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New guidelines say school year will see some California students learning from home

Students do homework at the kitchen table in home schooling session during the COVID-19 pandemic.
(Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)

Guidelines released Monday call for some California students to learn from home, at least some of the time, in the new school year while the COVID-19 pandemic persists.

“We know this is just the beginning,” State Supt. of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond said at a news conference. “The guidance sets the bar high: Safety first.”

California’s 1,037 public school districts have been closed since mid-March, with districts providing “distance learning” options, including online education or having students pick up printouts to work on at home.

On Monday, the California Department of Education released its nonbinding guidelines, “Stronger Together: A Guidebook for the Safe Reopening of California’s Public Schools,” on its website.

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“There are lots of questions,” Thurmond said Monday. “We’re all working in real time to get the answers.”

Research suggests that the risks of COVID-19 transmission among children are lower than for adults.

The initial version of the guidelines envisions many students continuing to do “distance learning” at least part of the time, be on campus either a few days a week or every other week. Students might also have staggered schedules to thin out the number of students in areas such as lunchrooms or playgrounds and to allow time for students to wash their hands before reentering classrooms.

Students in some schools might also stay in a single homeroom throughout the day and have teachers rotate through classrooms, to cut down on the amount of time students mingle in school hallways.

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“Right now is a critical time for districts to analyze their campuses, the footprints of their campuses, and make critical decisions about how many students they can educate with social distancing,” Thurmond said.

Citing California’s generally pleasant weather, Thurmond also said districts might look at using outdoor spaces as instruction areas.


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