As of today, K-12 Schools in Orange County have the green light to once again welcome students and staff for in-person instruction.
That’s because the county’s coronavirus case and test positivity rates put it in the second most restrictive “level” of the state’s coronavirus framework for two weeks.
Over the summer, while Orange County was still at the first level of the state’s coronavirus surveillance system – indicating a ‘widespread’ risk of disease transmission in the community – schools needed derogations to reopen the campuses. Cypress School District and Capistrano Unified have obtained their waivers refuse recently due to poor support from their teachers and staff.
But that won’t affect their ability to reopen now that the county is in the red – or “substantial” risk of disease transmission in the community – according to the director of the Orange County Health Care Agency and head of the department. County Health, Clayton Chau.
“All schools, kindergarten through 12th grade, by state regulation are allowed to reopen for in-person instruction,” Chau explained.
No dispensation or special permission from county health authorities is required.
“The decision” – of when and how to reopen – “would be up to the school district and the school board, parents and teachers,” Chau added.
Districts like Fountain Valley, Cypress, Irvine and Tustin Unified have announced they will reopen campuses and welcome students again this week.
Even with the new authorization to reopen, schools must still follow state directives, such as physical distancing and mandatory masks for students in grades three and up.
But Chau said he didn’t have the resources or the staff to check each school to make sure they are comply.
“Remember, we’ve never had this kind of relationship with schools before,” he said. “The county is not an auditing body for the school.”
Instead, Chau said the Health Care Agency depends on parents and the public to let them know if a school’s safety promises differ from its practices.
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