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State Limits County Schools to Distance Learning to Start School Year

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SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. — On Friday Gov. Gavin Newsom announced a new policy affecting all K-12 schools in those counties on the State’s Monitoring List — which currently includes San Bernardino County.

The new policy mandates that schools limit instruction to distance learning until the County is removed from the Monitoring List for 14 days — at which point they may resume in-person instruction with specific guidelines and limitations.

“This announcement reaffirms how important it is for all County residents and businesses to work together so we can move off the state’s Monitoring List,” said Corwin Porter, interim director of the County’s Department of Public Health.

The Monitoring List also governs whether we can reopen business sectors. It points to specific criteria in elevated case transmission, hospitalization and ICU bed capacity. Residents can monitor our County’s daily progress for these essential criteria on our COVID-19 Surveillance Dashboard under the CDPH Monitoring tab.

“Rigorous distance learning”

In his announcement on Friday, Gov. Newsom stressed the importance of “rigorous distance learning” and noted there will be state assistance in technology devices.

“The virus will be with us for a year or more, and school districts must provide meaningful instruction in the midst of this pandemic,” the governor said in a statement. “Students, staff and parents all prefer in-classroom instruction, but only if it can be done safely.”

In his press conference, Gov. Newsom addressed distance learning by saying teachers must have have daily interactions with students, challenging assignments and work that can be adapted for ESL and special education students.

Strict criteria announced when schools do re-open

When San Bernardino County is allowed to reopen – subject to staying off the Monitoring List for 14 days – all staff and students in third grade and above will be required to wear masks, have symptom checks to enter school, and have sanitation stations. In addition, social distancing between students and teachers are required.

The state’s new guidelines largely conform to a COVID-19 Guide and Toolkit in development by the San Bernardino County Department of Public Health in consultation with County school districts. The toolkit, which is being modified in consideration of the State’s announcement Friday, will offer specific guidance for how schools should respond to the emergence of positive cases of COVID-19 among students, teachers, staff and school visitors. It will list actions school officials should take to isolate and protect individuals who have tested positive or have possibly been exposed to the virus, as well as guidance for implementing contact tracing to curtail further infections. 

“We will continue to work closely with school districts in the County to help them prepare for resumption of in-person instructions when conditions permit,” Porter said. “The Toolkit will be an invaluable tool once we gain permission to reopen in-person instruction.”

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