Some California elementary schools may be able to reopen for in-person classes this fall under a strict waiver system announced Monday by state officials.
But because of the detailed rules, smaller schools — especially private and parochial campuses with more flexibility — will likely be among the most successful at meeting the special guidelines, prompting concern from some that select re-openings could add to gaps in educational equity.
Last month, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced that both public and private schools in California counties where coronavirus continues to spread would be required to begin the fall with distance learning. Newsom’s guidance, which covers 38 of California’s most populous counties, means the majority of children in the state are unlikely to see the inside of a classroom until COVID-19 cases significantly decline.
But state health officials this week released criteria for local officials to use to evaluate if some schools can be exempted from Newsom’s order. Under the waivers, schools can petition their county health departments to allow hybrid online and in-person learning, or request full returns to classrooms. The waiver process is available only to elementary schools, whose young children have the most difficulty with online learning.
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