March 19, 2021
Dear Superintendents,

I'm writing with updates on several COVID-19-related items that have arisen since my last message.

Temporary Restraining Order on Department of Public Health Schools Guidance
Earlier this week, Superior Court Judge Cynthia A. Freeland issued a temporary restraining order (TRO) in A.A. v. Newsom, et al, a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the reopening framework and guidance issued Jan. 14 by the California Department of Public Health.

As a result of the TRO, which applies to every local educational agency (LEA) in California, the state is prohibited from enforcing:

  • The 4-foot minimum spacing rule
  • Reopening rules that distinguish between elementary students and students in grades 7-12
  • Different reopening criteria for schools serving elementary students and students in grades 7-12 while a county is in the purple tier
  • Its definition of "Reopen for in-person instruction" 

We expect the state will appeal, and there is another hearing on the issue on April 1. Revised guidance released today by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reducing classroom seating to not less than 3 feet between students is also likely to impact this process, particularly since the CDC is retaining a recommendation of 6 feet when positivity rates are 10% or higher, or when cohorting is not available. Dr. Naomi Bardach, who leads California’s school reopening strategy and guidance, indicated this morning that the state is looking at the CDC guidance very closely but cannot predict if or when the state might act to conform with CDC.

LEAs should carefully consider their options and understand that guidance is subject to change pending the outcome of the court case and/or changes to California Department of Public Health (CDPH) guidance.

Vaccination Update
VEBA has sent invitations to close to 80,000 TK-12 workers, but only 29,000 people have accessed the VEBA site. The lower-than-expected response rate and waning demand for appointments may signal a looming end to a dedicated process for TK-12 school employees to receive their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

While VEBA has sent an email with registration details to all employees on the roster you submitted, some people may have missed the message. In some cases, the invitation from updates@vebavaccinates.com has been intercepted by the school’s spam filter; in other cases, the employee just hasn’t seen it in their inbox.

This template message in English and Spanish can be used to encourage your employees, substitutes, and employees who work on school campuses under contracts with other entities to be vaccinated if they haven’t already made an appointment.

Update on State Dashboard Reporting Requirement
The state will unveil a new process Monday that will allow district, charter, and private schools to submit reports as required by California Education Code 32091. The new process will include a greatly expanded set of questions and a new interface. To view a recorded webinar on the submission process and access related resources, please visit the California Collaborative for Excellence in Education’s school reopening dashboard site. All California schools, public and private, are required to submit these reports. The submission window will open on Monday, March 22 and remain open through 5 p.m. on Friday, March 26.

Spectators at Sporting Events
The County of San Diego has advised the San Diego County Office of Education that the CDPH Outdoor and Indoor Youth and Recreational Adult guidance permits observers for both indoor and outdoor sports.

The Limitations on Observers section of the guidance states that schools should:
  • Limit observation of youth sports (age 18 years and under) to immediate household members, and for the strict purpose of age-appropriate supervision. This includes observation of practice and competition. Limit number of observers to ensure physical distance can be maintained, reduce potential crowding, and maintain indoor and outdoor capacity limits.
  • Consider video streaming of games so that they can be watched "live" from home.

Spring Break Impact on Reopening Window
As a reminder, the California Department of Public Health has indicated that they are willing to work with school leaders where schools’ scheduled spring recess would prevent them from reopening during the 21-day reopening window. Contact the Safe Schools for All team for assistance if you believe this will be a factor in your reopening plans. Please copy COVID-education@sdcounty.ca.gov on your communication to the state.

Thank you for all you are doing during these unprecedented times. As always, please let me know if you have any questions or need support.

Sincerely,
Paul

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