Maricopa Unified School District
COVID SAFETY PLAN
COVID-19 Prevention Program (CPP)
(Posted January 22, 2021)
CDPH COVID-19 Guidance Checklist
(Posted January 22, 2021)
Summary: California's Safe Schools for All Plan
January 14, 2021
Throughout the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, Governor Newsom has prioritized the health and safety of California's children and schools. As a father of four, Governor Newsom agrees with parents, educators, policymakers, and pediatricians that in-person is the best setting to meet not only the core learning needs of students, but also their mental health and social-emotional needs. It's especially important for our youngest kids, students with disabilities, and those already disproportionately impacted by the pandemic. Resuming in-person instruction is critical for kids, families, and communities throughout the state.
The safety of staff and students is foundational. With growing evidence that the right precautions can effectively stop the spread of COVID-19 in schools—especially in elementary schools—the Administration is committed to doing everything it can to make in-person instruction in schools safe for students and staff. Developed in partnership with the Legislature, the Administration's plan focuses on ensuring careful implementation and building confidence by supporting schools to bring back the youngest children (TK-2) and those who are most disproportionately impacted first, then phasing in other grade levels through the spring, as conditions allow. This phased-in approach recognizes that younger children are at a lower risk of contracting and transmitting COVID-19, with core safety measures in place.
At the same time, distance learning will remain an option for parents and students who choose it and for those whose health status does not allow them to return to school in the near term.
Today, Governor Newsom pledges to advance, with the Legislature, California's Safe Schools for All Plan, built on four pillars:
- Funding. The Budget will propose for immediate action in January, $2 billion for the safe reopening of schools beginning in February, with a priority for returning the youngest children (TK-2nd grade) and those who are most disproportionately impacted first, then returning other grade levels to in-person instruction through the spring. These funds will provide approximately $450 per student to school districts offering in-person instruction and will be weighted for districts serving students from low-income families, English learners and foster youth.
- Safety & Mitigation. To further ensure health and safety in the classroom, the Administration will focus on implementation of key measures, including testing, PPE, contact tracing, and vaccinations.
- Testing. The Administration will support frequent COVID-19 testing for all school staff and students, including weekly testing at schools in communities with high rates of transmission. For example, any interested public school will be on-boarded to the state-owned Valencia Branch Lab for PCR tests at one-third the market rate and the State will establish a hotline to help schools implement testing.
- PPE. All staff and students in schools are required to wear masks. Furthermore, surgical masks will be recommended for school staff, and the Administration will distribute millions of surgical masks to schools at no cost. The Administration has also enabled schools to leverage state-negotiated master contracts for PPE to reduce costs and streamline supply chains.
- Contact Tracing. Schools will continue to be on-boarded onto the School Portal for Outbreak Tracking (SPOT) to improve collaboration between school and health officials, and members of the state contact tracing workforce will be deployed to improve communication with schools.
- Vaccinations. School staff will be prioritized in the distribution of vaccines through the spring of 2021.
- Oversight & Assistance. Dr. Naomi Bardach, a UCSF pediatrician and expert on COVID-19 transmission in schools, will lead the Safe Schools for All Team, a cross-agency team composed of dedicated staff from CDPH, Cal/OSHA, and educational agencies. The Team will provide hands-on support to help schools develop and implement their COVID-19 Safety Plans. These supports include school visits and walk-throughs as warranted, webinars and training materials, and ongoing technical assistance.
- Transparency & Accountability. A state dashboard will enable all Californians to see their school's reopening status, level of available funding, and data on in-school transmissions. Additionally, a web-based "hotline" will empower school staff and parents to report concerns to the Safe Schools for All Team, which will lead to escalating levels of intervention, starting with technical assistance and ending with legal enforcement.
California's Safe Schools for All Plan provides the support and accountability to establish a clear path to minimize in-school transmissions and enable, first, a phased return to in-person instruction, and then ongoing safe in-person instruction.
