Editorial and Observation by Mary Blyth Jones, Coalinga Press
Back to School? Sure. But on whose terms?
Unlike most years, now that summer is officially here, students are not dancing in the streets with celebration. No bells rang to signal the ending of a year’s worth of education. No parents jubilantly gathered their children from the last gasp of the 2019-202 school year. Teachers were not whooping in the doorways, and there won’t be any wild parties to celebrate summer vacation. (Note: There may be celebrations by teachers, but it won’t be for the same reasons!)
When parents are usually gearing down to relax for a few weeks, many are concerned and even stressed about what is coming in the future. When will school start again? And under what guidelines? Will it be traditional classes? Distance learning? Will classes ever convene again?
Amid the mountain of questions being asked by parents, students, and even teachers, is a core of guidelines provided by the state of California. It is thoughtfully entitled: Stronger Together and may be accessed online as a PDF or a read online document . Either way, anyone who bothers to look it up and study the information will find guidelines in excruciating detail on just exactly how schools may reopen.
SO before everyone heaves a collective sigh of relief and hope, it’s important to realize exactly what California schools are being asked to accomplish.
Social Distancing? Still on the books.
Hand washing? More important than ever.
There are safeguards and policies to deal with nearly every possibility. Just from the opening bit, as the state lifts stay at home orders, school may reopen IF they can meet all the requirements on the provided checklist. Here are just some of those requirements”
Schools must be able to provide access to regular Covid-19 testing and tracking for students and all staff. They must also have adequate PPE (Personal protection equipment like mask, gloves, goggles when necessary). They must provide adequate hand washing and sanitizing stations including hot water and EPA approved soap. The area must have stable or lessening Covid-19 cases, hospitalizations, and deaths.
The area must have adequate health care in place to deal with any surge. Schools must have “adequate” no-touch thermometers to test temperatures all students and staff. Any person whose temperature exceeds 100.4 must receive intervention.*
If a student is symptomatic (temperature exceeds 100.4º, or any of several other symptoms), that child must be removed from the classroom (or wherever they are) and taken to the nurse’s office. All areas that person was in that day must be closed for 24 hours, then sanitized.
Schools must have sufficient supplies of hand sanitizers, soap, handwashing stations, tissues, no-touch trash cans, and paper towels. Schools must be continuously sanitized throughout the school day.
Any staff or students who were in contact with any individual who later tests positive for Covid-19, must self isolate for a period of 14 days. Any rooms, classes, areas, where the infected individual was, must be closed for 24 hours, then sanitized.
Schools must develop a plan for continuity of education, medical and social services, and meal programs and establish alternate mechanisms for these to continue.
Students must sanitize their hands when boarding a bus, and when they leave the bus. Each bus may carry 14 students only, although a few buses can manage slightly more than that. In order to transport all students to school, many more trips with the buses would be necessary.
All students and staff must have their own personal materials: writing, paper, books, desk, scissors, crayons, computer, etc. Nothing may be shared.
Reality Check: Using the current standards introduced by the California Department of Education will make opening schools across the state extremely difficult. Schools, including those in the Coalinga-Huron Unified School District, will most likely re-open in the fall using a hybrid combination of distant and traditional learning. Exactly what it will look like is still being discussed.
CHUSD has a task force composed of over 70 staff members, parents, and members of the community. Many surveys and polls have been conducted by CHUSD to understand problems and concerns over various aspects of distance learning. This group is addressing the needs of CHUSD and her students.
At last night’s CHUSD Board meeting, fifteen letters were read to the board. The letters were all sent due to concerns of parents for their children and the future in California schools.
This article is labeled as an editorial because in addition to the facts provided, I am urging all parents, grandparents, students and staff members to let your voices be heard. Contact your legislator. Contact the Governor. Contact the state office of education. Voice your concerns. Everyone needs to speak together with one voice. That voice needs to speak with a unified force:
Let state leadership know that our children need school, structure, and an education to meet the challenges of the future.
Let state leadership know our schools desperately adequate funding for providing education in a safe environment for our students and staff.
Let our local leadership know that our community is willing to share ideas, look for solutions, work together to make the future of education for our students in Coalinga to be the best possible.
