Health and Safety
Coronavirus, or COVID-19, is a respiratory illness that was first identified in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China in 2019 caused by a novel (new) coronavirus. The first confirmed case of COVID-19 in the United States was announced on January 21, 2020. On March 4, 2020, Governor Gavin Newsom declared a “state of emergency” to help prepare for the spread of the virus. On March 13, 2020, Governor Newsom issued Executive Order N-26-20 regarding the physical closure of schools by local educational agencies (LEAs) in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic and to maintain the safety of District students, families, and staff while mitigating the spread of the virus, Trustees approved temporary closure of all schools on March 13, 2020 with spring recess being moved to March 16-20, 2020. In order to provide all students with educational opportunities during temporary school closure, the District implemented a Distance Learning Program which included innovative ways to provide differentiated instruction and social emotional support in a remote learning environment. Additionally, the District expanded the meal program in order to increase access for families.
State Guidance: Stay at Home Order
Physical distancing efforts have slowed the rate of COVID-19 infections, and many experts are in agreement that a vaccine is required to effectively control the spread of the virus. Reopening prematurely by relaxing stay-at-home restrictions and resuming large public gatherings may result in the increase of positive cases and exposure. A premature return to full activity therefore may result in a second surge of infections and additional state and county “stay at home” orders.
On June 5, 2020, California Department of Public Health (CDPH) released guidance to school districts, and on June 8, 2020, California Department of Education (CDE) announced its guidance in accordance to the parameters established by CDPH. As defined in these two documents, districts may now consider reopening but precautions must be followed for the safety of students, families, and staff.
Stages for Reopening
On April 28, 2020 Governor Newsom shared the California “Resilience Roadmap” which included four stages relaxing the “stay at home” order and allowing schools and workplaces to reopen. The four stages are as follows, with school programs and childcare to “open with modifications” during the latter part of Stage 2:
It will be safe for schools to return to traditional operations, as they were previously implemented prior to COVID-19 closure, in Stage 4. Stage 4 would include:
California’s six indicators for modifying the stay-at-home order, and thereby achieving Stage 4 status, are as follows:
Stage 2 of the Resilience Roadmap
On June 18, 2020, it was announced on the State’s COVID-19 website that the State was in “early Stage 2.” The website states: “We are now in early Stage 2, where retail, related logistics and manufacturing, office workplaces, limited personal services, outdoor museums, child care, and essential businesses can open with modifications.”
On July 1, 2020, in response to an increase in cases in Orange County and other counties across the state, indoor operations were closed for restaurants, wineries, movie theaters, zoos, museums, and cardrooms, with bars closing all operations. Schools and school operations were not included in the Governor’s order. Staff is closely monitoring the California Department of Public Health for any new guidance related to school reopening as well as changes in Resilience Roadmap stages.
Reopening Schools Plan
The first key component of the Reopening Schools Plan is addressing the health and safety of students, teachers and staff at school with measures defined by the California Department of Public Health and Orange County Health Care Agency guidelines. The priority of the District is to reopen schools in a traditional format as soon as conditions and guidelines allow. In order to prepare for a traditional opening, or an opening that requires both on campus and online learning, the District plan includes a curriculum-based academic year, appropriate educational and emotional support for all students, and a safe and healthy learning environment on campus and online.
School Modifications Required Until Stage 4
As described in recent CDPH guidance, schools are permitted to re-open as part of Stage 2. Prior to a complete lifting of the “stay at home” order in Stage 4, school operations will need to be modified. Conditions may not improve quickly enough to achieve Stage 4 and allow schools to resume normal (pre-pandemic) operations prior to the start of the 2020-2021 school year. However, if conditions improved prior to the start of the school year, August 18, 2020, the District’s plan would prioritize a return to normal operations. Conversely, if conditions worsened and the state returned to Stage 1, the Reopening Schools Plan would allow all schools to effectively transition to 100% online learning.
Given the uncertainty of COVID-19 and the fluidity of continued modifications and restrictions, the plan includes safety and health measures with the flexibility to adjust and revise those measures as defined by the California Department of Public Health and in consultation with the Orange County Health Care Agency (OCHCA). These measures will observe the most recent guidance from state and county health officials, and measures will be adjusted when the county criteria indicate a Stage 4 recovery.
As defined in the CDPH “COVID-19 Industry Guidance: Schools and School-based Programs” that was released on June 5, 2020, all Reopening Plan safety and health measures will align with current CDPH and OCHCA guidelines. As a public entity, the District is required to meet a standard of care for its students, and CDPH and OCHCA guidance provides such a standard. The CDPH guidance document is located on the Reopening School website. (Addendum #4)
Orange County Department of Education School Reopening Checklist
On June 29, 2020, the Orange County Department of Education (OCDE) provided all districts in Orange County with the “Orange County Together: School Reopening Checklist.” Also described as an “attestation,” the OCDE and the Orange County Health Care Agency (OCHCA) developed a school checklist that is “supplemental to the COVID-19 California Department of Public Health (CDPH) Industry Guidance for Schools and School Based Programs.” The checklist is divided into 5 areas: 1. Develop a Written Worksite Specific Plan; 2. Provide Relevant Training for Employees and Students; 3. Plan Individual Control Measures and Screening; 4. Implement Thorough Cleaning and Disinfecting Protocols; and 5. Promote Physical Distancing Guidelines.
