Aug. 14, 2020
Dear Superintendents and School Leaders,

I’m writing with updates on several COVID-19-related items that have come up since my last message.

Watchlist Update
It appears today will mark San Diego County's third day under 100 coronavirus cases per 100,000 residents, removing our region from the state’s COVID-19 watchlist. Tomorrow, then, will begin the 14 day waiting period for the reopening of campuses.

The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) reopening framework says, "If the LHJ [local health jurisdiction] has been on the monitoring list within the last 14 days, the school must conduct distance learning only, until their LHJ has been off the monitoring list for at least 14 days." That suggests that if San Diego County goes back on the watchlist, it would take three days of data within the monitored limits to get off the list again, restarting the 14 day window. We are working to confirm this with local public health.

The San Diego County Office of Education (SDCOE) Communications team prepared a customizable template letter in English and Spanish for your use in updating your school community.

On-Campus Enrichment, Assessments, and Therapy Programs
On Wednesday, after strategizing and planning with the SDCOE team, I sent this letter to County of San Diego Public Health Officer Dr. Wilma Wooten. The letter gave Dr. Wooten until today to respond to my plan 1) to authorize the use of After-School Education and Safety (ASES) and 21st Century Community Learning Centers funds to provide school-based enrichment programs for small cohorts of students while their schools are limited to distance learning by the local public health order, and 2) to advise school districts and charter schools that SDCOE is unaware of any prohibition that should prevent them from conducting in-person assessment and/or therapy services for individual students by appointment on campus when virtual means are not appropriate for these purposes.

Given we have not been notified of any obstacles, prohibitions, or concerns, our best advice is to proceed per the conditions outlined in my letter.

SDCOE's Expanded Learning team is developing a relaunch guide for in-person ASES programs that we expect to share next week. ASES staff will be invited to participate in a Zoom meeting next Wednesday from 1 to 2:30 p.m. to review the guide. 

List of Waiver Applicants
The County of San Diego has posted on its K-12 website a list of waiver applicants. This list will be updated daily by 9 a.m. and reflect waiver applications received by 11:59 p.m. the night before. All new applicants will be in red each day.

Testing of School Staff
The CDPH Schools Guidance FAQs section on testing and screening implies CDPH expects schools to rely on our employees’ primary care providers (health insurance) and community testing clinics to meet the testing requirements articulated in its COVID-19 and Reopening In-Person Learning Framework for K-12 Schools in California, 2020-2021 School Year.

Below are the questions and answers on testing, with relevant language in bold text.

Who should be tested and how often?
As explained in the Framework for K-12 Schools in California, school staff should be tested, including teachers, paraprofessionals, cafeteria workers, janitors, bus drivers, or any other school employee that may have contact with students or other staff. School districts and schools should ensure that staff are tested periodically by their primary care provider or by referring teachers to a community testing site, as testing capacity permits and as practicable. Examples of recommended frequency include all staff being tested over 2 months, where 25% of staff are tested every 2 weeks, or 50% every month to rotate which staff members are tested over time.

Who will pay for the testing of school employees and students?
School employees and students who need testing would either go to their health care provider or a state-operated or other community testing site. The Department of Managed Health Care has filed an emergency regulation to require health plans to pay for COVID-19 testing for all essential workers, including school staff. In addition, tests are available at community testing sites throughout the state.

The County of San Diego is in the early stages of exploring how they can support schools with the CDPH requirements for routine testing of employees. We will share updates as new information becomes available.

Reopening Schools Webinar
This week, the American Public Health Association hosted Returning to K-12 Education: Using Science to Keep Children, Teachers and Staff Safe. On the webinar, expert panelists discussed recent data and expert opinions on safely returning to K-12 education during a pandemic, lessons learned from reopening schools in Europe, how to best incorporate pandemic public health practices into schools, and how to plan for spring 2021. The slides and recording are available here.

Thank you for all you are doing during these unprecedented times. Please don't hesitate to get in touch if I can be of assistance.

Sincerely,
Paul

Dr. Paul Gothold
San Diego County Superintendent of Schools
phone: 858-295-6641