California issues rules for opening schools and programs to high-needs students

State Superintendent Tony Thurmond

State Superintendent Tony Thurmond and Governor Gavin Newsom Providing Updates on Covid-19

The California Department of Public Health on Tuesday published rules for opening school campuses and other programs to small numbers of students with disabilities and other students who need in-person support and services that can’t be met through distance learning.

The guidance applies to groups of children and youth in controlled, supervised, and indoor environments operated by local educational agencies, non profits, or other authorized providers, including, but not limited to, public and private schools; licensed and license-exempt child care settings; organized and supervised care environments, i.e., “distance learning hubs”; recreation programs; before and after school programs; youth groups; and day camps.

The guidance defines a cohort as “a stable group of no more than 14 children or youth and no more than two supervising adults in a supervised environment in which supervising adults and children stay together for all activities (e.g., meals, recreation, etc.), and avoid contact with people outside of their group in the setting.”

The guidance doesn’t specify which students would be eligible, although an accompanying Frequently Asked Questions document states that students with disabilities should be prioritized and 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 can be priority groups. They could receive tutoring, counseling, social and emotional services and other help to fully participate in distance learning.

The FAQ also says that the size of the building and school enrollment will determine the maximum number of cohorts and that the number of returning students should not exceed 25% of total enrollment.

The Arc of California is conducting an in depth analysis of the guidance and FAQs is seeking clarification on questions from the offices of Governor Newsom and State Superintendent Tony Thurmond and will publish a more detailed report on Monday in our Monday Morning Memo.

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