Most California schools may remain closed when the academic year begins in the fall, according to new state directives, with a majority of campuses likely having to shift to distance-learning instead.
The new requirements stipulate how and when schools may reopen for in-person learning when the academic school year begin. These rules mandate social distancing and health screenings for anyone entering a school. Staff and students in grades 3-12 would be required to wear masks, with younger students being encouraged to do so.
Under the new rules, a county must also not be on a list of counties being monitored for rising coronavirus infections. Thirty-two of the states 58 counties currently don't hit that benchmark. To open schools for in-person instruction, those counties would have to be off that list for 14 consecutive days, according to the directives.
Newsom said schools that couldn't reopen would have shift to distance-learning programs.
"Learning is non-negotiable," said Newsom in a statement. "Students, staff, and parents all prefer in-classroom instruction, but only if it can be done safely."
Schools and districts that reopened would also have to shut down if infections breached a certain threshold over a 14-day period – 5% for schools, 25% for districts.
The directives are on the heels of announcements that some of the state's largest districts had already decided to enter the academic year with no in-person classes. Los Angeles, San Diego and San Francisco all recently said they planned online-only learning when students returned.
To accommodate the shift to online learning the state has earmarked $5.3 billion to "support learning, and set requirements to ensure schools provide rigorous and grade-appropriate instruction."
New state laws also require districts to provide devices and connectivity for students and support for English learners and students with special education needs.