COVID-19: Expect face masks, social distancing, possible 'hybrid' learning when kids return to classrooms, CA superintendent says

ByKristen Sze and Kayla Galloway KGO logo
Friday, July 3, 2020
Future of CA schools during COVID-19: Face masks, social distancing, 'hybrid' learning
SCHOOL & COVID-19: The classroom will likely look a lot different if, and when, California students return to school in the fall. State Superintendent Tony Thurmond answered your questions with ABC7's Kristen Sze.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- California students and teachers can expect to find lots of face coverings, hand sanitizer and thermometers if, and when, they return to the classroom in the fall.

State Superintendent Tony Thurmond spoke with ABC7's Kristen Sze Thursday afternoon about the future of education in California as COVID-19 continues to spread.

He emphasized safety as a top priority when school resumes and expressed concern over the virus' rate of spread.

Though the American Academy of Pediatrics is not recommending elementary school kids wear face masks, Thurmond has a different recommendation, saying all students and staff should be wearing masks at California schools.

He said exceptions will be made for students with special needs or disabilities who can't tolerate wearing a face covering.

RELATED: Reopening California: Santa Clara County releases plan to reopen schools amid COVID-19 pandemic

He said exceptions will be made in certain language classes as well where students benefit from seeing a teacher's facial expression. In that type of situation, face shields would be used.

In terms of lunch time at California schools amid COVID-19, Thurmond said he doesn't envision a scenario that's safe with students eating in a large cafeteria.

He offered up the alternatives of students eating at their desks, six feet apart, outside, or even sending kids home with their lunch.

He said more guidance is to come.

As state superintendent, Thurmond's role is to guide California schools, but districts make the decision on how and when to reopen.

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In terms of the best way to teach students during the pandemic, he discussed a "hybrid" approach with both distanced learning and in the classroom learning.

This approach can be difficult for teachers who would have to adjust their curriculum to be online one day and in the classroom the next.

Thurmond said to address that "we have to give lots of training and professional development" to teachers and educators.

If a child's school is open, but a parent isn't comfortable sending their child into the classroom environment because of COVID-19, Thurmond said that student would not be penalized.

Looking at the big picture, Thurmond is asking that parents wear face coverings and wash their hands. He said kids take social cues from adults, so he is asking parents to be a role model for their children during the pandemic.

On Wednesday, Santa Clara County released its plan for reopening schools during the pandemic.

Santa Clara County officials have released guidelines for K-12 schools to reopen for the 2020-21 school year.

RELATED: Coronavirus watch list: 19 California counties where COVID-19 is getting worse

In that specific county, parents would be asked to stay in their cars when picking up or dropping off a child at school.

Under the county's guidance, elementary age students would be in "cohorts" to minimize contact and older students would keep six feet apart from each other.

In terms of riding the bus to school, students would have to remain distanced and wear a face mask.

Schools in Santa Clara County would also be encouraged to keep class sizes small and use other non-classroom settings to spread kids out.

This is something Thurmond also mentioned -- using outdoor spaces for lunch or as a learning space.

Watch the full interview with Tony Thurmond above.

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