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Some California Students Who Fare Terribly In Distance Learning Could Return To Campuses 

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A worker at Burbank Middle School in L.A. Unified demonstrates steps to keep school facilities clean. (Chava Sanchez/LAist)
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California public schools have been given the okay to invite small groups of the most at-risk students to return to campuses for in-person instruction — even in counties still on the state’s coronavirus watchlist.

But the California Department of Public Health’s new guidance is not meant to pave the way for a reopening of schools.

The new rules aim to provide students who’ve fared terribly in distance learning — especially special education students and English learners — with access to services that are best delivered in-person.

Tony Thurmond, the state’s Superintendent of Public Instruction, said some school districts had already taken steps toward bringing these students back in small groups:

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They were calling them child care pods or technology pods. So this new guidance does create the ability, if a school district says they need to have small groups of students … to be able to come back to school. But it’s very thoughtful in saying, keep those numbers small.

State officials advise schools to prioritize students with learning disabilities for these small groups, but they also give local officials flexibility to determine which students to invite.

“In addition,” an official FAQ reads, “English learners, students at higher risk of further learning loss or not participating in distance learning, students at risk of abuse or neglect, foster youth and students experiencing homelessness may also be prioritized.”

If schools do invite these small groups back, they’d have to abide by a number of rules:

  • Students should be grouped in cohorts of no more than 14 children and two supervising adults.
  • Adults that aren’t part of the cohort may provide “specialized services” — such as speech or occupational therapy — to students in one-on-one settings.
  • Cohorts should not mix — i.e., kids shouldn’t play together on the school playground.
  • No campus should exceed more than 25% of normal capacity.

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