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The Santa Clara County of Education (SCCOE) is Committed to serving, inspiring, and promoting student and public school success.
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SCCOE General FAQs
When can schools reopen for in-person instruction?
On July 17, 2020, Governor Gavin Newsom announced new criteria for school reopening and guidance for school closures. These criteria and guidance are contained in a document released by the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) and entitled “COVID-19 and Reopening In-Person Learning Framework for K-12 Schools in California, 2020-2021 School Year." Under this framework, K-12 schools, public and private, must conduct distance learning only, and may not reopen for in-person instruction, if they are located in a county that has been on the
State's monitoring list at any point in the prior 14 days. Santa Clara County has not been off the State's monitoring list for 14 consecutive days, and Santa Clara County schools must generally remain closed. Once permitted to reopen, schools should resume in-person instruction and activities consistent with the requirements issued by the Public Health Department.
Elementary schools, however, are expressly allowed under the State's school reopening framework to request a waiver from their County health officer allowing full or partial in-person instruction, even in counties on the State's monitoring list. A waiver may be granted if one is requested by the superintendent (or equivalent for charter or private schools), in consultation with labor, parent and community organizations. Local health officers must review local community epidemiological data, consider other public health interventions, and consult with CDPH when considering a waiver request.
Additional information on how to apply for a waiver to resume in-person instruction (either full-time or hybrid) for elementary schools is available
If schools reopen for in-person instruction, what criteria will be used to decide when to close a school?
The State has issued the following guidance:
However, the State's guidance also recognizes that individual school closures and school district closures should be made in consultation with the local health officer. The local health officer may determine school closure is warranted for other reasons, including results from public health investigation or other local epidemiological data.
Factors that the County of Santa Clara Health Officer may consider in school closure decisions include, but are not limited to, the number of COVID-19 cases associated with a school; a school's ability to effectively respond to COVID-19 cases and exposures; the number of current COVID-19 cases in Santa Clara County; the degree to which schools are contributing to community spread of COVID-19; the capacity of our health system to identify and care for cases and prevent transmission in healthcare settings; the availability and use of widespread testing to identify new cases; county residents' ability to quickly and effectively isolate or quarantine themselves when sick; evolving scientific understanding of COVID-19; and our community's continued cooperation in practicing physical distancing, using face coverings, and taking other preventive measures.
Are schools required to comply with the County Health Officer's July 2, 2020 Order Establishing Mandatory Risk Reduction Measures Applicable to All Activities and Sectors to Address the COVID-19 Pandemic (“Order")?
Governmental agencies, including local educational agencies, are urged to follow the Order's requirements that apply to businesses. However, governmental entities and their contractors are not required to follow these requirements to the extent that such requirements would impede or interfere with an essential governmental function, as determined by the governmental entity, unless otherwise specifically directed by the Health Officer. Sectors/industries subject to specific directives of the Health Officer are required to follow the requirements of the applicable directive. All K-12 schools are required to comply with the requirements in “COVID-19 PREPARED: Reopening of Santa Clara County K-12 Schools for the 2020-2021 School Year" and the
Mandatory Directive for Schools.
Should schools follow County of Santa Clara or State requirements? (added 9/18/20)
Both. Schools must follow the local County Public Health Officer's Order and the State Public Health Officer's Order, as well as any requirements in documents applicable to schools issued by the County or State, including the requirements in the County's “COVID-Prepared: Reopening of Santa Clara County K-12 Schools for the 2020-2021 School Year" document. If the County and State requirements are different, you must comply with the stricter of the two.
Will there be specific childcare guidance related to before and after school care providers (whether onsite or off site) to mitigate transmission since this will likely result in mixed cohorts of multi-age children?
The Public Health Department has released a directive for childcare and other programs serving children and youth, which is available
What guidance should be used for schools serving adult populations like continuation schools?
Continuation schools are required to follow the July 2, 2020 Order of the Health Officer of the County of Santa Clara Establishing Mandatory Risk Reduction Measures Applicable to All Activities and Sectors to Address the COVID-19 Pandemic, which is available
here. Continuation schools are also encouraged to follow guidance and planning procedures for Middle School and High School in “COVID-19 PREPARED: Reopening of Santa Clara County K-12 Schools for the 2020-2021 School Year," to the extent that they are not in conflict with the July 2, 2020 Order.
