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Gov. Newsom releases school guidance: Plumas schools could offer in-classroom instruction

By Debra Moore

[email protected]

UPDATE: This story has been updated to indicate where Plumas County stands in the number of cases it currently has as compared to the number that would place it on a monitoring list.

Gov. Gavin Newsom announced today that all schools in California counties that are on the state’s monitoring list for coronavirus must use distance learning to begin the school year. But for those not on the monitoring list — and Plumas County is not on the list at this point — in classroom learning is possible with strict guidelines.

Both Plumas Unified School District and Plumas Charter School have plans for in-classroom instruction to begin the school year, which is scheduled for Aug. 24. Plumas Unified has been surveying parents about their instructional preferences and the results are due the week of July 27. However, during an interview July 17, Oestreich indicated she wants children to be able to return to their classrooms. Taletha Washburn, the executive director of Plumas Charter School, sent a detailed letter to all parents this week outlining the school’s current plans to bring students into the classroom. However those plans could change if Plumas County is placed on the monitoring list.

This afternoon Plumas County Public Health Director Andrew Woodruff outlined some of the criteria that could land the county on the watch list: including the number of new cases, increased hospitalizations and hospital capacity. For Plumas, 20 active cases in a 14-day period (Plumas is at 12), or 5 active cases in a seven-day period with more than an 8 percent positivity rate (Plumas is at 5, but is below the 8 percent positivity rate) would trigger the monitoring.

During his July 17 press briefing, Gov. Newsom outlined strict guidelines for in-school instruction, including mask wearing, social distancing, testing, health screenings, sanitation and protocols for if/when a student or staff member tests positive. All 19 pages of the guidelines can be accessed by going to covid19.ca.gov and clicking on the link.

Some guideline examples

As for mask wearing, children in kindergarten through second grade would be strongly encouraged, but not required, to wear masks. However, students in grades three to 12, along with staff, would be required to wear them. Students who refuse to comply would be sent home (if there wasn’t a medical exemption) and would be taught via distance learning.

The guidance states: “A cloth face covering or face shield should be removed for meals, snacks, naptime, or outdoor recreation, or when it needs to be replaced. When a cloth face covering is temporarily removed, it should be placed in a clean paper bag (marked with the student’s name and date) until it needs to be put on again.”

Social distancing: Students would be encouraged to stay as far apart as possible, but would not be required to maintain the 6-foot distance that staff is expected to maintain from each other. Schools would be required to stagger arrival and departure times to maintain social distancing.

Health screenings must be implemented for arrival at school and strict sanitation guidelines established.

State schools superintendent Tony Thurmond released a statement this afternoon following the governor’s remarks. It read in part: “Today’s guidance from the California Department of Public Health lays out clear metrics for our schools so that they can best understand the conditions that determine when they must close. On Monday, the California Department of Education will host a meeting for our 1,000 school districts to unpack today’s guidance. We are grateful that our partners in the California Department of Public Health will present the guidance in this format and take questions from educators across the state.”

More details about what the new school year will look like will be shared as they become available.

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