SACRAMENTO — California Gov. Gavin Newsom said Friday that school in counties on the state’s COVID-19 watch list for more than 14 days must start the new school year with distance learning classes only. The governor outlined strict criteria for school districts to meet in order to offer traditional in-classroom instruction.
The decision marks a change for the governor, who has said in the past that school districts had the flexibility to reopen on their own timelines — and in step with direction from local public health officials.
Madera County has been on the state’s watch list for nearly two weeks. Counties are placed on the list when the number of local COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and percentage of residents testing positive passes certain thresholds relatives to the county’s population density.
Under the new guidance issued by the governor Friday, schools in the Madera County would likely start with the distance-learning model if they were to open next week. Mariposa County, which is not on the state’s watch list, could see a more traditional start to the school year.
But area schools are not scheduled to open until August 13 and recently, superintendents of districts in eastern Madera County said they did not intend to make a final decision of about the new school year until some time next month.
On Friday, Newsom also said the new reopening guidelines require teachers and students in third grade and above to wear face masks. There will also be a new requirement for in-class learning to keep students six-feet-apart.
More than half of the state’s 58 counties are currently on the state’s watch list and earlier this week, the two largest school districts in the state — Los Angeles and San Diego Unified — announced in a joint statement their classes would be 100 percent online to start the 2020-21 school year.