No mandates in California’s guidance for reopening schools

California's guidebook suggests instructional models that blend in-person and distance learning
By: | June 9, 2020
California's guidebook for reopening schools suggests several models for scheduling instruction, including two-day rotations, A/B weeks, looping and early/late staggered timing. ('s guidebook for reopening schools suggests several models for scheduling instruction, including two-day rotations, A/B weeks, looping and early/late staggered timing. (

The guidance issued Monday by the California Department of Education for reopening schools in fall 2020 sets no mandates, but strongly recommends a focus on equity as well as the use of face masks, social distancing and ongoing coronavirus screenings.

The “Stronger Together” guidebook makes particular mention of supporting the social-emotional well-being of students when they return to classrooms and also urges district leaders to “reflect on systems that may not have worked for every child.”

“Our guidance anticipates many of our districts providing a hybrid model, meaning there will be some students on campus for in-class instruction and there will be some students who continue to participate in distance learning,” State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond said in a press conference broadcast on Facebook Live Monday (see video below).

In reopening, schools will have to work with local public health officials and other community leaders to set their own policies for reopening safety. The state’s guidance will likely be adjusted as districts offer more input and the coronavirus outbreak slows or accelerates again, Thurmond said.

More from DA: Here are the key questions to answer to safely reopen schools

The guidebook includes an extensive health and safety checklist that covers how district leaders should respond to positive COVID-19 cases in their schools and to new community outbreaks. It encourages administrators to develop a plan this summer for how they would close schools again and return to remote instruction should another spike in cases occur.

Superintendent Thurmond Media Check-In

Safe Reopening of California's Public Schools

Posted by California Department of Education on Monday, June 8, 2020

[VIDEO: California Department of Education officials detail the health and safety precautions and instructional recommendations in the state’s guidelines for reopening schools.]

Shifting instructional models

The guidebook suggests several models for scheduling instruction, including:

  • Two-day rotation: Students report to school for in-person instruction on two designated days based on grade level and, on the other days, engage in enrichment opportunities such as small group instruction for certain populations, such as English-language learners. Physical education, health, administrators, teachers on special assignment and other educators could be included to reduce student-teacher ratios. On Fridays, all students would engage in distance learning.
  • A/B week: Half of the students attend in-person four full days per week while the other half works remotely. This model would offer asynchronous and synchronous learning.
  • Looping structure: K-8 schools could group students from multiple grade levels into cohorts that remain with the same teacher. Looping provides opportunities for improved relationships between students and teachers, more targeted and efficient instruction, and a higher attendance rate.
  • Early/late staggered schedules: Grade-level bands would have staggered start and dismissal times, such as AM/PM rotations. The bell schedule would accommodate multiple recesses and lunch periods and multiple meal distribution points, along with time for students to engage in handwashing before entering classrooms.

More from DA: Why Florida teachers union is focused on equity in reopening

Supporting mental health

The guidebook also provides a section on caring for the mental health of students and adults in their communities. This includes conducting screenings to determine students’ social-emotional needs when classrooms reopen.

Administrators can also offer educators more training in trauma-informed teaching practices. For staff mental health, administrators can promote mindfulness and staff support groups.

Administrators should also consider providing remote mental health counseling for students and staff.

DA’s coronavirus page offers complete coverage of the impacts on K-12.