State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond released a new manual titled "Stronger Together: A Guidebook for the Safe Reopening of California's Public Schools."
He says it will serve as a road map for school districts as they prepare for the return of classes. Schools across California have been closed since mid-March when Gov. Gavin Newsom issued a statewide stay-at-home order due to the coronavirus pandemic.
LIFE AFTER COVID-19: Here's what restaurants, gyms, schools, sports will look like when they reopen
Classrooms need to be laid out in a way that ensures students can stay 6 feet apart at all times. School buses should also have limited capacity to allow students to space out.
All staff are being asked to wear face coverings or a clear face shield that allows students to see their expressions.
Students will be required to wear face coverings at a minimum: waiting to enter school, while on school grounds (except while eating), leaving schools and on school buses. Districts also have the option to mandate face coverings for students in the classroom.
In cafeterias, self-service buffets and shared tables are going to be suspended. Students may eat their lunches in the classroom, spaced out at their desks.
The Department of Education also provided districts with four scheduling options that will make it easier to space students out:
- "Two day rotation blended learning model": For example, grades K-3 attend school Monday/Wednesday, while grades 4-6 attend on Tuesday/Thursday. All students do distance learning Friday.
- "A/B week blended learning model": Half of students across all grades attend school Monday-Thursday one week, the other half the following week, and so forth. All students do distance learning on Friday.
- "Looping structure": Younger students may stay with the same teacher for multiple grades and in a smaller cohort. For example, a small group of students will have the same teacher for 1st then 2nd grade.
- "Early/late staggered schedules": Grade levels could have staggered start times, or an AM/PM rotation, to avoid congregating in common spaces.
Even as classrooms reopen, the state is asking districts to keep distance learning as an option for students who prefer it. Thurmond said in a survey of parents, many asked that it remain an option for their children.
A key component of all models is the students' access to online learning. LAUSD Superintendent Austin Beutner says the district has made progress.
"Every student who needs a tablet or a computer and an internet connection now has one, 100%," Beutner said.
But other districts still face hurdles.
Schools also need to have a plan to close schools again in the case of an outbreak on campus.
"There is no one size fits all solution," said Chief Deputy Superintendent Stephanie Gregson. "There are no mandates within this document."
Thurmond said he expects the guidelines to be adjusted, modified and adapted as they are implemented around the state.
See the full detailed guidance here.
Thurmond's announcement comes days after Newsom said schools, day camps, bars gyms and professional sports were able to reopen with modifications starting this Friday.
What will college in California look like in the fall amid the coronavirus crisis?
When will LAUSD campuses reopen? 'We've got to see where science takes us,' superintendent says
LAUSD: Mix of at-home and on-campus classes expected when school resumes
Smaller class sizes, face masks included under guidelines to reopen LA County schools
State Superintendent speaks on racism in CA schools
When will California schools reopen? State superintendent says it's up to individual local districts
KFSN-TV and the Associated Press contributed to this report.