BENICIA, CA — If the Benicia Unified School District wants to hold classes in schools instead of online this fall, state epidemiologist Dr. Erica Pan on Tuesday outlined the state’s waiver process for K-6 schools.
Solano County is currently on California’s COVID-19 coronavirus “Watch List.”
Pan, the former health officer for Alameda County, said K-6 schools can apply for a waiver to begin in-person instruction if they are located in a county that meets several criteria in spite of being on the state’s Watch List.
Individual schools must submit a site-specific plan to keep students and staff safe, taking into account input from interest groups like labor unions and parent organizations. Those schools must then publicly post their plan and submit it to their local health officer to apply for a waiver.
California Department of Public Health officials will then review each application on a case-by-case basis, taking into account factors such as which direction indicators like coronavirus positivity rates are trending in a given county.
All 11 counties in the greater Bay Area, from Monterey to Sonoma, are on the state’s monitoring list as of Tuesday.
State public health officials issued details about the waiver process “based on evidence that is evolving about how we know this virus is behaving in children and the importance of in-person instruction for our youngest,” Pan said.
Students will be required to work in small groups to allow them the chance for social interaction while diminishing the chance they spread the virus to another student or a teacher.
Gov. Gavin Newsom and state public health officials have reiterated that schools in counties on the state’s Watch List must begin the fall semester without in-person classes unless they have a waiver.
State Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly said parents who want their kids to attend classes in person during the fall semester should take heed of public health guidelines by wearing a mask, washing their hands and keeping their distance from others.
“We continue to learn from the science, we continue to learn from our own data how to stop the spread,” Ghaly said. “It really does come down to a few simple acts that can make a big difference.”
— Patch editor Maggie Fusek and Bay City News contributed to this story
This article originally appeared on the Benicia Patch