Cohort Guidance and Returning to In-Person Instruction for Schools

Art Class

On July 17, 2020, the Governor, the California Department of Public Health (CDPH), and the California Department of Education (CDE) released COVID-19 and Reopening In-Person Learning Framework for K-12 Schools which is the guidance that outlines the standards schools should use for reopening and closing when required. The guidance included a prohibition of in-person instruction for any school that had been on the watch list during the previous 14 days. On August 3, 2020, further guidance was issued that included an Elementary School Waiver process for in-person instruction, but it was limited to Transitional Kindergarten – 6th grade. On August 25, 2020, the CDPH released Guidance for Small Cohorts to provide guidance for NECESSARY in-person child supervision, limited instruction, and targeted support services, for a specified subset of children, who are in jurisdictions that cannot reopen in compliance with the Reopening Framework. The intent is to address concerns raised by parents, teachers, advocates, and other stakeholders that some children with complex educational needs may be irreparably harmed by the learning loss associated with the inability to engage successfully in distance learning. The guidance seeks to support students (K-12) and families with more complex needs while maintaining a focus on health and safety.

The guidance does not require schools who cannot comply with the Reopening Framework to provide small in-person services, rather, it specifies the conditions that must be met should they decide to offer small, cohort-based instruction. The determination of which schools will offer the services, the targeted services and supports, and the students that will be prioritized, will be made by the Local Education Agency (LEA) and each individual school. Cohort-based instruction will be limited to not more than 14 students and 2 supervising adults per cohort, and generally limited to 25% or less of the school’s total enrollment (space permitting). The CDPH requires the cohorts to be “stable” meaning that they stay together throughout the day(s) and do not interact with other cohorts. There is an exception for additional specialized services and supports provided by an adult outside the cohort – such as behavioral support, speech or occupational therapy – however, they must follow the Industry Guidance for Limited Services–en.pdf.

We know there are significant concerns related to transportation, behavioral supports, and changes to Individual Education Plans (IEPs). We recognize families still have several unanswered questions as we begin the school year and we will continue to seek answers and update everyone as we get them. In the meantime, we encourage families to contact their schools and LEAs as soon as possible to discuss the needs of your family. Below are the most current guidance documents to help guide your family in decision making.


COVID-19 and Reopening In-Person Learning Framework for K-12 Schools (July 17, 2020)

COVID-19 and Reopening In-Person Learning Elementary Education Waiver Process (August 3, 2020)

Guidance for Small Cohorts/Groups of Children and Youth (August 25, 2020)

Providing Targeted, Specialized Support and Services at School (August 25, 2020)

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