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California Released Its Guidelines For Reopening Schools. You're Right If You Think You've Heard This Before.

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Masks for everyone, temperature checks, hybrid schedules, seating charts on school buses, physical barriers between lunch tables, and way more handwashing. That is just some of the guidance in the California Department of Education's guidelines for reopening school campuses, released Monday.

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If those guidelines sound familiar, it's because they mirror the framework released by the Los Angeles County Office of Education last month. Like that guidance, the 62-page document released by the state today emphasizes physical distancing and face masks, and notes that individual districts will have to follow public health guidelines on combatting COVID-19 and will make their own decisions on when and how to reopen.

"We know that many of our students really need in-class instruction," State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond said in a video news conference. "Their parents may need to work. They may be the children of essential workers. And in many cases, these are children who just need to have contact again with peers and educators and with the support center."


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Thurmond also acknowledged that district surveys have shown many parents are interested in continuing distance learning

"We're encouraging our districts to accommodate that need as they are able, because we believe that doing so actually is a strategy for addressing some of the challenges around spacing," Thurmond said.

He said most schools will likely reopen with some version of a hybrid model, meaning students would switch between in-person instruction and distance learning.

Alex Chermiss, superintendent of the Palos Verdes Peninsula Unified School District, worries that the sheer number of guidelines from both state and county education departments will make it difficult to reopen campuses and be in full compliance.

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"Maybe they should have come out and said just, Don't reopen until we have a vaccine, because they're putting so many requirements in place," Cherniss said.

He worries that it'll be impossible to actually keep kids six feet apart at all times, and to enforce mask-wearing.

"It's not realistic," he said. "It's very easy to put on paper, very hard to actually implement."

Plus, there's the issue of paying for it all.

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Governor Gavin Newsom did promise to provide personal protective equipment to schools, including 47,000 "no-touch" thermometers, 2.4 million face shields for educators, 14 million fabric masks, 16 million disposable ones, and 143,000 gallons of hand sanitizer, according to the California Department of Public Health.

But Thurmond said it's going to take more for schools to be able to implement these guidelines.

"We're working on scenarios to expand that, to make sure that our districts have what they need," Thurmond said. "And there's no scenario -- I would say -- more important than getting the support that is being discussed in Congress."

Thurmond said California schools will need federal intervention to cover a number of costs, including the grab-and-go meals distributed to kids in need during the coronavirus crisis.

Thurmond also pressured the state to fund schools fully, even though it's a tough budget year.

And since school funding is based on average daily attendance, he asked the legislature to consider how attendance and instructional minutes could be impacted by the hybrid or other models that districts choose to reopen with.

You can read the full guidance below: