Elementary schools in watch list counties can seek waivers to reopen, California health officials say

California public health leaders on Monday outlined guidelines for how some elementary schools across the state may return to in-person instruction.

Schools in counties on the state's COVID-19 watch list can apply for waivers that would allow them to conduct in-person learning if they meet certain health requirements to limit the spread of COVID-19.

Previously, Gov. Gavin Newsom had ordered all K-12 schools to close in counties on the state's COVID-19 watch list. Counties had to be off the watch list for two weeks before allowing districts to reopen.

Now, schools can apply for the waiver, which would only apply to transitional kindergarten through sixth grade classes, even if the school has additional grades.

A superintendent or equivalent school leader can apply to their local health officer for such an exception. The health officer will review the school's safety plan and evaluate local transmission rates to make a decision.

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The state will consider waivers for schools in counties on the state's monitoring list if they meet a list of criteria set by the California Department of Public Health.

In a statement in which the waiver program was announced, the California Department of Public Health cited new data that shows young children were far less likely to shed and transmit the virus.

Schools that apply for the waiver must have reopening plans that include, at minimum, a plan for cleaning and disinfection, face covering requirements, health screenings, physical distancing guidelines and small class sizes.

Schools and counties whose COVID-19 case rates are more than 200 cases per 100,000 people will not be considered for the waiver. By that metric, it is unlikely that any school district within Los Angeles County will be able to apply.

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Gov. Gavin Newsom announced new guidelines Friday to determine which school districts are allowed to reopen classrooms in the fall.

For the latest news on back to school and educational resources, visit abc7.com/backtoschool.

For the latest updates and resources on the coronavirus, visit abc7.com/coronavirus.
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