California Gov.: Distance learning for schools in counties with high coronavirus numbers

School districts in California counties with elevated coronavirus transmission must begin the academic year with distance learning, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Friday.

The governor laid out guidelines for when schools will be allowed to reopen during a press conference Friday. Schools must remain closed until their county has been off the state’s “watch list” for 14 days, he said.

Thirty-two counties are currently on the state’s monitoring list because of concerning coronavirus transmission and hospitalization rates. Counties on the list face restrictions on reopening various segments of the economy.

“Learning in the state of California is simply non-negotiable,” Newsom said. “Schools must, and I underscore must, provide meaningful instruction during this pandemic whether they are physically open … or not.” Schools will operate differently whenever students, teachers and staff do return to the classroom, Newsom said. All staff and students in third grade and above will be required to wear masks, he said, adding that those in second grade and below are “strongly encouraged” to wear face coverings. The school days should start with temperature checks, he said. There will also be “robust expectations” for increased sanitation, including the implementation of hand-washing stations and disinfectant efforts.

Schools in counties on the monitoring list should ensure that distance learning is “rigorous” and includes “daily, live interactions” between students and teachers, he said.

He acknowledged that when the pandemic first hit and forced California schools to close, distance learning occurred at times “in fits and starts” and was more effective in some communities than others.

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