COVID-19 Recovery and Reopening Plan

Reopening campuses will require a great deal of planning and preparation, and many expenses that would not have been necessary under normal circumstances. School leaders are anxious to bring students and staff back to school, but we must do it in a safe way.

The San Diego County Office of Education’s Recovery and Reopening Plan provides districts and schools with detailed, practical instructions on how to prepare schools for reopening after the closures resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. After identifying specific planning assumptions and recommendations based on current health guidelines, SDCOE’s subject-matter experts, in consultation with public health officials and other key stakeholders, developed these resources to guide leaders through the reopening process. 

We encourage each of the nearly 800 public schools and 230 private schools in the county to consider this guidance, as well as guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), California Department of Education (CDE), California Department of Public Health (CDPH), and local public health orders, as part of their planning process. The plan is presented in six focus areas to allow stakeholders to quickly access information most relevant to them and customize their plan to meet the needs of their school community. 


1. Reopening Planning Materials

Reopening ChecklistUtilizing guidance from the above organizations, SDCOE has developed a checklist designed to assist schools and districts in identifying important trigger points, milestones, and actions related to reopening. 

Safe Reopening Plan for K-12 Schools: SDCOE has worked with public health to create two documents designed to help schools create worksite-specific COVID-19 prevention plans that comply with the requirements outlined in the California Department of Public Health’s (CDPH) revised industry guidance (July 17, 2020). We recommend districts and schools use these documents, which are customized to consider school operations; however, there is no requirement to do so.

  • COVID-19 Prevention Plan for Schools Checklist (Updated Aug. 7): Designed using the same organizational format as the COVID-19 industry guidance for schools, the checklist is intended to provide schools that have already created COVID-19 prevention plans with a means of evaluating them to determine that they address all of the elements described by CDPH. (Replaces "Template School Reopening Plan")
  • COVID-19 Prevention Plan for Schools (Updated Aug. 7): Schools that are just beginning to develop their reopening plans will find this template, which is modeled on CDPH guidance, as scaffold that will ensure that they address each element in the guidance. (Replaces "Safe Reopening Template/Guidance Document")

Parent Communication Materials: The SDCOE Communications department has created a library of template parent letters, which can be modified for staff messaging as well, for schools and districts to use in outreach throughout the reopening process. 

2. Policies

Personnel Policies

teacher working with students

As campuses reopen with a host of new changes in place to minimize the risk of COVID-19, districts and schools will need to create or refine existing policies and procedures for employees. Documents here include legal guidance on face coverings, policies on leave, telecommuting, and protective equipment, as well as personnel and resource considerations for implementing prevention measures.

Student Policies

Students and book iconStudents will face significant changes when they return to school. Among them, experiencing symptom screening, wearing face coverings, and being asked to frequently wash their hands. The following document outlines guidelines for these activities, as well as guidance on when students should stay home from school. Also included is guidance on bullying and harassment around COVID-19, and strategies for preempting and addressing behavioral issues.

3. Facilities, Operations, and Logistics

Facility Sanitizing

This document provides guidance to schools for developing strategies to prevent the spread of communicable diseases, including COVID-19, through frequent cleaning of high-touch surfaces.

Prevention Procedures

Checkmark iconKeeping schools clear of COVID-19 will require diligent planning and implementation. If prevention measures such as physical distancing, symptom screening/temperature checks, or face coverings are essential, a variety of strategies will be necessary to prepare a campus for operation.

Campus Capacity

Campus Capacity

Students walking around school

The prevention measures recommended to control the spread of COVID-19 will severely constrain the number of students who can be on campus at one time. For planning purposes, it will be necessary to determine the school’s modified capacity, which is the number of students that can be accommodated in its instructional spaces at one time while maintaining physical distancing in all instructional spaces.

Meal Programs and Busing

Students planting in gardenMeal Programs

As the economic impacts of the pandemic on families continues to be seen, it is reasonable to assume that more school children will rely on school meal programs than in previous years. At the same time, prevention measures necessary to slow the spread of COVID-19 are likely to limit the number of students who can be on campus at one time. Maintaining access to school meal programs for qualifying children will be essential.


Busing Protocols

school buses lined up

For many students, their first interaction with classmates begins when they board the bus to school. This document provides guidance for schools on busing procedures, including sanitizing, symptom screening, loading/unloading, seating, scheduling, and considerations for students unable to board the bus.

