Oct. 20, 2020
Dear Superintendents and School Leaders,

As you may know, San Diego County has narrowly avoided being moved into the state’s more restrictive purple tier after an increasing COVID-19 case rate was reported in the region.

While that is good news for now, we have received questions about the effect it would have on school reopening if the county is placed in the purple tier. The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) has updated its Schools FAQs to address this issue, adding the following questions and answers:

My county was once eligible for school reopening (i.e., red tier for 14+ days), but has since become ineligible (i.e., reverted back to purple tier). Is my school permitted to reopen for in-person instruction?
No. On July 17, CDPH published the school reopening framework, which provided that a school may reopen for in-person instruction only if its county has been off the County Monitoring List for 14 days. Since then, the framework has been adapted to reflect the Blueprint for a Safer Economy, providing that a county must be in Red Tier (equivalent of being off the County Monitoring List) for 14 days for schools in that county to be eligible to reopen for in-person instruction. Schools must have actually reopened for in-person instruction while the county was in the Red Tier in order to remain open if the county moves back to Purple Tier. If the county is in purple tier on the day the school plans to reopen for in-person instruction, the school must wait until it is eligible again (i.e., county in red tier for 14+ days).

If a school was implementing a phased re-opening (e.g., only opened grades 9-10 for in-person instruction with set plans to phase in grades 11 and 12) while the county was in the Red Tier, the school site may continue their phase re-opening when the county reverts back to the Purple Tier, if authorized by Local Health Officer. This is only applicable to individual school sites. If a district has a phased reopening of their schools, the schools in that district that did not open for in person instruction may not re-open until the county is back in the Red Tier for 2 weeks.

What does it mean for a school to be “open” under the school reopening framework? 
The school reopening framework set the rules for when “[s]chools and school districts may reopen for in-person instruction.” The term “open” or “reopen,” as used in the framework, refers to operations that are permitted only if the county satisfies the eligibility requirements for schools to “open” or “reopen” (i.e., red tier for 14+ days). This is in contrast to activities permitted under the Cohorting Guidance even for schools that are not permitted to reopen under the July 17 school reopening framework. Schools that were operating only in the manner permitted under the Cohorting Guidance are therefore not “open” under the July 17 framework. For example, a school serving 10 students for in-person instruction under the cohorting guidance is not “open” for in-person instruction, since such operations are permitted regardless of the school reopening framework.

If my county is in purple tier, what can my school do to serve students in-person?
Regardless of a county’s tier status, schools may serve small groups of students pursuant to the CDPH cohorting guidance (e.g., serve small groups of students with disabilities) and/or open elementary schools pursuant to a waiver.

We will continue to keep you updated as additional information is available. In the meantime, please don't hesitate to get in touch if I can be of assistance.


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