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State Spells Out Elementary School Waivers

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A teacher teaching students in an early childhood setting.

On Monday, the California Department of Public Health released details for how elementary schools could re-open for in-person instruction.

Last month Governor Newsom released his planfor schools re-opening this fall. He said that any school in a county that was on the state’s COVID-19 monitoring list would not be allowed to re-open until their county had been off that list for fourteen consecutive days. However he made one exception: elementary schools would be allowed to re-open if they sought and received a waiver from local health officials. 

That left a lot of parents and school administrators wondering: how do they get one of those waivers?

Well, on Monday, the Department of Public Health spelled out the process for schools. It only applies through grade six, even if a particular school serves both elementary students and higher grades. The process requires a district superintendent or the head of a private or charter school to request the waiver, and it requires those executives to consult with labor, parent and community organizations before submitting their application. They would also need to address plans for cleaning and disinfecting, cohorting of students and PPE, among a list of other criteria.


Schools that are in counties that have a COVID case rate which is twice the number that would land them on that county watchlist would be allowed to apply for the waiver. And the county would need to maintain that rate for two weeks.  Currently every Bay Area county meets that criteria.

Elementary schools can submit their waiver applications to their county public health officials.  Those officials will consult with the state’s public health department before making a final decision.

Joshua Sirotiak is an environment reporter for KALW in San Francisco. He's a working musician, father and self-proclaimed nerd who has previously produced audio journalism for NBC News and Chicago Public Media.