4. Enrollment and Scheduling Procedures


teacher and student smiling

Along with understanding campus capacity, school leaders must project student enrollment upon reopening of the school site. Understanding the intentions of families and the number of students planning to return to the school has implications for the specific schedule model, staffing needs and assignments, and the need to offer flexible options for student learning that may include continued online learning options for some students.

Arrival and Symptom Screening Procedures

Students lined up in class

Based on CDE guidance released in June 2020, all schools should be prepared to implement symptom screening when they reopen.

If in consultation with the local public health office, a school system determines that daily symptom screening is not necessary, schools should be prepared to implement screening, if needed. School systems that lack the ability to implement screening when needed may be forced to shift to distance learning until they have that capability. It should also be noted that physical distancing during arrival (without symptom screening) will require implementation of many of the strategies described below.

These procedures are intended to limit the spread of the virus on school campuses by both checking for possible virus symptoms and exposure and by reducing the number of people on campus where possible. When implementing screening procedures, check frequently for updated protocols from the CDE and local public health agencies as these will impact both the need for and the process used (possibly including new symptoms to screen for). Update your procedures accordingly.


clock on the wall

Designing an instructional program within the constraints imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic will require close collaboration between school leaders for instruction and safety. Updated guidance from the CDC, CDPH, and CDE on the prevention measures schools should implement makes it clear that every aspect of the school day must be rethought.

5. Instruction and Learning

Professional Learning

teachers collaborating

In order to advance the school’s mission of teaching and learning, it is incumbent upon school leaders to equip school staff with the knowledge, skills, and tools needed to engage in effective professional practice.

Recognizing the necessary shifts in student experience and the content substance and delivery generated by campus closures necessitates a corresponding shift in teaching roles and strategies. School leaders must protect and support the time and space to grow and adapt adult knowledge and skill for the reimagined schedules and blended context of the instructional program.

Data and Alternative Metrics

Student working on computerSchools and districts will need to operationalize resources at both the site and district levels to understand the student learning gaps through the use of progress monitoring and formative assessment strategies. Our most vulnerable student populations will need opportunities to accelerate their learning and mitigate the learning loss that has occurred due to the COVID-19 pandemic and assessment data can allow educators to better understand these gaps. Schools and districts will need to establish expectations for assessments. This includes designing assessments, establishing timelines for assessments, determining data/grading protocols, and communicating with stakeholder groups in an effort to support all of our students, especially our most vulnerable student populations. 

Accelerating Learning and Mitigating Learning Loss

Student drawing with crayons

One of the unfortunate byproducts of school closures during the COVID-19 pandemic is the resulting gaps in student learning, especially with our most vulnerable populations. Districts and schools are tasked with developing and employing learning plans to accelerate and/or mitigate learning loss. These documents are designed to give an overview of steps district, charter, and site-level leaders may consider to assess and respond to the uneven outcomes created by school closures. 

Distance Learning

student working on computer

SDCOE’s team of subject-matter experts have developed an extensive library of distance learning planning documents and materials across all content areas to assist districts and schools with their efforts to educate all students while at home. Guidance also includes technology support for content delivery and best practices.

Blended Learning and Independent Study

Equity students iconCOVID-19 health and safety guidelines could impact the number of students allowed on campus at any one time. As a result, it will be important for districts and schools to have the capability to offer alternate educational formats, such as blended learning and independent study, that equitably meet student need. These documents provide considerations for both educational formats. 

Co-Curricular and Extracurricular Programs

Students playing saxophoneThe Contingency Plans and Extra Curricular Programs Guidance for Large Gatherings is a list of factors that should be considered when making decisions regarding extra and co-curricular activities and events.  Links to guidance documents from leading organizations are provided when possible.

Lesson Plans for Prevention Practices

Soapy handsWe all have a part to play in keeping ourselves and our communities healthy. By integrating age-appropriate prevention practices in activities and lessons, schools can promote positive health behaviors and empower students to take steps to protect their own health and that of their family and community. These resources include considerations to assist teachers and administrators to encourage healthy behaviors on campus while cultivating a positive climate.

6. Special Education

Protective Measures

Students in wheelchairs and caretakersAdditional protective measures may be needed for students with severe disabilities. This document provides guidance and considerations in areas such as transportation, personal protective equipment, meal service, and more. 

