Most California Schools Will Begin School Year Remotely Under New State Rules

Students in the 3rd grade and above who do attend class in-person will be required to wear masks

Parked school buses in San Francisco. (Justin Sullivan / Getty Images)

Most schools in California will begin the school year next month remotely under new state rules announced by Gov. Gavin Newsom on Friday.

Schools may only physically open for in-person teaching if the county they are located in has been off the state’s monitoring list for 14 consecutive days, Newsom said. As of Friday, 33 counties — including Los Angeles, Orange, Ventura, San Francisco, San Diego and Santa Barbara — are still on the state watchlist.

For in-person classes, all staff and students in third grade and above will be required to wear face masks, Newsom said, while those in K-2 will be encouraged to wear them. Students who refuse to or are unable to wear masks will be asked to attend classes remotely.

Staff must also remain 6 ft. apart from one another and from their students. If there is a single case in a classroom, that class –students and teacher — will be asked to stay home to self-quarantine. But if there is an outbreak at an individual school, where about 5% of that school has tested positive, that school may close entirely, depending on guidance from public health officials. And if 25% of schools in a district have closed due to COVID-19, that entire district must shut down.

Meanwhile, for schools beginning the academic year with online learning, districts must provide students with devices and access to internet connectivity so they can participate remotely, Newsom said. Students must also receive daily “live interaction” with their teachers and classmates, and “adapted lessons” for English learners and those with special education needs must be provided.

“Our students, our teachers, staff, and certainly parents, we all prefer in-classroom instructions for all the obvious reasons,” Newsom said. “But only — only — if it can be done safely.”