The 45-page guidelines prepared by the task force on reopening the county’s 80 school districts recommend a host of restrictive practices that aim to maintain social distancing and minimize group interactions. These severe measures include a limit of 16 students per classroom, one-way hallways, staggered use of restrooms and playgrounds, and mandatory face coverings for everyone at all times.
“Our main priority is health and safety,” Dr. Debra Duardo, superintendent for Los Angeles County Office of Education, said in a video introducing the guidelines. “Unfortunately some of the things that children could enjoy in the past, they’re not going to able to do that.”
Under the guidelines, students must go through screenings before boarding school buses and eat meals at their desks—which are kept six feet apart—instead of sitting together in a crowded cafeteria. With staggered arrival, dismissal, and recess schedules, the students’ day-to-day routines would also be greatly different from what they’re used to. Some students might spend half of the day in socially distanced classrooms and continue the other half at home taking online classes.
“We are going to ensure that we do everything possible to maintain safety and a strong educational program,” said Duardo. “This is just the beginning. We plan to continue this work through the summer to support schools as they prepare to welcome families back—virtually or in-person—this fall.”
The Los Angeles Unified School District closed down its school systems on March 13 and said they will remain closed for the rest of the 2019-2020 school year. About 1.5 million students are enrolled in those schools.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom, who has urged that schools remain closed for the rest of the academic year, said earlier this month that he expected to see many schools, if not all, in his state reopen in the fall.
“I think some schools will not be, many schools will be,” Newsom said, referring to whether schools in California will reopen by the fall. “And it’s all conditioned on our ability to not only keep our children safe but to keep staff and faculty safe and to keep the community safe,” the Democratic governor told CNN. “There’s nuance. But we are moving forward, in hope and expectation that we can start that school year very strategically and methodically, again, based upon the health as a prime frame of reference in terms of those decisions.”
California is currently in phase 2 of Newsom’s 4-phased reopening plan, which means that businesses deemed lower risk will be allowed to reopen. Those businesses include some stores that sell merchandise like clothing, sporting equipment, flowers, and books. Schools are not included under phase 2.