Will mitigation strategies change over time?
The Public Health Department regularly assesses data to determine and implement appropriate mitigation strategies.
Are schools required to provide their reopening plans to the Santa Clara County Office of Education or the Santa Clara County Public Health Department?
There is no general requirement to submit reopening plans to either the Santa Clara County Office of Education or Santa Clara County Public Health Department. However, districts/schools seeking a waiver to reopen elementary schools while other schools remain closed must submit their reopening plans as described
Screening and Testing
Will we have to take every student and staff member's temperature daily?
All students and staff should be screened for symptoms each day. Staff and students' parents or guardians can conduct symptom screening at-home, prior to arrival. Alternatively, symptom screening can occur on-site via self-reporting, visual inspection, or a symptom screening questionnaire. Symptom screenings do not need to be performed by a nurse or other health professional. Temperature screening of students and staff is not required. If temperature screening is performed, contact-less thermometers should be used.
Should all teachers and staff be required to have a test for COVID-19 prior to returning to school or be routinely tested like those in other high exposure fields?
Teachers and staff are not required to have a COVID-19 test prior to returning to school. The County recommends that schools encourage routine monthly testing of all staff, whereas the State
requires that “[s]chool districts and schools shall test staff periodically, as testing capacity permits and as practicable."
What is defined as a face covering and why do we need them?
(CDC Guidance on Face Coverings) A face covering means a covering made of cloth, fabric, or other soft or permeable material, without holes, that covers only the nose and mouth and surrounding areas of the lower face. A face covering may include a scarf or bandana or any other homemade covering and does not need to be medical-grade. In light of new data about
how COVID-19 spreads, along with evidence of widespread COVID-19 illness in communities across the country, CDC recommends that people wear a cloth face covering to cover their nose and mouth in the community setting. This is to protect people around you if you are infected but do not have symptoms.
Can disposable masks be used in place of cloth face coverings?
The Public Health Department strongly encourages the use of reusable cloth face coverings. Medical masks, such as N95s and surgical masks, are strongly discouraged for general use due to the global shortage of medical masks needed for healthcare professionals. The Public Health Department is aware that the State of California has provided schools with a limited supply of disposable masks and that some school districts have already purchased supplies of disposable masks. Schools may use their existing inventories of disposable masks for students and staff if reusable cloth face coverings are not available.
Who is responsible for enforcing face covering requirements?
Schools are responsible for ensuring older students required to wear face coverings comply with those requirements, and younger students are strongly encouraged to wear face coverings at all times. However, schools should not exclude young students from the classroom if they occasionally fail to wear a face covering or if a few students in the classroom are consistently unable to wear a face covering (e.g., due to special needs) when required. The Public Health Department's detailed requirements and guidance on face coverings can be found on pages 11-12 of “COVID-19 PREPARED: Reopening of Santa Clara County K-12 Schools for the 2020-2021 School Year."
How can schools obtain adequate supplies of personal protective equipment (PPE), such as hand sanitizer or face coverings?
The State of California provided an initial distribution of PPE for school districts and charter schools to use for the first 60 days of school campus reopening. For schools' additional PPE needs, the State of California has partnered with the California Manufacturers & Technology Association to launch the “Safely Making California" marketplace, which provides non-medical grade PPE, such as face masks, face shields, gowns, gloves, sanitizer and wipes, at discounted prices.
Stable Cohorts and Physical Distancing
How many students will we be allowed to have in a classroom?
No maximum number of students in a classroom has been specified and it will likely be determined taking into consideration the ability to provide for physical distancing, maintain stable cohorts, and limit large group settings.
What is meant by stable cohorts?
Stable cohorts represent a group of students and staff members staying together through the course of a day to eliminate or limit the mixing of students and staff across classrooms or in congregate settings. Stable cohorts limit the potential spread of a virus beyond the cohort and facilitate quicker, more efficient contact tracing in the event a student or staff member contracts a virus. Schools should consider maintaining these stable cohorts in classroom and non-classroom setting (e.g., cafeteria and schoolyard).
Should all grade levels maintain stable classroom cohorts? What about middle and high school where students often rotate for different subjects?