The OCDE checklist is completed by the principal of each school, who then must sign and attest that they “have taken the steps necessary to reopen school in a safe and responsible manner and completed the following measures in accordance with the industry-specific guidelines from the California Department of Public Health and the requirements of the Orange County Health Care Agency.” Both the site principal and the Superintendent or designee sign the document and post it in a public place on campus.
The Reopening School checklist aligns with the CDPH guidelines. The Reopening Team reviewed the checklist “attestation” and determined that it would serve as the main checklist for principals as they plan for health and safety guidelines for their site. (Addendum #5)
Safety and Health Practices as Defined by California Department of Public Health
The safety and health practices that will be followed in the District’s Reopening Schools Plan are described in detail in the CDPH document. Those practices and procedures include:
Encouraging Physical Distancing, Limiting Gatherings, and Minimizing Contact
Proactive Measures and Appropriate Responses for Illness and COVID-19 Cases
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), Cleaning, and Sanitization
If School Opened Today - A Typical Day for a Student in CUSD
To help families visualize how school will be for their children in the fall, staff provides a “snapshot” of a typical day for a student in CUSD.
Before Leaving Home: The family takes the temperature of their child and asks if they feel ill. If the child is not feeling well or has a fever of 100.4 degrees or higher, then the child stays home from school. If the student is riding the bus, the parents wait with their child at the bus stop. Prior to boarding the bus, the student’s temperature is taken by the bus driver using a no-touch thermometer. If the student has a fever of 100.4 degrees or higher, then the student is not allowed to ride the bus or attend school and must be taken home by their parents.
When Arriving at School: Students are wearing their facial coverings as they enter their school campus in an orderly fashion. They enter from multiple entrances to provide appropriate distancing and they go to their assigned spot in their class line which is clearly marked with “distancing dots” on the ground to ensure that students are spaced apart and are facing forward. At some schools they may walk directly to their classroom and then form a line with appropriate spacing outside of the room. Signage with reminders to students to distance, wash their hands, and wear their facial coverings are clearly visible on the campus. Additional portable hand washing stations are available at the entrance of campus.
Before Entering the Classroom or Extended Learning Space (Elementary Only): Students remain seated or standing in their line. Their teacher, who is wearing her facial covering, greets the class and comes to each student to individually provide them with hand sanitizer and take their temperature with a no-touch infrared thermometer. The teacher then leads the class in an orderly line to their class. Students who start the day in Extended Learning follow the same procedure.
During Classroom Instruction: There will be approximately 6 feet of distancing between the teacher’s desk and teaching space and the students, and students will be seated in rows. Students sit in assigned seats and they are all facing forward to enhance distancing. Due to the fact that only 16 students are in the classroom at one time, 32 desks and chairs are in the room but only half of them are used by students. The teacher strategically spaces students by leaving empty desks between each student. Elementary teachers, special education teachers, and related service providers (speech teachers, occupational therapists, and adaptive physical education teachers) wear shields so that students can see their facial expressions and watch their instructor’s lips when learning new sounds, language, and phonemes. The teachers use a “sneeze guard” plexiglass divider when working with students in small groups or 1 on 1 for reading assessments. Students have their own Chromebook and their own school supplies to minimize sharing. Except for bathroom breaks and quick outdoor “brain breaks,” students remain in the same classroom and do not travel to other rooms.
During Extended Learning (Elementary Only): Students are led by a paraeducator or another teacher or certificated staff to the extended learning space. The extended learning space may be a library, multi-purpose room, STEM lab, or outdoor space underneath a shade structure. Transitions to other rooms or spaces are limited. Students participate in activities that reinforce the lessons provided previously by their teacher, and they also participate in enrichment activities that may include structured recess, PE, art, music, and social skills groups. Students and staff are wearing facial coverings except when they are outdoors and physical distancing is possible.
During Transition to Lunch or Leaving Campus: As students transition to lunch, the custodian arrives and, with the teacher’s assistance, wipes down the common hard surface areas, including door handles, light switches, sink handles, tables, and bathroom surfaces (if located in the classroom) with FDA approved sanitizing solutions. Chromebooks, student desks, and student chairs are not cleaned because they are assigned only to one student, and the students who will arrive after lunch will use different assigned seating, devices, and learning tools. Students wash their hands and eat their lunch in the lunch area with proper distancing, in the classroom, or in another outdoor area. After eating they are able to play outside but they are asked to provide distancing between one another. With distancing, students are able to remove their facial coverings when playing outside. For students who choose to only attend for classroom instruction, they leave before lunch time and are signed out by their parents. As students leave, they wear their face masks.