Rationale: California's Safe Schools for All Plan
Protecting the safety and wellbeing of California's children throughout the COVID-19 pandemic has been a top priority of the Newsom Administration. The benefits of in-person instruction are plain to see, especially for our youngest students and students disproportionately impacted by the pandemic. Now, with growing evidence that the right precautions can effectively stop the spread of COVID-19 in schools—particularly in elementary grades—the Administration is committed to doing everything it can to support students and staff to safely return to in-person instruction.
We have learned a great deal since the beginning of the pandemic, and both national and international studies demonstrate the relatively low risks and high benefits of educating students in classrooms—especially for elementary grades.
With the Right Precautions, We Can Minimize Transmissions in Schools—Especially in Elementary Grades
Research across the globe shows that children get COVID-19 less often than adults, and when they do get sick, they get less sick than adults. Population-wide studies in Italy and Spain using antibody tests, which indicate whether a person has been infected at any point previously, find that children have lower rates of infection compared to adults.
In studies of open schools in America and around the world, children do not seem to be major sources of transmission—either to each other or to adults. In fact, the greatest risk in school settings comes from adults transmitting it to other adults, often in settings like breakrooms where we sometimes let down our guard. One study in Australia of 10 early childhood centers and 15 schools (>6000 people) found low rates in the schools overall (1.2%), and an adult-to-adult transmission rate almost 15 times higher than child-to-child transmission.
The growing body of evidence is particularly strong for lower risks associated with elementary schools. For example, a study analyzing elementary schools in a heavily impacted region of France found that the risks of transmission inside schools were approximately the same as outside schools. The lower risks associated with younger grades is likely due to, among other reasons, the fact that younger people produce fewer ACE-2 receptors—COVID's doorway into human cells.
Even in communities with many COVID cases, we do not see many outbreaks in schools. That's because the right precautions can stop outbreaks before they start. Evidence shows that schools with the right mitigation strategies have been able to prevent in-school transmission among students and staff.
We know what works. We can stop the spread in schools by layering and carefully implementing mitigation strategies, including masks, cohorting, proper ventilation, washing hands, testing and symptom screening.
For more information, please refer to Evidence Summary: TK-6 Schools and COVID-19 Transmission (California Department of Public Health)
In-Person Instruction Is Critical for Learning and Growth—Especially in Elementary Grades
While California has made great strides in distance learning—and this option will remain for parents and students who choose it and for those whose health status does not allow them to return to school in the near term—remote learning is still very challenging for many students and their caregivers. In a recent survey by the Alliance for Children's Rights, 42% of caregivers reported that they are not comfortable supporting youth in their care with technology needs, and 39% of caregivers reported that they are not comfortable providing academic support to the youth in their care during distance learning.
Older students are better equipped to manage technology and benefit from distance learning, but younger students—especially TK-2—are less equipped. Furthermore, the social-emotional skills cultivated in the youngest grades are foundational for future wellbeing. In the classroom, students learn not only academic skills, but social and emotional skills as well. In a classroom of peers led by an expert teacher, students learn to listen and focus, to share, to wait their turn, to encourage others and to allow others to encourage them. They also begin to learn skills such as self-awareness, social awareness, self-management and responsible decision-making that will carry them through life.
There are also immediate health-related benefits for children who are provided in-person instruction, including lower rates of anxiety and depression, higher rates of immunizations, and other positive indicators of public health and wellbeing. These benefits are particularly critical for foster youth, homeless youth, and other students disproportionately impacted by the pandemic, for whom school provides safety and stability. In-person instruction also helps school staff to detect and address child abuse and neglect. For example, the state observed a roughly 40% drop in child welfare referrals following the stay-at-home orders in March 2020 compared to spring averages from the prior year.
Through careful implementation of safety measures and by phasing in our youngest students—who are at lowest risk and stand to benefit the most from in-person settings—we can build experience, confidence, and trust that our schools can be both safe workplaces and safe learning environments.