OC officials approve proposal recommending schools reopen without mask, physical distancing requirements

The Orange County Board of Education on Monday approved a proposal recommending that schools reopen in the fall without a requirement for masks or physical distancing.

The Board of Education can make recommendations for schools in Orange County, but those recommendations approved in a 4-1 vote are not binding for schools districts to follow, according to Ian Hannigan, the spokesman for the Orange County Department of Education.

The reopening guidance came out of a meeting last month with health and policy experts. Some of the board's guidance recommends physical distancing can be considered but is not mandatory for school-age children. Also, requiring children to wear masks may be too difficult and even harmful. They also say that participation and schools reopening should be voluntary.

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Officials on Monday announced plans and proposals for the upcoming school year for the Los Angeles Unified School District and Orange County schools as coronavirus cases surge in the state.

"By contrast, OCDE and Orange County school district leaders have released recommendations for resuming in-person instruction complemented by online learning. These include best practices for healthy hygiene and face coverings, which are advised when social distancing measures are difficult to maintain," the Orange County Department of Education said in a statement.

Groups of people opposed to reopening campuses and those who want students to return to physical classrooms gathered outside a Costa Mesa building where the meeting was being held

"They say no masks are required, no social distancing is required. I think they're oblivious," said county resident Stu Wylan.

Districts are currently in the process of crafting their reopening plans, with the board offering recommendations based on federal and state guidance.

To prepare for schools reopening, the school board received a shipment of protective gear including masks, face shield and hand sanitizer. However, the board's recommendation is in direct opposition to those from the Orange County Department of Education and state public health officials.

Meanwhile, LAUSD announced Monday that the upcoming school year will not start with students taking in-person classes. This comes as LA's teacher union overwhelmingly voted to keep schools closed.

Also, the CDC, which issued some guidance on schools reopening, will be expected to issue new guidance which currently says teachers and students should be wearing a face covering. Their new guidance is expected to include information from the American Academy of Pediatrics, which emphasizes the benefits of in-person attendance.

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As states grapple with how to safely start the upcoming school year, the American Academy of Pediatrics is pushing for students to be physically present in classrooms rather than continue in remote learning for the sake of their well-being.

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