Reopening Guidelines


Reopening Guidelines for Schools & Colleges
From the union, state education and public health agencies

This is a compilation of reopening guidelines from our national and state union, from the California systems of public education and the California Department of Public Health. You may click through to small articles about the release of each set of guidelines.

However, on August 28, Governor Newsom released county-based monitoring. Those guidelines now determine school and college opening in California, even though CFT continues to advocate for statewide guidelines. Once a school has reopened, the guidelines from public agencies go into effect.

Throughout all this, the union guidelines from CFT and AFT remain consistent and support  safe learning spaces for all students, educators, and support staff.


A Checklist for Safely Reopening California Schools and Colleges
June 24, 2020
The CFT urges AFT local unions to tailor this checklist to local conditions to best assist in ensuring a safe working environment for educators and students now and in the near future. The checklist covers three key areas — General Conditions, Infection Prevention and Labor Relations. Click on the tabs below to read our guidelines in each area.

General Conditions

  • The local infection rate has stabilized or decreased for 14 consecutive days.
  • County Public Health Officials have declared it safe to lift or modify any shelter-in-place orders.
  • There is access to local testing operations to appropriately test and track local infection rates.
  • There is a plan to know how and when to physically close school sites if infections return. The plan should revisit any MOU put in place for the first closure and the California Department of Education framework of March 2020.
  • State funding for education is at a minimum, the same as the 2019 Budget Act to afford the necessary health and safety precautions.
  • The district Injury and Illness Prevention Plan (IIIP) has been updated to reflect COVID-19, has been published to employees and parents, addresses the school’s role in tracking/tracing infections (in coordination with public health officials), and includes training for students, staff, and parents on transmission prevention.
  • The district has a plan to address the digital divide and ensure equipment needed to participate in distance learning is available to all students and teachers, with professional development support for educators.

Infection Prevention

  • Directive for staff and parents to self-screen each morning for symptoms, including elevated body temperature, and to stay home if symptomatic.
  • Testing available at no-cost for staff.
  • Having no-touch thermal scanning thermometers to check students and staff when entering campus or school transportation vehicles.
  • A plan to isolate students who arrive with (or develop later in the day) symptoms of COVID-19, and an agreement on addressing staff who develop symptoms while at work or who can’t come in from having symptoms at home.
  • Having hand washing stations, bathroom soap dispensers, and hand sanitizer with 70 percent (or higher) alcohol content available throughout campus, and being used before entering transportation vehicles.
  • There is a replenishing stockpile of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), including masks, gloves, face shields, etc., cleaning equipment (including proper chemicals at the strengths needed to disinfect or kill the COVID-19 virus, hand sanitizer, soap, hand washing stations), and touchless thermometer scanners so that staff are always able to obtain and use this equipment without delay.
  • A plan for assigning proper PPE for each type of work assignment (i.e., if screening persons for symptoms, a face shield and mask, or if using disinfection chemicals consider eye protection and respirator), and parameters of use (i.e., how long a mask may be reused) and training for proper use of masks, gloves, etc. Consult with health officials and EPA regarding PPE recommended and products effective in killing SARS virus. N95 masks are not necessarily required in most circumstances and may be hard to come by as they are directed to medical staff as top priority. The point of masks is to prevent the wearer from expressing droplets that may carry the virus from the mouth and nose on to others. Masks should not be relied on to protect the wearer from contamination, rather that is the point of social distancing.
  • Plans for all persons on campus to wash their hands and sanitize frequently, including building in time in the schedule for hand washing for staff and students, before and after eating, between classes, after having close contact with another person, after using shared equipment or surfaces, after using restrooms, or after sneezing, coughing, blowing nose etc. All persons be trained on proper hand washing techniques and etiquette on coughing, sneezing, and touching.
  • A plan to meet cleanliness standards prior to reopening and maintaining those standards throughout the year, including disinfection of surfaces between uses (tables, chairs, seats on vehicles, keyboards, phones, office machines, etc.) and routine disinfecting of high-touch surfaces such as door knobs, handrails, drinking fountains, and restrooms.
  • Ventilation plans taking weather and air quality into account, in order to maximize fresh air circulation.
  • Visitation to campus from any non-student or staff should be eliminated or severely limited, including Shared Use Agreements, Facility Rentals, and any public access for other reasons.
  • A plan to handle deliveries to campus that includes disinfection of items that are in contact with human hands, including deliveries occurring outside of normal school hours, etc.
  • A plan for student use of masks or other face coverings including locations, durations, and enforcement. Consider scenarios especially where six feet of distance is impracticable (such as entry and exit from vehicles).
  • Requiring six feet of physical distancing (or conforming to other local health official guidance) in classrooms, restrooms, outside spaces (including any PE instruction) and workspaces. Including plans on how distancing can be achieved using as much district-owned space as possible (cafeterias, auditoriums, outside space, temporary classroom trailers, district offices, etc.), utilizing various strategies for scheduling of students and staff to limit the number on campus, prioritizing certain populations that cannot continue learning through distance models, and enforcing use of masks where distancing is impracticable, using signage and barriers to prevent formation of crowds, and adapt these plans to field trips and larger gatherings as necessary.
  • Transportation plans that maintain safety, including social distancing, use of disinfectants, use of plastic shields, enforcement of seating arrangements and having students sit according to drop off locations to minimize students walking past one another, altering routes, and schedules.
  • A plan to maintain distancing and cleanliness standards for food service programs, including staggering kitchen and cafeteria use, meal delivery options, and expanding the areas of campus that students may use as areas to eat in, with increased custodial capacity for cleaning.

