CSAC Bulletin Article

Waiver Process for School Reopening Released

August 6, 2020

Governor Newsom announced a moratorium on in-person schooling in mid-July for all schools located within a county that has been on the state’s Targeted Engagement active monitoring list for at least 14 days.

During that time, the Governor also said the state would develop a narrow process for elementary schools to petition to conduct in-person instruction with certain metrics. The Governor’s waiver process was developed to be consistent with state law directing school districts to “offer in-person instruction to the greatest extent possible” (Ed. Code § 43504). To that end, the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) issued new guidance that outlines a waiver process for schools from kindergarten to sixth grade to reopen with county approval. 

The guidance allows schools, including public, charter, and private, to first submit a waiver to county health departments for in-person instruction. A county must then consult with CDPH on the waiver to review metrics and current data before granting or rejecting the waiver application. On the school or district side, leadership must consult with parents, labor, and other stakeholders and post their waiver application online for public review. Further, for schools wishing to reopen, all students from third grade through sixth grades must wear masks, and the school must demonstrate that they have planned for the following in their School Reopening Plans:

  • Cleaning and disinfection
  • Cohorting: students must be kept in small, stable, groups with fixed membership that stay together for all activities (e.g., instruction, lunch, recess) and minimize/avoid contact with other groups or individuals who are not part of the cohort.
  • Entrance, egress, and movement within the school
  • Availability of face coverings and other essential protective gear
  • Health screenings for students and staff
  • Healthy hygiene practices
  • Identification of cases and reporting cases to the county to ensure timely contact tracing
  • Physical distancing
  • Staff training and family education
  • Testing of students and staff
  • Triggers for switching to distance learning
  • Communication plans

Further, a county may conditionally approve a waiver and limit the size or scope of in-person learning within a school or district. Also, while any school or district may apply for a waiver in any county, even those on the monitoring list, if the area around the school is experiencing a positive case rate of more than 200 positive cases per 100,000 residents, the waiver will not be granted.

The state is still developing more detailed guidance on conditions for in-person instruction and services for small sets of students, such as those provided pursuant to an individualized education program (IEP). Further, for schools that reopen with a county waiver, band and vocal activities are still prohibited, and youth sports or PE activities must adhere to the new Youth Sports Guidance mentioned elsewhere in this update. Counties also do not examine or approve modes of instruction, and preschool and daycare/childcare programs are not subject to this new guidance – see the state’s July 15 childcare guidance for more details.

The new documents include:
Schools Guidance FAQs 8/3/2020
COVID-19 and Reopening In-Person Learning Elementary Education Waiver Process 8/3/2020
Waiver Letter Template and Cover Form (PDF) 8/3/2020
Waiver Notice (PDF) 8/3/2020

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