Santa Cruz COE Newsroom (COVID-19)

Updated: July 27, 2020 at 4:37 p.m.

Date: July 27, 2020 

To: Families of Santa Cruz County

Re: Elementary School Waivers for In-Person Instruction 

Dear Families of Santa Cruz County,

Governor Newsom and the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) included a footnote within the new guidance set forth for schools earlier this month to allow both public and private elementary schools to submit a waiver that once approved would allow schools within counties who are flagged on the state’s County Monitoring List to offer in-person instruction provided they can meet all required social distancing and sanitation requirements. While the waiver application process is being developed, waiver applications will not be available until our county’s testing capacity is robust enough to respond to confirmed COVID-19 cases if they arise in schools that have reopened with a waiver.

The footnote from the new CDPH guidance regarding waivers reads as follows: 

“A waiver of this criteria may be granted by the local health officer for elementary schools to open for in-person instruction. A waiver may only be granted if one is requested by the superintendent (or equivalent for charter or private schools), in consultation with labor, parent and community organizations. Local health officers must review local community epidemiological data, consider other public health interventions, and consult with CDPH when considering a waiver request.”

The new CDPH guidance also states: 

“Once schools are reopened to at least some in-person instruction, it is recommended that surveillance testing be implemented based on the local disease trends. If epidemiological data indicates concern for increasing community transmission, schools should increase testing of staff to detect potential cases as lab testing capacity allows. School staff are essential workers, and staff includes teachers, paraprofessionals, cafeteria workers, janitors, bus drivers, or any other school employee that may have contact with students or other staff. School districts and schools shall test staff periodically, as testing capacity permits and as practicable.” 

For school sites that wish to offer in-person instruction, robust COVID-19 testing for the educational community will be a crucial element in avoiding a resurgence of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the county, along with other measures such as contact tracing, completion of thorough safety training for school personnel, and the implementation of safety protocols at school sites. Through funding provided by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, the County is working to significantly expand local testing capacity in partnership with UCSC and local health care providers. However, it is anticipated that it will take some time for Santa Cruz County to develop the necessary systems to move forward with opening the waiver process for review. The local Public Health Officer must approve any school-specific waiver application prior to submission to the state for final approval.

Santa Cruz County Schools and our local public health authorities are committed to working together to oversee the elementary waiver process to ensure that our educational community remains safe. Our educational community is grateful for and depends on our partnership with our local Public Health authorities to ensure the safety of our students, families, and staff by minimizing the risk of COVID-19 transmission at school sites while maximizing learning opportunities for students. We will continue to work to ensure that all students in Santa Cruz County are safe. 

Yours in health and equity,


Dr. Gail Newel, Public Health Officer, Santa Cruz County

Laurie Bruton, Superintendent, San Lorenzo Valley Unified School District

Lorie Chamberland, Superintendent, Live Oak School District

Eric Gross, Superintendent, Pacific Elementary School District

Mike Heffner, Superintendent, Bonny Doon Union Elementary School District

Tanya Krause, Superintendent, Scotts Valley Unified School District

Michelle McKinny, Superintendent, Happy Valley Elementary School District

Diane Morgenstern, Superintendent, Mountain Elementary School District

Kris Munro, Superintendent, Santa Cruz City Schools

Michelle Rodriguez, Superintendent, Pajaro Valley Unified School District 

Faris Sabbah, County Superintendent of Schools 

Scott Turnbull, Superintendent, Soquel Union Elementary School District


Prior Updates from Santa Cruz COE