By Bob Pepalis
Public and private schools in the Kern River Valley and across California that are reopening for in-person learning must keep groups of children limited to 14 in a cohort under Gov. Gavin Newsom’s latest rules. The cohorts are limited to two supervising adults, the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) said.
The guidelines also apply to after-school programs and youth groups. The adults and children in a cohort must stay together for all activities, including classes, meals and recreation. They are directed to avoid contact with anyone outside their group.
A supervising adult may be certificated or classified as school staff, volunteer, child care staff or a participating parent or caregiver. By keeping groups small, exposure to or transmission of the virus decreases. It also makes contact tracing easier if a positive case is confirmed, the CDPH said.
If an individual does test positive, the school can target the testing and quarantining of a single cohort instead of closing an entire school. To make the guidelines work, when children and supervising adults are at school they must not physically interact with anyone from other cohorts or even parents of children in other cohorts. To avoid interaction between cohorts, schools should assign children who live together or carpool together to the same cohort, the CDPH said.
Keeping cohorts separated must also include special activities like art, music and exercise. Playground time and other activities should be staggered to ensure this. For specialized services such as speech and language, occupational therapy and other medical behavioral services, one-to-one services can be provided by a support service provider who is outside of the child’s cohort.
Staff meetings must be conducted remotely, outdoors or in a large room where all participants wear face masks and practice social distancing. Face masks or coverings must be used at all times under the CDPH Schools Guidance.