Most schools in California will not be reopening for in-person education when classes begin in the next few months, Gov. Gavin Newsom said Friday.
Private and public schools in counties on California’s coronavirus monitoring list must stay closed under the governor’s new guidance.
Thirty-three of California’s 58 counties, representing more than 80% of the state’s population, are on the watch list.
Once a county has been off the list for 14 consecutive days, schools may reopen.
There is one exception. Local health officers can allow elementary schools to reopen for in-person instruction if the district superintendent requests a waiver.
Newsom on Monday asked these counties to close indoor activities such as gym/fitness centers, places of worship, offices for non-critical sectors, personal care services, hair salons and barbershops and indoor malls.
Schools there will need to meet strict criteria in order to reopen, including physical distancing measures and the use of face coverings, he said. Newsom also recommended regular coronavirus testing and “rigorous distance learning,” which includes daily live interaction with teachers and other students.
Under the new guidance, staff and students from third grade and above will be required to wear face coverings in classrooms. Students from kindergarten through second grade will be encouraged to wear them but it won’t be mandatory.
The governor also warned that schools may be shut down again if more than 5% of the school is positive. A district will need to close if 25% of their schools are closed within a 14-day period.
Newsom emphasized that “learning is non-negotiable” and that “schools must provide meaningful instruction during the pandemic whether they are physically open or not.”
The state has invested $5.3 billion in additional funding with priority on equity, Newsom announced. This will be used for additional purchases for PPE and is money available to address the digital divide, he said.
Newsom’s decision comes after the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention delayed the release of reference documents on safely reopening schools, which was expected by the end of the week. President Donald Trump has repeatedly called for schools to reopen, even as the coronavirus pandemic surges across parts of the country, including California.
Earlier this week, some of the largest school districts in the state announced they would continue with full distance learning in the fall, instead of returning students to campuses. The decisions by Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco and Sacramento school districts meant more than 1 million students would not be returning to classrooms in August.
CNN’s Steve Almasy contributed to this report.