NAPA COUNTY, CA — If Napa County is still on the state of California’s COVID-19 coronavirus watchlist when the fall semester begins, Napa Valley Unified School District and other districts within the county will have to start the school year with online classes, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Friday.
Counties where schools are not able to start the 2020-2021 school year in physical classrooms must be taken off the watchlist and remain off the list for two weeks before schools can return to on-campus learning, Newsom said.
The news comes as the Napa Valley Unified School District Board of Education on Thursday approved a reopening plan for the 2020-2021 school year. The plan includes an initial online learning element with intent to phase into in-person learning when safe, according to the district’s website.
Whether online or in the classroom, Aug. 20 is the first day of school for students in the Napa Valley Unified School District.
According to Newsom’s back-to-school edict, staff at all California schools and all California students in third grade and above will be required to wear face masks during in-person classes. Students in second grade and below will be strongly advised to use face masks or shields during in-person classes but will not be mandated to do so, Newsom said.
Schools must also abide by state health guidelines by maintaining six feet of distance between students and teachers, administering daily symptom checks and ensuring students and staff have ample opportunities to wash their hands.
“Learning remains not negotiable,” Newsom said. “But neither is the safety of all of our cohorts of support staff as well as our children.”
Nearly all the greater Bay Area’s 11 counties are either on the state’s watchlist or expect to be added soon, with Santa Cruz County being the only county in the region to avoid a rise in coronavirus cases that concerns state public health officials.
Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Monterey, Napa, Santa Clara, Solano and Sonoma counties were already on the list entering Friday. San Francisco County was added Friday morning while San Mateo County officials expect to be added to the list early next week.
Newsom said the pace at which counties on and off the monitoring list resume in-person classes this fall is incumbent upon people following state health mandates and guidelines like wearing masks and face coverings, practicing physical distancing, hand washing and minimizing contact with people outside one’s household.
“The more we do … and we do it at scale, the quicker all those counties are going to come off that monitoring list, we’re going to mitigate the spread of this virus and those kids are back in school,” he said.
Newsom also outlined the state’s requirements for distance learning. Schools must ensure that all students have access to the requisite technology and internet service for at-home classes and that students and teachers interact with each other daily. Schools must also lay out plans to modify their lessons for English language learners and special education students, according to Newsom.
“Safety is foundational and safety will ultimately make the determination of how we go about educating our kids as we move into this fall and we work our way through this pandemic,” Newsom said.
Bay City News Service and Patch editor Maggie Fusek contributed to this report.
This article originally appeared on the Napa Valley Patch