Governor Newsom Discusses School Reopening Guidances for Students with Disabilities

A female elementary school student in a floral-patterned sweatshirt sits at a desk in a classroom and writes on a piece of paper.
A female elementary school student in a floral-patterned sweatshirt sits at a desk in a classroom and writes on a piece of paper

Governor Newsom announced new guidances for schools and school-based programs for the 2020–2021 school year in a press conference on July 17, 2020. Read a summary of the general plan and criteria for safe reopenings and COVID monitoring here, and read specific measures for students with disabilities below:

Special Education: Plans for standards and guidance will be coming soon on how to support students with disabilities. During the press conference, State Board of Education President Linda Darling-Hammond said they might use Zoom’s breakout rooms (smaller “rooms” within a larger Zoom session) to give students individualized attention. In addition, parents were assured that officials have been training teachers on best practices for distance learning and working with students with disabilities. 

Masks for Students with Disabilities: The CDPH Guidance for the Use of Face Coverings should be a part of the school site-specific plan, which also needs to include a policy for face-covering exemptions. Students with a “medical condition, mental health condition, or a disability that prevents wearing a face covering” are exempt from wearing masks. Students who are “hearing impaired or communicating with a person who is hearing imparied” are also included in these exemptions when it’s essential to see the mouth for communication. 

Accommodations for At-Risk Students: The governor’s guidance states that schools need to develop a plan to support “students with access and functional needs who may be at increased risk of becoming infected with COVID.” This could include reviewing students’ health plans to see who would need additional accommodations, and creating a process for engaging families with potentially unknown concerns that need to be addressed and accommodated. This way, the school can “identify additional preparations for classroom and non-classroom environments as needed.” Groups who might be considered at risk include:

  • Individuals who have limited mobility or require prolonged and close contact with others, such as direct support providers and family members.
  • Individuals who have trouble understanding information or practicing preventive measures, such as hand washing and physical distancing.
  • Individuals who might not be able to communicate symptoms of illness.

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