On Saturday, March 20, 2021, the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) updated the K-12 School Guidance on social distancing between students in the classroom to at least three feet to align to the latest changes from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released on Friday, March 19, 2021.

Under Classroom Space, the guidance now states: “Distance teacher and other staff desks at least 6 feet away from student and other staff desks. Maintaining a minimum of 3 feet between student chairs is strongly recommended. A range of physical distancing recommendations have been made nationally and internationally, from 3 feet to 6 feet. Considerations for schools implementing a shorter physical distancing policy between students: focus on high mask adherence—if there are doubts about mask adherence, consider more robust physical distancing practices; consider enhancing other mitigation layers, such as stable groups or ventilation; maintain 6 feet of distancing as much as possible during times when students or staff are not masked (e.g., due to eating or drinking).”

The updated state guidance also makes all schools eligible to open if COVID-19 case rates are below 25 per 100,000 population. The guidance now states that in all tiers, including the Purple (Widespread) Tier:

“Schools may reopen for in-person instruction for all grades K-12 in counties in all Tiers under the Blueprint for a Safer Economy if the county adjusted case rate is less than 25 per 100,000 population per day. Operations once reopened must adhere to the updated Sector Guidance for School and School-Based Program reflected in this document (see below).

    • School re-opening eligibility window: During the pandemic, counties move above and below an adjusted case rate of 25. School communities may need time to organize final Board approvals and do final preparations for safe school opening once a county has met the relevant criterion for school reopening. To address this, schools have a three-week period to open, starting the day the county meets the criterion for re-opening, even if the county stops meeting the criterion during that window (i.e., case rate is ≥25 in a subsequent calculation). The window will be determined as follows: The first day a county is considered eligible to re-open is the Wednesday following the weekly county tier assignments are announced and posted on the Blueprint website (Tuesdays) showing a weekly case rate of less than 25. The goal of the three-week window is to facilitate calm and safe school re-openings.

All schools that reopen under this section must complete and post a COVID-19 Safety Plan (CSP) to their website homepage before reopening for in-person instruction, as described in the CSP Posting and Submission Requirements for In-Person Instruction section. Additionally, schools in counties in Purple Tier may reopen under this section only if they submit the CSP to their local health officer (LHO) and the State Safe Schools for All Team concurrently with posting the CSP to the LEA’s website homepage.

These criteria and the requirements below replace the Elementary Education Waiver (issued August 3, 2020) that allowed LHOs to grant a waiver to school applicants for grades K-6 if specific criteria were satisfied. All waivers approved prior to this date remain valid.”