Orange County wants its kids back in schools no matter what — and won’t require masks or social distancing to get them there.
The Orange County Board of Education in California approved its recommendations on Monday for the reopening of schools in the fall. The board voted 4-1 to approve a set of guidelines for schools to follow, including regular temperature checks, frequent hand washing and thorough cleanings of classrooms, offices and buses.
The board did not, however, require the use of masks or social distancing. In fact, it advised against the measures.
“K-12 children represent the lowest-risk cohort for Covid-19. Because of that fact, social distancing of children and reduced census classrooms is not necessary and therefore not recommended,” read the board’s recommendations, contained in a white paper.
“Requiring children to wear masks during school is not only difficult — if not impossible to implement — but not based on science. It may even be harmful and is therefore not recommended,” it said.
The board noted that these recommendations were merely guidelines, not “laws” or “even rules.” It will be up to the individual school districts on how they want to go about having their students return for in-person classes.
If a school district decides to not reopen or resume classes in a “typical classroom environment and school atmosphere,” the board says parents should be allowed to send their children to another school district or charter school.
The board emphasized its belief that schools need to reopen in the fall.
Calling remote learning an “utter failure,” the board said “abandoning the classroom in favor of computer-based learning proved frustrating to all — not just parents and students but teachers, too.”
While some parents voiced their support to reopen schools during the board meeting, a group of parents and teachers gathered outside of the board’s meeting, protesting the idea of having kids return to school without masks or social distancing, according to CNN affiliate KCAL.
As California sees a surge in new coronavirus cases, two of the state’s largest school districts — Los Angeles and San Diego — have already announced that they will not open for any in-person instruction in the fall.
The American Academy of Pediatrics has also advocated for schools to reopen in the fall, saying that the mental and physical benefits of in-person learning outweigh the risks from the coronavirus.
But while the group said face coverings or physical distancing were of lower priority to younger children, it recommended that students in middle and high schools be required to wear face coverings when a 6-foot distance is not able to be maintained.