Redlands Unified School District Superintendent Mauricio Arellano

All San Bernardino County schools will begin the year with distance learning after an order by Gov. Gavin Newsom.

On Friday, June 17, the governor announced a policy affecting all K-12 schools in counties on the state’s monitoring list, including San Bernardino and Riverside counties. The policy mandates that schools limit instruction to distance learning until the county is removed from the monitoring list for 14 days. Counties then may resume in-person instruction with specific guidelines and limitations.

“This announcement reaffirms how important it is for all residents and businesses to work together so we can move off the state’s monitoring list,” said Corwin Porter, interim director of the county’s Department of Public Health.

Newsom stressed the importance of “rigorous distance learning” and noted there would be state assistance in technology devices.

“The virus will be with us for a year or more, and school districts must provide meaningful instruction in the midst of this pandemic,” the governor said. “Students, staff and parents all prefer in-classroom instruction, but only if it can be done safely.”

Newsom said teachers must have live daily interactions with students, challenging assignments and work that can be adapted for English language learners and special education students.

During its meeting on Monday, July 20, the Redlands Unified school board discussed the beginning of the 2020-21 school year.

Superintendent Mauricio Arellano said per the governor’s order, Redlands would open with 100 percent distance learning.

Arellano said the district is working with union partners and the cabinet to finalize working condition components.

“Hopefully, by the end of the week, we can provide specifics on how the district will open under distance learning,” said Arellano.

Arellano also spoke about protocol for in-person learning once the county is off the watchlist.

“For schools to begin an in-person model, the county has to be off of watchlist for 14 consecutive days,” he said.

“One of the questions we had was, what is the exact formula for coming off the watchlist? In general, the formula includes data related to transmission rates, increased hospitalization rates and hospital capacity. It’s not just 14 days of drops in confirmed cases.”

Arellano explained the protocol for students who test positive once schools reopen.

“Part of the order included information on how we would proceed in an in-person model,” he said. “In any situation where a student tests positive, we must close class, and everyone must self-quarantine for 14 days. We would convert to distance for those days.

“If 5 percent of a school’s population is confirmed positive, we would close the school down for 14 days before we could return,” Arellano continued.

“If 25 percent of our schools have confirmed cases, then we would close down the district. In any of those scenarios, to reopen, there are checklists we would need to meet, including a 14-day quarantine, deep cleaning and public health officials would conduct an investigation and give us the green light to open back up.”

Arellano said the governor was not clear on physical distancing rules.

“The 6 feet between students didn’t appear to be mandatory in the order, so we are seeking clarification,” he said. “The order said there must be 6 feet between students and adults, 6 feet between adults but nothing about 6 feet between students. We took the opportunity to submit questions to the county public health department.

“We need to know guidelines about distancing for kids in the classroom, in terms of desks and how they would walk in between classes,” continued Arellano.

Arellano said he also submitted questions about the testing of employees. In the governor’s statement, whenever a district has a return-to-school model, it must test 100 percent of staff within two months.

“Who will do the tests? asked Arellano. Will the district or county pay for them? How available are the tests? How quickly would we get results? How do contact tracers work with the district? These are questions I asked the county.”

COVID-19 COUNT for July 24