Labor Relations

  • Execute an MOU prior to physical reopening of campuses, and include a labor-management committee able to provide an ongoing workgroup to catch unforeseen issues as they relate to COVID-19.
  • Healthcare benefits for all staff.
  • Distance learning related needs, such as laptops, internet access reimbursements, etc.
  • Modifications to the academic calendar and daily schedules.
  • Flexibility regarding evaluation of permanent and probationary employees.
  • Appropriate staffing ratios and scheduling to meet cleanliness standards, enforce physical distancing requirements, ensure student learning and health and safety needs.
  • Training on disinfection requirements, chemicals used, physical distancing, symptom screening and recognition including temperature checks, updates to the district’s Injury and Illness Prevention Plan, state and local health standards or recommendations including, but not limited to, proper use of PPE, cough and sneeze etiquette, hand washing, and confidentiality of health condition reporting or recording.
  • Reasonable accommodations for staff who are high-risk for infection, which may include assignment to other duties with less human contact.
  • Leave for vulnerable populations and symptomatic employees, holding their existing leave harmless to take care of themselves or a member of their household.
  • Mental and emotional support for staff (and students) that works in collaboration with existing health plans, Employee Assistance Programs, and behavioral health departments for workshops or other support. Notify staff about support options available, available social service programs, and promote an environment of mental wellness.
  • Standards for communication with staff, parents, and students about protocols required for safe physical reopening of schools, training requirements, the plan for conveying information about positive COVID-19 cases on campus, the school’s role of tracking and tracing infections, and guidelines or procedures to deal with staff and students who exhibit illness or test positive.



A Plan to Reopen American Schools & Communities
Guidance for imagining a new normal for public education, public health and our economy in the age of COVID-19

Guide to Bringing Parents, Patients, Students and Community Together to Reopen America’s Schools Safely and Equitably
This is a step-by-step approach for educators, parents and communities.



California Department of Education
June 8, 2020
Stronger Together: A Guidebook for the Safe Reopening of California’s Public Schools

California Department of Public Health/CalOSHA
July 17, 2020
COVID-19 Industry Guidance: Schools and School-Based Programs


California Community Colleges
June 26, 2020
Report of the Safe Campus Reopening Workgroup

California Department of Public Health/CalOSHA
August 7, 2020
COVID-19 Industry Guidance: Institutions of Higher Education 
Includes areas of note for community colleges


California Public Health Department/CalOSHA
August 7, 2020
COVID-19 Industry Guidance: Institutions of Higher Education


State issues reopening guidelines for higher education
Includes areas of note for community colleges

California released its reopening guidelines for higher education on August 7.

While most of the guidance is geared to four-year colleges and universities, there are also some significant areas of note for the community colleges, which are summarized here.

Article Coronavirus Distance learning

State Dept. of Public Health updates school reopening guidelines
CFT wants to see stronger guidelines

During his July 17 noon press conference, Governor Newsom announced statewide guidelines for reopening K-12 schools this fall.

While the governor addressed some of the demands that the union articulated to him and state leaders in the CFT letter sent on Monday, CFT still believes that there is more to be done to ensure the safety of California’s teachers, school staff, students, and communities.

Article Distance learning

CFT urges Governor Newsom to delay physically reopening schools
Surging coronavirus cases, testing woes make opening safely all but impossible

The CFT has asked Governor Newsom and state legislative leaders to delay the physical reopening of schools. Despite coronavirus cases surging throughout the state, growing numbers of hospitalizations and deaths, and mounting testing woes, some school districts are rushing to reopen — putting students, teachers, and communities at risk.

In a letter to state leaders, the CFT also urged the governor to provide stronger leadership and direction to school communities, who have been left on their own to make the difficult decision on whether it is safe to reopen schools.

Article Coronavirus

CFT Checklist for Safely Reopening Schools and Colleges
Key checkpoints for physical reopening in the time of the coronavirus

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, schools and colleges across California were shuttered to prevent further spread of the coronavirus. Staff remaining on campus performed the challenging duties of distance learning support, meal preparation and pick-up, and deep cleaning to maintain educational services during shelter-in-place orders, as well as prepare for eventual physical reopening.

In the union’s document, Checklist for Safely Reopening Schools & Colleges, the CFT does not encourage the physical reopening of school sites until it is safe to do so. At a minimum, the CFT recommends coordination with state and local public health guidelines on every checklist item in this document to help prevent further spread of the coronavirus.

Article Coronavirus AFT

AFT guidelines call for safe reopening of schools and communities
National union defines five key tenets for reopening

The AFT on April 30 released a detailed road map that, in the absence of a COVID-19 vaccine, charts a path to safely and responsibly reopen school buildings and other institutions crucial to the well-being and economic vitality of our communities.

The 20-page, science-based “Plan to Safely Reopen America’s Schools and Communities” sprung from an intense collaboration of public health professionals, union leaders and frontline workers to prepare for what happens next in the period between flattening the curve and truly eradicating the virus.

Article Coronavirus

State Superintendent releases guidelines for reopening K-12 schools
For local discussion on safely reopening the education workplace

On June 8, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond released guidance for reopening K-12 schools — Stronger Together: A Guidebook for the Safe Reopening of California’s Public Schools.

This guidance was created through the statewide reopening schools task force that fostered a collaborative process for educators and stakeholders, including the CFT. 

Article Coronavirus

California Community Colleges issue reopening guidelines
Task force develops guidance and recommendations

The California Community Colleges organized a high-level task force to create a roadmap of available resources for the safe reopening of community college campuses.

The task force report contains considerations and recommendations for the Chancellor’s Office. However, the broad recommendation of the Report of the Safe Campus Reopening Workgroup is that further action be undertaken locally by subject matter experts. This includes labor partners such as AFT local unions as well as state, federal and local governments, medical professionals, and those directly managing the pandemic response.