California · Education · Highlight

Newsom orders schools to remain closed for most of state

Unless the coronavirus pandemic rapidly vanishes in the Central Valley, most K-12 students will begin the school year from the comfort of their own homes. 

California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Friday that counties on the state’s coronavirus targeted engagement list will not be allowed to reopen schools for in-person instruction. 

Schools will be allowed to reopen once the county they are located has been off the state’s monitoring list for 14 days. 

Additionally, Newsom is requiring all school staff across the state to wear masks, as well as students in 3rd grade and above. Students in 2nd grade and below will not be required to wear masks, but will be strongly encouraged to do so. 

There are currently 32 counties on the state’s watch list, including Fresno, Kings, Madera, Merced, San Joaquin, Stanislaus and Tulare Counties. In total, all the counties on the list make up over 80% of California’s population. 

Kern County is the lone region in the Central Valley that is currently allowed to have students return to campus next month when the school year starts. 

When the counties eventually come off the monitoring list and schools are reopen for in-person learning, there will be several rules in place from the state. Newsom said if a student tests positive for COVID-19, the student’s whole class and the teacher will be required to quarantine for two weeks. 

Schools will be forced to shut down and operate only with distance learning if 5% of the school tests positive. School districts will be forced to close completely if 25% of their schools are closed. 

With the coronavirus positivity rate remaining over 10% in Fresno County, school districts – including Fresno Unified, Clovis Unified and Central Unified – are looking at online-only instruction for some time. 

Previously, Fresno Unified Superintendent Bob Nelson announced that the district would allow parents to choose between sending their children to school in-person full-time or participating in online distance learning full-time. 

After Newsom’s order Friday, Nelson announced that the region’s largest school district is prepared to handle online learning for every student. 

“Thankfully we have been preparing for this online learning journey now for some time in anticipation that this might actually be necessary,” Nelson said. “I can promise you that when our students begin learning in August, it will look markedly different from the urgency we experienced when we ended schools abruptly that Friday in March. Most importantly, every one of our students will receive live online instruction from their teacher every single day.” 

Earlier this week, Central Unified School District announced that all students will begin the school year in an online distance learning capacity, so the state’s directive falls in line with the district’s plans. 

The Clovis Unified board voted unanimously on Wednesday to follow in Fresno Unified’s initial footsteps and offer students the opportunity to be on campus full-time or participate in distance learning full-time.

With Newsom’s order, Clovis Unified will have to change direction and wait to reopen its schools.

Daniel Gligich
Daniel Gligich is a reporter for The San Joaquin Valley Sun, focusing on Fresno State Athletics and the southern San Joaquin Valley. Email him at daniel.gligich@sjvsun.com.