Today, the Orange County Board of Supervisors approved a plan, authored by Vice Chairman Andrew Do and Supervisor Doug Chaffee, that will allow public and private schools to utilize county-run COVID-19 testing drive thru sites as part of the school re-opening waiver application.
“School closures were necessary to keep communities safe back in March and slow the spread of COVID-19,” said Supervisor Andrew Do, who has been a strong proponent of mask-wearing since late March. “In many cases, those closures may still be necessary. But for schools in Orange County that are submitting waivers for in-person learning, expanding testing capacity is a critical component of their re-opening plan.”
On June 29, the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) placed Orange County on its COVID-19 monitoring list, due to an increase in COVID-19 activity. Three weeks later, Governor Newsom announced in a press conference that public and private schools in counties on the monitoring list, within the prior 14 days, must open the new academic year with online learning only, until the county has been off the monitoring list for at least 14 days.
According to CDPH guidance, district superintendents, private school principals, or executive directors of a charter school, are allowed to apply for a waiver from the local county health officer to open an elementary school for in-person instruction. This waiver is currently applicable only for grades TK-6, even if the grade configuration at the school includes additional grades.
As explained in the Framework for K-12 Schools in California, school reopening plans must address 12 topics related to health and safety, in a manner consistent with guidance from CDPH and the local health department. One of those topics is testing.
“Once the State begins to review school waiver applications, we want to allow the school applying to utilize the County’s drive thru testing sites as part of their plan,” said Supervisor Do, referring to the recently launched Anaheim Testing Super Site and the soon to come OC Fair Ground Testing Site.
“Orange County schools and school districts looking to reopen for the fall need the additional support of increased COVID-19 testing to reopen safely,” said Supervisor Doug Chaffee. “I’m proud that we at the County of Orange are partnering with our schools and school districts to prioritize testing for students, faculty, and staff who meet the testing criteria at the OC COVID-19 Testing Super Site at the Anaheim Convention Center.”
Orange County schools may submit a completed waiver application to TK-6Waiver@ochca.com. Applications will be reviewed by the County Health Officer in consultation with CDPH.
When applying for the waiver, the school district superintendent, private principal, or executive director of a charter school, must submit the following to the Orange County Health Officer: 1. Consultation with labor and parent organizations, and 2. Publication of the elementary school reopening plans on their website.
For more information about the waiver process, please visit the CDPH’s website at https://www.cdph.ca.gov/Programs/CID/DCDC/Pages/Guidance.aspx or the Orange County Health Care Agency’s website at https://occovid19.ochealthinfo.com/.