RIVERSIDE (CNS) – Gov. Gavin Newsom Friday ordered all school campuses to remain closed when the school year begins in counties on the state’s monitoring list due to spiking coronavirus cases — including Los Angeles, Orange, San Diego and Riverside counties.
The order means districts across Southern California will begin the new school year with distance-learning programs. The state’s two largest districts, Los Angeles Unified and San Diego Unified, had already announced plans to begin the new academic year with online-only courses.
Temecula and Murrieta’s school districts had not yet committed to an online-only start to the school year, but schools in Lake Elsinore and Menifee had already announced plans to utilize distance learning to start the year.
On Friday, Springs Charter Schools announced they would not have students on campus to start the school year either.
“In light of recent statistics and concerns in California, we have decided to delay the return to site-based academy and learning center classrooms at least through September,” Kathleen Hermsmeyer, Superintendent of Springs Charter Schools, said in a statement. “In mid-September, we will re-evaluate opening our physical classrooms beginning in October.
Newsom said school campuses will only be allowed to open in counties that have been off the state’s monitoring list for at least 14 days. Counties are placed on the monitoring list based on a variety of factors, including coronavirus transmission and fatality rates. As of Friday, 32 California counties were on the list.
Schools that are eventually allowed to reopen will have to meet a series of other requirements, including mandatory masks for staff and students in third-grade and above, physical distancing mandates and regular on-campus coronavirus testing. He also said distance-learning programs in closed schools must be “rigorous,” with daily student interaction.
“Learning in the state of California is simply non-negotiable,” Newsom said.
But he added, “Safety is foundational. Safety will ultimately make the determination of how we go about educating our kids.”
Under the guidelines announced by Newsom, in schools that are allowed to open, students and staff in individual classrooms will be sent home when a single case is confirmed. The entire school will be closed if cases are confirmed in multiple classrooms, or if more than 5% of the school tests positive for the virus.
An entire district will be closed if 25% of its schools are closed in a 14-day period, he said.
Jeff Pack contributed to this report.