” in team, but there is an I in Idiot.

    Replies

    • Collin 3 weeks ago3 weeks ago

      Gee, sounds like you are ok with sacrificing children's education. Wonder what would happen if all healthcare personnel decided that they wanted to put their health before other people. When you put the well being of all into perspective, keeping schools closed only protects cowardly teachers. If teachers aren't willing to put the education of our future as a priority, find a new profession. I'm currently running a study on actual risk of adult to … Read More

      Gee, sounds like you are ok with sacrificing children’s education. Wonder what would happen if all healthcare personnel decided that they wanted to put their health before other people. When you put the well being of all into perspective, keeping schools closed only protects cowardly teachers. If teachers aren’t willing to put the education of our future as a priority, find a new profession.

      I’m currently running a study on actual risk of adult to child interaction, and if my research is confirmed for it’s final run, I’ll be filling a class action lawsuit against the teachers union and the state. I wish you a safe and healthy existence, but you should look at all relevant facts, data/available resources, before rushing to judgment, Not just the ones that CNN tell you to pay attention to.

  24. Erin 4 weeks ago4 weeks ago

    Does this apply to private schools or just public schools?

    Replies

    • Catherine Tong 4 weeks ago4 weeks ago

      I’m wondering about this as well. The private school we attend is still mandating the hybrid, half-and-half model and saying “hopefully” 300 students on campus at once is going to resolve everything. We are incredibly concerned about the expectation of private schools to follow state regulations, especially for private schools who are not concerned about student, staff, and parent safety.

      • Louis Freedberg 3 weeks ago3 weeks ago

        Yes, it applies to both private and public schools.

  25. Arshad 4 weeks ago4 weeks ago

    Opening of the schools safely is not possible in the midst of a pandemic, we have no vaccine for coronavirus yet.The health of teachers,staff and children is at risk and then they can bring it home to their family.I will rather loose one year of school for my kids rather then risking their lives. It's not worth it. Also, everyone has to follow the protocol to be safe like wearing masks, social distancing. From what we … Read More

    Opening of the schools safely is not possible in the midst of a pandemic, we have no vaccine for coronavirus yet.The health of teachers,staff and children is at risk and then they can bring it home to their family.I will rather loose one year of school for my kids rather then risking their lives. It’s not worth it.

    Also, everyone has to follow the protocol to be safe like wearing masks, social distancing. From what we have seen, it’s not happening all the time. For me it’s online school for now till we feel it’s safe and healthy for our kids to go on campus.
    Thank you.

  26. DENISE 4 weeks ago4 weeks ago

    Why are kids teams practicing sports when more than three people involved?

  27. Pat Brien 4 weeks ago4 weeks ago

    Thank you for choosing to protect our children, in the most infected areas. However, now a plan must be put in place for the children that have, and will continue to, fall behind academically. There must be an opportunity for these children to receive the education they need to succeed, as soon as it is safe for them to return to the classroom.
    Thank you.

  28. B 4 weeks ago4 weeks ago

    At least open elementary schools! How are two working parents supposed to effectively homeschool elementary kids (“distance learning is a joke, and for little kids, a parent will have to quit their job and sit with them all day)? …at 7 pm? Why can’t classes be split schedule, or outside, or in an auditorium? Everyone I know is still going to work….why can’t the schools open??

  29. Pissed off Dad 4 weeks ago4 weeks ago

    Congratulations to the CTA and Irrational scared teachers in California. Big victory for you today.

    Hope you sleep well knowing you robbed millions of children out of a proper education merely because you don’t understand science.

    Good job!

  30. Joanna 4 weeks ago4 weeks ago

    Schools need to be closed for in person instruction, including allowing teachers to teach from home as needed for the emotional and physical well being of all staff and their families!

  31. Jessica Reed 4 weeks ago4 weeks ago

    Please let us know if the governor issues any guidance on serving students with IEPs/in special ed. Distance instruction and services really don’t work for most of these kids; they are some of the most vulnerable and are falling much farther behind than their non-SpEd peers.

    Replies

    • Melissa 4 weeks ago4 weeks ago

      YES! My son is in a special education classroom under normal circumstances. Distance learning was a complete DISASTER, and I cannot imagine the damage that will be done if we continue with it again. His teacher wants to return and there are only 6 students in the class, so there is enough room for social distancing. Exceptions have to be made for these kids that are floundering without in class instruction.

      • Kandy Kumera 4 weeks ago4 weeks ago

        You have rights under federal law and there are class actions being filed. Dont listen to all of these people who only think about themselves and most dont even have kids. Teachers unions and the sheep who are talking about deaths.

  32. Paula Torres 4 weeks ago4 weeks ago

    Safety of all those on school properties however it’s more than masks and distancing plus washing hands.
    The schools Themselves must be cleaned throughout from floors, walls, furniture also including the central air systems
    heaters and air conditioner filters, which aren’t being done usually due to financial issues.

    Also supplies like tissues and hand sanitizer as well as regular student supplies must be funded and not coming out of teachers’ personal salaries.

  33. James Lynett 4 weeks ago4 weeks ago

    Finally some sanity. For those counties that can put schools in session children will become laboratory test subjects to see if Dr. Trump and Dr. DeVos are right. If not, we will be burying a lot more people.

    Replies

    • Kandy Kumera 4 weeks ago4 weeks ago

      Protect our children? I cannot understand comments like this. Have you even looked at the data? Zero deaths for children. This is the teachers and administrators unions. It's that simple. There are a lot of parents and teachers who want to sit home and get a check. But unfortunately, a lot of parents who work hard and make over a certain amount need to keep working. Disgusting politics and our kids are the ones who are … Read More

      Protect our children? I cannot understand comments like this. Have you even looked at the data? Zero deaths for children. This is the teachers and administrators unions. It’s that simple. There are a lot of parents and teachers who want to sit home and get a check. But unfortunately, a lot of parents who work hard and make over a certain amount need to keep working.

      Disgusting politics and our kids are the ones who are going to suffer. Let’s not forget students with special needs. Talk to parents trying to do distance learning with kids who need so much intervention in person. Last time I checked, teachers and school staff were exposed to viruses and germs on the daily! It’s within the scope of their employment. But now they want to stay safe? Then don’t become a teacher bc thats what you sign up for. What’s next, doctors and nurses too scared to go to work?

  34. Zoe Koller 4 weeks ago4 weeks ago

    I’m recommending that teachers have plexiglass table top shields for small group instruction.