At Dismissal Time: Students are provided more hand sanitizer or reminded to wash their hands as they leave using multiple campus exits to avoid gatherings. Their parents are asked to wear a facial covering as they wait for their child and to distance themselves from other adults.
Process for Positive Cases of COVID-19 and Potential School Closure
The California Department of Public Health and Orange County Health Care Agency provide guidance for schools for when a staff member, child, or visitor is ill. CDPH also includes guidance for districts to determine when to consider school closure due to COVID-19.
Protocol for Response to Possible Exposure, Symptoms, or Confirmed Cases: In collaboration with Orange County Health Care Agency (OCHCA), staff has developed the following protocol to respond when an employee or student has reported possible exposure, symptoms, or confirmed positive results for COVID-19 as of July 10, 2020. This protocol may be revised per any new direction or additional guidance from the OCHCA:
5. Individuals are contacted directly and/or receive written communication aligned with the guidance from OCHCA as indicated in #4.
Considerations for Partial or Total School Closure: According to CDPH, “when a student, teacher or staff member tests positive for COVID-19 and has exposed others at the school,” the District will consult with the Orange County Health Care Agency. After consultation, the Superintendent or designee may decide “whether school closure is warranted, including the length of time necessary, based on the risk level within the specific community as determined by the local public health officer.” Additional considerations, including home isolation for those individuals who were in “close contact,” are listed on page 14 of the CDPH guidance document.
Transportation, Extracurricular Activities, Events, and Sports
Transportation: In accordance with CDPH guidelines, Transportation will adopt a seating plan of one student per bench, alternating seating locations for each row, creating a zig-zag pattern, Seats that are to be left vacant will be marked. This plan reduces capacity to approximately 28 on a big bus, 8 on a smaller bus used to transport students with special needs.
For the AM pickup, parents will be asked to remain at the bus stop with their child. The bus driver will take the temperature of each student before they board the bus. Any student who has a fever of 100.4 degrees or higher will not be allowed to enter the bus and will need to be taken home by the parent. The seating arrangement on the bus requires all students and staff to wear a face covering. A touchless hand sanitizer dispenser is also being placed at the entrance of the bus, which students will be required to use as they enter the bus. Bus drivers will be required to use face coverings and disposable gloves. Bus loading will happen from rear to front, minimizing student pass-by. Unloading will happen from front to rear, one seat at a time. On the first few days of school, Transportation support staff will report to bus stops with large numbers of students to train students regarding distancing, face coverings and loading/unloading the bus. Buses will be disinfected after AM and PM runs.
All students with special needs, whose IEP requires service, will be transported. However, capacity and staff limitations will reduce available routes for general education students. Assuming all 92 bus driver positions are filled, along with 15 substitute drivers, the department should be able to provide service to all elementary students as served in 2019-20. Priority will be given to Title I sites and Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) routes. Transportation will work with secondary sites, possibly dropping off and picking up students at adjusted times, to accommodate as many middle and high school students as possible. Priority will be given to those schools with high volume of passengers and when walking routes are limited or unavailable. The Bus Pass office is set to reopen on July 16, 2020, to begin accepting applications. Renewal applications submitted during the Spring (March-May), will be placed and assigned a bus pass first. Applications received during the application window beginning July 16, 2020, will be placed on a first come, first serve, basis. Once seating capacity is reached on a route, remaining applicants will be notified and placed on a waiting list. Refunds will be issued for any applications not issued a pass. Applications for after school program transportation will also be accepted. Passes will be issued based on staff and equipment availability As soon as the Bus Pass has processed these applications, parents will be notified if a bus pass will or will not be issued. In these cases parents may also request to be placed on a waiting list. If a seat becomes available the Bus Pass Office will contact them immediately.
As athletics will be significantly reduced and field trips into the community will be limited due to safety concerns and CDPH guidance, extracurricular and athletic transportation will not be available.
Activities, Camps, Sports, and Field Trips: All extracurricular and co-curricular activities will comply with restrictions and state and county guidelines that are in place at the time. If the State has not achieved Stage 4 and restrictions do not allow for large gatherings, events may be cancelled or postponed. If restrictions allow for certain events such as sports contests without audiences, those events will be scheduled.
Following the National Federation of State High School Associations guidelines as well as county and state health and safety guidelines, the school summer conditioning “Phase 1” camps were prepared to start on July 6th with appropriate measures to ensure student health and safety. However, all Orange County school districts were notified on July 6, 2020, by Orange County Department of Education and were advised to cease all athletics until further guidance was provided by the California Department of Public Health. Once additional guidance is provided, high school administration, in connection with athletic directors, coaches, health professionals, and District staff, will share further details and plans for Pilot Conditioning “Phase 1.”
Sports will be considered on an individual basis and activities that comply with physical distancing, such as golf and cross country, tennis or track, may be reinstated sooner than other sports that require physical contact, such as football and basketball. Staff will continue to work collaboratively with California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) with scheduling and health and safety accommodations. CIF has indicated that additional information regarding 2020-2021 sports schedules will be provided on July 20, 2020.