Masks, one-way hallways among county recommendations for reopening schools

SIGNAL FILE PHOTO: Students line up outside their classrooms on the first day of school at Newhall Elementary School in Newhall. Dan Watson/The Signal 081519
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The L.A. County Office of Education released a 45-page guide for school districts looking to reopen within the county, which includes guidelines such as the requirements for social distancing and mask usage in the classroom.

The guidelines recommend social distancing be maintained, start/lunch/recess times be staggered, staff and students wear cloth face coverings at school, access to the school by volunteers and visitors be limited, and asks that typical classroom sizes remain between 12-16 students at any given time.

Additionally, one-way hallways were recommended, as well as the closure of tight spaces, such as the cafeteria, asking students to instead eat their meals at a social distance; designate a sick room for staff or students who may possibly be ill; and the frequent cleaning of classrooms and playground equipment.

The framework designed by LACOE was created by a task force composed of superintendents and educational leaders from the county’s 80 school districts.

The framework, according to officials, should be adapted as needed and should also follow the proper protocols established by the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health.

“Our main priority is health and safety,” said Debra Duardo, the superintendent for the county’s office of education. “Unfortunately, some of the things that children could enjoy in the past — they’re not going to be able to do that.”

Duardo emphasized that the framework was developed to be a comprehensive planning tool, but that local municipalities have their input on the matter.

Saugus Union School District Superintendent Colleen Hawkins, who served on the task force, said the plan was designed to cover five components: instruction, safety and health, social and emotional support, family and community engagement, and operations.

Those five components, outlined in the plan and then broken down into a number of specific recommendations, are things that are probably already being considered by districts in the Santa Clarita Valley — things such as the future of distance learning, blended learning models and following the Public Health Department orders.

“I don’t think it’s unaligned from anything that we’ve started seeing in the SCV,” said Hawkins. “I certainly know being a member of it has driven the information I’ve shared with the community.”

The school boards for each individual district within the SCV will ultimately need to decide on what processes are right for their individual school sites. And, boards will need to consider how to use the road map tool while also balancing the 10% overall decrease in their budgets and staying in line with the public health orders.

“It’s really a tool for educators and the educational system,” said Hawkins. “But I hope if parents read it, they will understand all the myriad of things a school district must consider for the reopening of school. It isn’t as easy as just picking an option.”

For more information about the recommendations from the county, visit the task force website at https://www.lacoe.edu/Home/School-Reopening.

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