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Coronavirus and Schools

Welcome education partners. The County Office of Education and County Public Health Department continue to work with schools, school leaders, and parents to prepare for safe reopening of in-person learning, prioritizing in-person elementary school instruction.


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Current Guidance for District Superintendents, School Boards, Administration Leaders

Reopening of Santa Clara County K-12 Schools for the 2020-2021 School Year. Issued June 30, 2020. Revised August 7, 2020 


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Resources for Parents

  • Letter from Health Officer Dr. Sara Cody and Superintendent Dr. Mary Ann DeWan on childhood vaccinations and wellness care for the upcoming school year – July 23, 2020.
    PDF: | English | Spanish | Vietnamese |

    Additional guidance and resources for parents will be shared in the coming weeks.
  • Science Behind the K-12 School Guidance – July 17, 2020 (Download PDF​) - The Santa Clara County Public Health Department hosted a webinar to discuss the science behind the K-12 school guidance, released on June 30, 2020. The webinar was intended to provide an overview highlighting current scientific data behind the recent public health recommendations. This overview is not comprehensive but highlights themes and key articles and reports relevant to school settings. Our understanding of COVID-19 is rapidly evolving. Santa Clara County Public Health Department will continue to monitor emerging research and provide updated information and recommendations.


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Childcare Programs, Preschools, Camps, and Other Programs Serving Children and Youth 


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Important Resources


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Frequently Asked Questions Regarding School Reopening

  1. 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 here​.
  1. 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:
    • ​“Individual school closure may be appropriate when there are multiple cases in multiple cohorts at a school or when at least 5 percent of the total number of teachers/student/staff are cases within a 14-day period, depending on the size and physical layout of the school.”
    • “A superintendent should close a school district if 25% or more of schools in a district have closed due to COVID-19 within 14 days, and in consultation with the local public health department.”
    • Schools and school districts that close may typically reopen after 14 days, in consultation with the local public health department.
    ​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.
  1. 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?
    Students with disabilities and their personal aides can rotate into general education classrooms for a portion of the day. Students with disabilities may spend a portion of the day in a separate classroom cohort for the provision of special education services. The County recommends that schools train staff and students to maintain at least six feet of distance from each other as much as possible during educational instruction (e.g., during whole-class instruction, presentation, or lecture). For special education instructors and aides and healthcare personnel, a surgical mask and face shield is recommended when providing services to students which requires repeated close contact interactions (e.g., assistance with activities of daily living) or conducting health assessments (including vision and hearing screening). Gloves should be worn as recommended for procedures which require universal precautions (e.g., toileting assistance, catheterization, and insulin administration). In addition, PPE for potential aerosol generating procedures (e.g., suctioning of tracheostomy sites and nebulizer treatments) should follow CDC guidance.

    Specialty teachers may rotate into classrooms for specialized instruction (e.g., art or music) but must maintain at least 6 feet of distance from everyone in the cohort.  Schools can consider limiting the number of teachers physically present with each student cohort, such as by having specialty or subject-specific teachers provide instruction remotely. In addition, all adults must wear a face covering at all times while on campus, except while eating or drinking. Teachers may also consider using face shields in combination with face coverings when in the classroom to further reduce the risk of transmission.
  1. What protocol should substitute teachers adhere to if they are teaching an in-person class for a day?
    Substitute teachers can provide coverage for teachers who are absent. If possible, schools should limit the number of stable cohorts that substitute teachers interact with by assigning certain substitutes to specific schools. The County recommends that schools train staff and students to maintain at least six feet of distance from each other as much as possible during educational instruction (e.g., during whole-class instruction, presentation, or lecture).
  1. 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.
  1. 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.
  1. 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 here.
  1. Can we have groups of students on campus prior to school starting for purposes of orientation?
    For student orientations, schools that are allowed to reopen for in-person instruction 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.”
  1. 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.
  1. 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.”
  1. 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.
  1. 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.
  1. 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.
  1. 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.
  1. 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.”
  1. 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 here.
  1. 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.
  1. 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​.
  1. How should we notify families of COVID-19 cases in the school or program?
    The letter templates should be used by schools, childcare programs, and other programs serving children or youth to notify individuals when a COVID-19 case or close contact of a COVID-19 case is identified in a school setting or in a program serving children or youth and to provide instructions for affected individuals. The letter templates address three scenarios: (1) when a student/child or staff member in a cohort has been in close contact with a COVID-19 case, (2) when a student/child or staff member in a cohort tests positive for COVID-19, and (3) when a student/child or staff member tests positive for COVID-19 in a non-cohort setting​. A cohort is a stable group of students/children and staff who remain together throughout the school day/length of the program and who do not mix with other groups of students/children and staff.

    Please note that these letter templates do not align with the letter templates described in the County’s “Mandatory Directive for Programs Serving Children or Youth.” The directive will be updated in the near future to more clearly reference these letter templates. In the meantime, schools and programs serving children or youth should utilize the letter templates posted here.


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Archives – Past Guidance

Last updated: 8/10/2020 2:17 PM