Locally elected school boards and district superintendents are responsible for approving and implementing school safety plans with input from their stakeholders. But those plans must meet or exceed the standards set by the California Department of Public Health. In other words, they can be more restrictive than the state, but they cannot be less restrictive.

Here’s a quick snapshot of what the CDPH requires:

  • Face coverings are strongly recommended indoors but not required.
  • All school employees must show proof of vaccination against COVID-19 or get tested on a weekly basis. That public health order took effect on Aug. 12, 2021, with full compliance expected by Oct. 15, 2021.
  • The CDPH recommends a group-tracing approach, in which schools notify the families of all students who spent at least 15 minutes within a 24-hour span in a shared indoor airspace with someone who had COVID-19 and was contagious.
  • Any exposed students, regardless of their vaccination status, are advised to get tested within three to five days after their last exposure — unless they already had COVID-19 within the last 90 days.
  • Exposed students may continue to take part in all aspects of K-12 schooling, including sports and extracurricular activities, unless they develop symptoms or test positive.
  • Anyone who tests positive for COVID-19 is directed to isolate for 10 days, but isolation can end after day five if symptoms are not present — or they’re resolving — and the person has tested negative with a specimen that was collected on day five or later. Antigen tests are preferred, the CDPH says.

State health officials have also issued a set of questions and answers covering vaccinations, masking, large events, extracurricular activities and quarantine guidance for the 2021-22 school year. But remember that individual school districts can choose to go above and beyond what’s required by the state, so be sure to check your local district’s website.