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Newsom Order Mandates Online Learning in Southern California -- For Now

Gov. Gavin Newsom announced new state guidelines for reopening schools at a virtual press conference on July 17, 2020. (Screenshot from virtual press conference)
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Gov. Gavin Newsom today issued new rules that could force K-12 school campuses across much of California — including all of the greater Los Angeles region — to remain closed until their counties see declining rates of coronavirus cases.

Under the state’s new directive, both public and private schools cannot hold in-person classes if their county has been on California’s coronavirus monitoring list at any point in the last 14 days.

Schools must offer “distance learning only” until COVID-19 metrics improve and the county’s been off the watchlist for at least 14 days, the state rules say.

Most of the state’s counties — including Los Angeles, Orange and Ventura counties plus the Inland Empire — are currently on that monitoring list. Basically, unless conditions improve in Southern California in the next two to three weeks, any plan to start a new school year with in-person instruction might have to be set aside.

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Here’s Newsom:

We all prefer in-classroom instruction for all the obvious reasons … but only if it can be done safely. As a parent, I believe that, and as someone who has the responsibility to support the education of 6-plus million kids in California, and have the backs of [school] staff.

Newsom’s move comes days after the state’s two largest school districts — L.A. Unified and San Diego Unified — said they wouldn’t reopen campuses for the foreseeable future.

And as EdSource points out, some districts in counties not on the state’s monitoring list — like San Francisco Unified — have opted for “online-only” starts as well.

But the governor’s move also comes as some local officials push to reopen schools with fewer restrictions. Orange County's Board of Ed recently approved a (non-binding) set of school-reopening guidance that casts doubt on the value of masks and social distancing.

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