Elementary schools must maintain stable classroom cohorts, with limited exceptions for special education services and specialty teachers (e.g., music instructors). While middle and high schools are not required to maintain stable classroom cohorts, we recommend maintaining stable classroom cohorts to the extent feasible. We understand this may require out-of-the-box thinking like rotating instructors rather than students for different subjects, having instructors who are not part of the classroom cohort provide instruction remotely, staggering schedules, or shifting rooms around to limit the distances students may have to travel between rooms. When cohorts mix, ensure safety measures are in place such as wearing face coverings, social/physical distancing, and rigorous handwashing.
How can students who are part of stable cohorts receive special services from Special Education staff and/or specialty teachers? What is the recommendation for how to serve these students in-person?
For schools conducting in-person instruction:
Specialty teachers, personal aides, and any other necessary visitors must remain at least six feet from all staff and students and must wear face coverings at all times.
What protocol should substitute teachers adhere to if they are teaching an in-person class for a day?
Substitute teachers must remain at least six feet from all staff and students and must wear face coverings at all times. If possible, schools should restrict certain substitutes to specific schools or certain grades within a school.
Should schools stagger arrival and pick up times?
If crowding of students is occurring during arrival or departure, consider staggering arrival or departure times and designating multiple pick-up and drop-off locations to maximize physical distancing while minimizing scheduling challenges for students and families.
Should parents or visitors be restricted from campus?
To the extent practicable, parents and visitors should remain off campus to limit mixing and maintain stable cohorts. This may require staff at car drop offs or gate entrances to welcome and accept students onto campus.
Parents, especially those of younger children, will want to be in the classroom. Can this be accommodated at all?
Generally, no. Schools may only allow necessary visitors and volunteers on campus and must limit the number of students and staff who come in contact with them. The limiting of visitors is critical to limiting the risk of COVID-19 transmission in the classroom.
Should families who have traveled out of state be required to quarantine before returning to school?
The Santa Clara County Public Health Department does not currently have a policy of quarantining families that have traveled out-of-county or out-of-state. However, schools should continue to monitor the Public Health Department's website for any new or updated COVID-19-related requirements and guidance.
Can schools allow lower school students to attend specific classes with older students (e.g., math or music)?
To limit mixing of cohorts, students from lower schools should not be participating in in-person instruction with older students.
Can we have groups of students on campus prior to school starting for purposes of orientation?
For student orientations, schools should apply the applicable physical distancing, hygiene, and other requirements and recommendations in the Santa Clara County Public Health Department's “COVID-19 PREPARED: Reopening of Santa Clara County K-12 Schools for the 2020-2021 School Year."
Health and Hygiene
Are water fountains safe to drink from or should they only be used to fill bottles?
Schools should suspend or modify use of water fountains to minimize students' and staff's sharing or touching items, while maintaining access to drinking water.
When sinks for hand washing are unavailable, does hand sanitizer disinfect effectively?
Handwashing is the recommended method for disinfecting hands but in the absence of access to sinks, hand sanitizer can be used when students are unable to wash hands.
Should students be allowed to play on playground equipment?
Children can exercise as cohorts. Use of shared equipment is discouraged because it would be a common point where cohorts mix and potential transmission may occur. Shared equipment should be cleaned/disinfected between use by different cohorts.
Is there a recommended number of times air should be exchanged within an environment?
There is not a specific number of times air should be exchanged. Factors related to room size, number of windows and doors, and weather conditions can all factor into air circulation. To the extent practicable, ventilation in rooms should be assessed and consideration should be given to how the air circulation in a room can be improved to limit the potential spread of airborne viruses.
Will students and staff be allowed to bring backpacks and personal items to and from school?
Items transferred back and forth between environments do have some potential to introduce viruses. To the extent practicable, schools could provide options or solutions like allowing students to keep materials at home or leveraging distance learning resources as much as possible.
Will food service have to be provided in the classroom or can it be done in a large group setting?
Classroom based meal provision is likely the most direct way to ensure appropriate physical distancing during mealtimes, however other models (including staggered cafeteria use, outdoor seating, etc.) may be considered. Schools should serve meals in classrooms or outdoors whenever practicable.
Should school offices have window shields like stores?