Policies and Procedures

Teacher and student smilingIn accordance with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), each student with a disability has unique needs and it is the purpose of the education system to ensure every student has access to their grade-level standards and makes progress in their education. The Individualized Education Program (IEP) is the roadmap for each student with a disability, and it's important that IEP teams continue to meet with families to discuss their student's progress during the COVID-19 situation. These documents offer guidance to assist districts and schools during the IEP process.

7. Social-Emotional Supports

Supporting All Students (Especially Vulnerable Populations)

kids huddled smiling and lauging

It’s especially important during this time to consider the needs of our most vulnerable students, as the school closures have disproportionately impacted this population. Guidance here includes strategies for engaging students, and social-emotional supports for both students and educators.  

Staff Supports

staff working together


Employee Assistance Program Resources for Staff

Through the OPTUM Employee Assistance Program, there are resources available to all staff and household members in need of mental health services related to stress, anxiety, and depression as well as workplace concerns, substance abuse issues, and parenting or family needs. It's important that managers connect with all staff members they supervise as soon as possible once a notification has been made that could disrupt regular work schedules or locations (transitioning from school or office sites to remote locations like home settings) and provide information regarding available mental health and other life-quality resources available to staff members. The following services are from OPTUM.


Staying Resilient During COVID-19: Staff Resources

Teachers aren’t the only ones who benefit from a focus on resilience. Principals, administrators, superintendents, student services staff, coaches, para-professionals, and others who form the school community contribute to the decisive elements that influence a school that is thriving. The Compassion Resilience Toolkit for Schools offers information, activities, and resources for school leadership and staff to understand, recognize, and minimize the experience of compassion fatigue and to increase compassion resilience perspectives and skills. 

Family Outreach and Services

Teacher and student readingParent Outreach


Student and Family Check-In Tools

It is important that school staff reach out to all students within the school community as soon as possible. Communication should be consistent among the staff members so that families are receiving the same information. Please see the sample scripts listed below. Edit them to include relevant school and/or district information. It will be important to have ready local resources for students and families that cover basic areas of need like food and shelter when staff is making phone calls. These resources can be found in the Parent Resource Guide listed above. 

Family Scripts
To assist school personnel with checking in with students and families, the following communication tools have been created for districts and school sites to use. 

Asset-Based Communication with Students 
 When students feel more connected to adults in the school community, they are more likely to remain engaged in their participation and learning. 

Search Institute: Asset-Based Relationship-Building Resources


Pupil Personnel: Student Check-Ins 

The Pupil Personnel Services Guidance Document provides PPS-credentialed staff necessary checklist items to effectively address and assess the mental and emotional needs of students. It is important that as the administrator you review the document and become familiar with the steps PPS staff will be following during their student check-ins. 

Peer Connections


Teen Guide to Mental Health and Wellness

friends sitting together

The Teen Guide to Mental Health and Wellness was created specifically to provide youth the necessary resources to seek support, guidance, and information in critical issues that may be directly affecting them, a friend, or a peer. The hotlines are staffed with professionals that are trained to assess and provide relevant assistance in the respective areas. The guide is available in both English and Spanish and is appropriate for middle and high school students.


Virtual Suicide-Assessment Tools  

The National Association of School Psychologists provides guidance on how schools can continue to offer comprehensive suicide prevention practices during the pandemic as well as recommended suicide prevention, intervention, and postvention strategies.


Student Mental Health Referral Pathways  

All students who need mental health services should be able to receive them through a variety of ways. The following brochure outlines the multiple pathways school personnel can utilize or facilitate for families access mental health services for students. The flow chart provides all access points for staff to facilitate students’ access to mental health supports. Contact information is also provided for additional guidance and referral assistance.

Behavioral Health Services – Children, Youth, and Families: School-Based Outpatient Program 2019-20

The San Diego County Behavioral Health Department contracts mental health providers in all regions of the county to provide school-based outpatient mental health services (also known as SchoolLink) for students and families. 

The School-Based Outpatient Programs 2019-20 list includes contact information for providers link to school sites within districts. The list is organized alphabetically by school district. If you are seeking support for your district, find the respective provider name. If there is not a listed provider for school-specific services, contact one of the providers listed for another site. They will work with you to seek supports for students in need of mental health services. For charter schools, please refer to the document above (How to Access Behavioral Health Services for Youth in San Diego County). SchoolLink is not yet available within charter school sites. 

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