Aug. 10, 2021
Dear Superintendents and Charter School Leaders,

I am writing with several updates since my last message.

COVID-19 Safety Plan Checklist Now Available
The San Diego County Office of Education (SDCOE) has created a COVID-19 Safety Plan Checklist modeled on the California Department of Public Health’s (CDPH) COVID-19 Public Health Guidance for K-12 Schools in California, 2021-22 School Year.

The checklist is organized by the topics contained within the CDPH guidance. Additional information from the California Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s Emergency Temporary Standards, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and additional considerations are also provided for many of the topics.

Associated with each topic is a checklist of questions that can be used to evaluate your existing COVID-19 school safety plans. Space is also provided to include page references for where an item is located in your plans.

Updated COVID-19 Decision Tree and Communications Resources 
The COVID-19 Decision Tree has been updated with a clarification on people who have tested positive without developing symptoms. We will continue to update the decision tree as needed to reflect the latest public health guidance.

SDCOE is building on our list of frequently asked questions about face covering requirements for the 2021-22 school year to support you in communication with your school community. Questions and answers have been added relating to issues of non-compliance, independent study, and on-campus options. We have also updated template letters in English and Spanish on face covering guidance and for instances when there is a COVID-19 positive case at school.

Testing Resource Update
With the elimination of the most restrictive prevention strategies from the guidance, California is relying on a robust testing program and the mandatory use of face coverings in indoor spaces to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and its highly contagious variants on school campuses. Antigen tests, which provide a rapid result, can be used for routine screening or for when a student is in quarantine. Antigen test kits and training are available to schools who enroll in the state’s testing program at no cost. Participants in the state program also have access to Cue test kits (a rapid PCR test) that can be used with children who have symptoms, but we’ve been informed that the state is experiencing a shortage of these tests. There is no shortage of antigen test kits.

We strongly encourage school leaders to develop the capacity to provide onsite testing. A negative test result allows students to return to school more quickly. A positive test result allows contact tracing to start sooner. SDCOE is in constant communication with county public health and has communicated the urgency around increasing the supply of these tests. We continue to advocate on behalf of local schools and will share updates with you as they are available.

For more information, please visit the County of San Diego’s K-12 Schools FAQs, which include a section on screening and testing, or contact COVID-Education@sdcounty.ca.gov.

State Q&A Webpage Updated
The CDPH updated its K-12 Schools Guidance 2021-2022 Questions & Answers webpage last week to add a question on parental or self-attestation for mask exemptions. The new question and answer read:

Is a doctor's note required to obtain a mask exemption? Is parental or self-attestation permitted to obtain a mask exemption?
As per CDPH Guidance on Face Coverings, "persons with a medical condition, mental health condition, or disability that prevents wearing a mask" as well as "persons who are hearing impaired" are exempt from mask requirements. 

Assessing for exemption due to a medical condition, mental health condition, disability that prevents wearing a mask, or hearing impairment is a medical determination and therefore must be made by a physician, nurse practitioner, or other licensed medical professional practicing under the license of a physician. Self-attestation and parental attestation for mask exemptions due to the aforementioned conditions do not constitute medical determinations.

Additionally, per CDPH K-12 Guidance, "persons exempted from wearing a face covering due to a medical condition, must wear a non-restrictive alternative, such as a face shield with a drape on the bottom edge, as long as their condition permits it."

Please note that the Americans with Disabilities Act requires schools that receive federal funds to make reasonable accommodations for students who have a disability that impacts a major life function (like breathing). The act requires schools to convene a team to assess and determine if the student meets the criteria for an accommodation plan and requires that they determine what accommodations are appropriate. Information provided by a medical provider is helpful but not required.

Additional Independent Study Resources
In case you missed the recent webinars hosted by the California Department of Education (CDE) on independent study, we've posted the PowerPoint presentations from both the informational webinar and the webinar on attendance accounting and instructional time in the Summary of Requirements document being maintained by SDCOE.

The CDE has posted new frequently asked questions that clarify various aspects of Assembly Bill 130 relating to independent study apportionment, instructional time, and attendance accounting requirements for 2021–22 and future years:

The California County Superintendents Educational Services Association has developed a toolkit to support communication efforts about the recent Assembly Bill 130 and Senate Bill 130 and independent study legislation. Among other resources, this Independent Study Flip Book contains a variety of sample forms and documents pertaining to daily live interaction, synchronous instruction, and tiered engagement efforts, including service referrals. In addition, SDCOE has created a template letter to notify parents of the changes in requirements to independent study for the 2021-22 school year.

U.S. Department of Education Releases Return to School Roadmap 
The Return to School Roadmap is a resource to support students, schools, educators, and communities as they prepare to return to safe, healthy in-person learning this fall and emerge from the pandemic stronger than before. The roadmap provides key resources and supports for students, parents, educators, and school communities to build excitement around returning to classrooms this school year and outlines how federal funding can support the safe and sustained return to in-person learning.

As part of the launch of the Return to School Roadmap, the U.S. Department of Education released:
  • A fact sheet for schools, families, and communities on the Return to School Roadmap, reviewing the three landmark priorities, and elevating schools and districts that are addressing each in effective ways
  • A guide for schools and districts outlining what schools can do to protect the health and safety of students, including increasing access to vaccinations and steps for implementing the CDC’s recently updated K-12 school guidance
  • A checklist that parents can use to prepare themselves and their children for a safe return to in-person learning this fall, leading with vaccinating eligible children and masking up if students are not yet vaccinated

Thank you for all that you do. As always, please reach out if you have any questions.

Sincerely,
Paul

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