Sept. 20, 2020
Dear Superintendents and School Leaders,

With the possibility of the county moving into the purple tier this week, and confusion around what the impact of that would be on schools, the San Diego County Office of Education (SDCOE) team posed a number of questions to county public health. We just received the county's answers, which are below for your reference and for planning purposes.

If schools have announced dates on which they have already planned to reopen in person instruction, can they continue as planned if the county is placed in Tier 1 (purple)? 
Not at this time. Schools/districts will have to take some action to reopen in-person education by Monday, Sept. 20.

If a school reopens in-person learning on Sept. 21, and the county is placed in Tier 1 (purple) on Sept. 22, will the school be allowed to continue in-person instruction?
Yes. The county would not be officially in Tier 1 until Tuesday, Sept. 22. On Monday, Sept. 21, the county is still in Tier 2 (red) and schools are allowed to reopen for in-person education.

If it is announced on Sept. 22 that the county has been placed in Tier 1 (purple), when do the restrictions associated with that tier go into effect? 
The restrictions take effect the day/date it is determined that the county is in Tier 1. Businesses receive a three-day period to transition and close indoor operations or other restraints associated with Tier 1.

If the school has hosted small cohorts of students on campus to provide them with the means to participate in virtual instruction, would that constitute being reopened for in-person learning? 
Yes. This could be considered a hybrid model and students are in-person at the school receiving education facilitated by a teacher or appropriate supervisor.

Are the following statements true?
Schools that have reopened in-person instruction (while the county was authorized to do so or under an elementary education waiver) are not required to follow the cohort guidance issued by the California Department of Public Health. These schools must follow the industry guidance for schools
Yes. Schools should follow the schools and school-based program guidance. The cohort guidance is in addition to and does not supplant the former.

Schools that have not reopened in-person instruction may work with small groups of students on their campuses if they adhere to the Sept. 4 cohort guidance. 

When the county closed the elementary school waiver process, there were a number of applications that were not processed. Will the county honor and process those applications now? 
All of these schools have since opened so this question is no longer applicable.

When will the county open the waiver application process? Will the timeline for processing applications remain the same?
If the county rolls back to Tier 1, the TK-6 waiver application process will recommence on/or about Day 1.

When the waiver process was first made available, many public schools were unable to apply because they had not reached agreement with their labor unions. Because that requirement is no longer a barrier for most schools, the county could see a huge surge of applications. Would the county be willing to simplify the application process to allow waivers to be processed more quickly?
The application process is a deliberate process that helps ensure a safe reopening for schools. Currently there is no plan to modify the existing process.

The SDCOE team also asked, if the county is placed in Tier 1 (purple), what is the earliest date that schools could be allowed to reopen in person learning if the county’s metrics improve quickly enough?

Local public health is confirming their answer with the state, but they believe Sept. 22 would represent Day 1 in Tier 1. Three weeks are required upon entering any tier, so Oct. 13 represents the three-week mark in Tier 1. Assuming the last two weeks of that three week period reflect Tier 2 metric data, the county would move back to Tier 2 on Oct. 13, and that would represent Day 1 in Tier 2. Fourteen days are required while in Tier 2 before a school can reopen for in-person education. That date would be Oct. 27, with Oct. 28 being the 15th day when schools can reopen for in-person education.

Finally, the SDCOE team asked, if a school has begun a phased resumption of in-person learning and has resumed in-person learning for some of its students (special populations, specific grade levels, etc.), and the county is moved into Tier 1 (purple), can the school continue reopening in-person learning for other segments of the school?

We have asked the county to confirm this with state public health, but the county's initial response is, "Yes. Most schools/districts have 'phased plans' to safely reopen in-person education. The day that a school initiates in-person education for a portion or all of its student body constitutes the school having reopened for in-person education." We understand this question is of utmost importance to our schools, and have expressed the urgency of receiving confirmation in a timely way.

I will share additional information as soon as we receive it. In the meantime, 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.


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