SACRAMENTO COUNTY, Calif — The Sacramento County Office of Education released guidelines Tuesday for reopening schools in Sacramento County.
In a collaboration between 13 local school districts and the Sacramento County Department of Public Health, the "guide to address the challenges of COVID-19" gives schools directives on how to reopen for the 2020-2021 school year beginning with encouraging families to take temperatures daily before a student goes to a school site.
Anyone with a fever of 100.4 F or higher should not attend school.
In regards to arriving at school, parents and visitors may have limited access to the campus and "students will arrive on buses with fewer students."
In addition to precautions now followed and well-known with the coronavirus pandemic like additional sanitation precautions, face coverings and social distancing school campuses will move desks further apart, serve individual plated or boxed meals, keep students in smaller groups and stagger lunches, recesses and other transition times in order to keep student cohorts from mixing.
"Think of a school with 300 children, perhaps only 150 of those can be on campus," said Sacramento County Superintendent David W. Gordon.
The guidelines recommend classes be staggered, moved to half-days or block schedules in order to maintain a smaller number of students.
"To address childcare needs, community partnerships will be explored to offer expanded learning programs (before school, after school and summer programs) to support families," the guidelines said.
Courses as well as extracurricular activities that require students to congregate will also look different. Sports where student athletes can social distance may be permitted. These include swimming, diving, golf, tennis, cheer, cross country and track and field.
Sports where this isn't a possibility, like basketball, water polo, wrestling, volleyball, football, soccer, baseball and softball, are not encouraged by the county.
Field trips, assemblies, dances and rallies are also not recommended.
If a student develops a fever at school, is exposed or tests positive for COVID-19, the guidelines suggest schools have a designated place for students to quarantine.
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"Schools need to be able to have a place where they can isolate a child that’s not feeling well or who develops a fever during the day and also have a process for being able to contact the parents or guardians as quickly as possible," said Sacramento County Public Health Officer Dr. Olivia Kasirye. "The other important thing is to be able to do the contact tracing and being able to get all of those additional people, evaluation and testing directions on quarantine if needed."
Kasirye said the county is also suggesting smaller class sizes and waiting on additional guidance from California officials on how to maintain social distancing for smaller children in preschool or kindergarten.
Governor Gavin Newsom's May budget proposed cutting $14 billion in school budgets. Yet, Superintendent Gordon voiced the resources making these new changes during the pandemic will take. When asked how schools in Sacramento County will afford to implement these changes to keep schools safe, Superintendent Dr. Sarah Koligian of the Folsom Cordova Unified School District said it's a good question.
"We're asking for support in flexibility from some of the state requirements," Koligian said. "When we talk about bringing students and staff back, we're talking about having PPE, plexiglass, masks, extra sanitation and all of that costs money that's currently not in our budget but are being asked for as we advocate for our local budgets at a state and federal level."
As for when schools will re-open, Superintendent Gordon said each district is autonomous and will have to make that decision for themselves, however, he also noted that many schools are planning on beginning the 2020-2021 school year on track in August.
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