Coalinga Huron unified School District
Director of Support and Family Services
Governor Gavin Newsom
1303 10th Street, Suite 1173
Sacramento, CA 95814
Phone: (916) 445-2841
Fax: (916) 558-3160
State Board of Education
1430 N Street, Room 5111
Sacramento, California 95814
Fresno County Superintendent of Schools
Jim A. Yovino, Superintendent of Schools
1111 Van Ness Avenue
Fresno, CA 93721
Let’s take a look at just two pages. Some important acronyms:
CDE = California Department of Education
LEA = Local Education Agencies
CDE HEALTH AND SAFETY CHECKLIST
LEA Checklist for Physically Reopening Campuses for Students
Local Conditions. Ensure that the following local conditions are in place:
a. Flexibility or Lifting of State Stay-Home Order
i. The state has lifted or relaxed the stay-home order to allow
schools to physically reopen.
b. Flexibility or Lifting of County Stay-Home Order
i. The county has lifted or relaxed the stay-home or shelter-in-
place order to allow schools to physically reopen.
c. Local Public Health Clearance. Local public health officials have
made determinations, including, but not limited to, the
i. Testing Availability. Consult with local public health officials
to ensure adequate tests and tracking/tracing resources are
available for schools to reopen. Employees have access to
COVID-19 testing at regular and ongoing intervals.
ii. Sufficient duration of decline or stability of confirmed cases,
hospitalizations, and deaths.
iii. Sufficient surge capacity exists in local hospitals.
d. Equipment Availability
i. Have sufficient protective equipment to comply with
California Department of Public Health (CDPH) guidance for
students and staff appropriate for each classification or
duty, as well as relevant California Division of Occupational
Safety and Health Administration (Cal/OSHA) requirements.
ii. Have a plan for an ongoing supply of protective equipment.
iii. Purchase a sufficient number of no-touch thermal scan
thermometers for symptom screenings.
iv. Consider the differing requirements of PPE/EPG for the
differing populations of students with disabilities (i.e., for
those requiring medical procedures, toileting, lifting and
e. Cleaning Supply Availability
i. Have enough school-appropriate cleaning supplies to
continuously disinfect the school site in accordance with
ii. Ensure sufficient supplies of hand sanitizers, soap,
handwashing stations, tissues, no-touch trash cans, and
Plan to Address Positive COVID-19 Cases or Community Surges
a. Establish a plan to close schools again for physical attendance
of students, if necessary, based on public health guidance and
in coordination with local public health officials.
b. In accordance with CDPH guidance, when a student, teacher, or
staff member or a member of their household tests positive for
COVID-19 and has exposed others at the school implement the
i. In consultation with the local public health officials, the
appropriate school official may consider whether school
closure is warranted and length of time based on the risk
level within the specific community as determined by the
local public health officer.
ii. In accordance with standard guidance for isolation at home
after close contact, the classroom or office where the
COVID-19-positive individual was based will typically need
to close temporarily as students or staff isolate.
iii. Additional close contacts at school outside of a classroom
should also isolate at home.
iv. Additional areas of the school visited by the COVID-19-
positive individual may also need to be closed temporarily
for cleaning and disinfection.
v. Develop a plan for continuity of education, medical and
social services, and meal programs and establish alternate
mechanisms for these to continue.
Injury and Illness Prevention Program (IIPP)
a. Update the IIPP to address unique circumstances during the
COVID-19 crisis and make updates accessible to employees and
Campus Access. Develop a plan to minimize access to campus, and limit nonessential visitors,facility use permits, and volunteers.
a. Exclude any student, parent, caregiver, visitor, or staff showing
symptoms of COVID-19 (reference CDC and CDPH guidelines
for COVID-19 symptoms). Staff should discuss with the parent
or caregiver and refer to the student’s health history form or
emergency card to identify whether the student has a history
of allergies, which would not be a reason to exclude.
b. Monitor staff and students throughout the day for signs of
illness. Determine any special or unique needs for students
with disabilities related to planned district or school wide
c. Students—Entering Campuses
i. Passive Screening. Instruct parents to screen students before
leaving for school (check temperature to ensure temperatures
below 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit, observe for symptoms
outlined by public health officials) and to keep students at
home if they have symptoms consistent with COVID-19 or if
they have had close contact with a person diagnosed with
ii. Active Screening. Engage in symptom screening as students
enter campus and buses, consistent with public health
guidance, which includes visual wellness checks and
temperature checks with no-touch thermometers (check
temperature to ensure temperatures below 100.4 degrees
Fahrenheit), and ask all students about COVID-19 symptoms
within the last 24 hours and whether anyone in their home
has had COVID-19 symptoms or a positive test.
- If a thermometer requiring a touch method (under the tongue or arm, forehead, etc.) is the only type available, it should only be used when a fever is suspected and caution is taken by temperature screeners, such as by wearing gloves, eye protection, and a mask.
- Thermometers must be properly cleaned and disinfected after each use.
iii. All students must wash or sanitize hands as they enter campuses and buses.
iv. Provide supervised, sufficient points of access to avoid larger gatherings.
v. Use privacy boards or clear screens when practicable.
vi. If a student is symptomatic while entering campus or during the school day:
- Students who develop symptoms of illness while at school should be separated from others right away, preferably isolated in an area through which others do not enter or pass. If more than one student is in an isolation area, ensure physical distancing.