Shields for staff in high frequency areas like offices may be considered. Barriers like tables can also be placed to keep people from getting too close and maintaining appropriate physical distance. Shields should not be considered substitutes for physical distancing and face coverings.
Can band and choir rehearsals be conducted in-person if students meet outdoors, wear masks and remain socially distant while playing or singing?
Both indoor and outdoor choir and band rehearsals are generally prohibited at this time. However, in-person choir, band, and cheerleading activities may be conducted if they do not include aerosol-generating activities such as singing, playing of wind instruments, cheering, or chanting. In-person class time can be used for non-aerosol generating activities, such as rhythm study, music theory, music history, composition, analysis, and more.
Schools should consider using Zoom or other video conferencing platforms so that students may participate in aerosol-generating activities (such as singing, playing of wind instruments, cheering, and chanting) at home.
SCCOE FAQs Special Education Webinar (added 9/18/20)
Under what conditions can students and/or staff rotate into a classroom that otherwise maintains a stable cohort?
Can schools provide in-person instruction and/or assessments to students with disabilities in TK-6th grade if a waiver is in place?
Yes, while Santa Clara County schools are not authorized to open for general, in-person instruction under the State's school reopening framework, the local public health officer will consider waivers for schools to provide in-person instruction and assessments/services to students with disabilities in grades K-6.
Can special education instruction and assessments take place in TK-12th grade if no waiver is in place?
Yes, under the State's Guidance for Small Cohorts/Groups of Children and Youth and the County's Mandatory Directive for Schools, schools can provide “limited instruction, targeted support services, and facilitation of distance learning in small group environments for a specified subset of children and youth." The State has emphasized that students with disabilities should be prioritized by LEAs and schools for receiving targeted supports and services. Schools providing limited instruction and targeted support services must comply with all of the requirements in COVID-19 Prepared: Reopening of Santa Clara County K-12 Schools for the 2020-2021 School Year and any applicable State requirements. Can the district transport students to their educational placement that is outside county boundaries?
A school district can provide transportation to an educational placement outside of the county if that placement is legally allowed to open for in-person instruction.
Can a Nonpublic School (NPS) located in Santa Clara County provide in-person instruction to students coming from other counties when those counties are on the State's watchlist?
The NPS may provide in-person instruction to any enrolled students if they are legally allowed to open and meet the waiver criteria for safer reopening.
How can special education teachers and staff provide instruction, related services, and supports (e.g., meeting physical needs, toileting, or behavioral support) to students with disabilities if teachers and staff are required to remain physically distanced from students?
It will not always be possible for special education teachers and staff to remain six feet away from students; instead, physical distance should be maintained to the extent practicable. Teachers and staff who are providing services in closer proximity or certain types of service may need a higher level of PPE:
Can Resource Specialist Program (RSP) teachers provide instruction to students from different cohorts at the same time or must they only see students from the same cohort? Yes, RSP teachers can provide small-group instruction to students from separate cohorts. They should organize their room to maximize physical distancing, ensure use of face coverings, and disinfect between each group.
What operations models are schools considering?
The determined operations model is a local decision. The three considerations commonly being referred to are:
In each of these models above, it is likely there will be times when a school may have to transition back and forth between these models if health concerns arise.
Should we consider starting the school year earlier or later than our Board adopted calendar?
It is encouraged that school calendars be informed by engaging with stakeholders and bargaining units. When to start school is a local decision. Starting the school year later is not recommended. It is unlikely that the benefits of starting later will be realized considering COVID-19 will be in our community and some measures for physical distancing will be required. Students have likely experienced learning loss during this time and extending the summer will likely continue to add to this.
Are there provisions to protect sick leave if a teacher is forced to quarantine for 14 days due to contact?
Due to the passage of Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), employees may be entitled to one or more of emergency leave benefits - either emergency FMLA or emergency paid sick leave. Employees should contact their Human Resources department for further information. Many leave provisions exist and guidance in this area is evolving.
What are the minimum number of daily instructional minutes?
SB98 establishes the minimum number of instructional minutes that must be met either in-person, hybrid, or in distance learning. LEAs will have to describe how the time value of work completed in distance learning will be established as part of the Learning Continuity and Attendance plan.