SAN LUIS OBISPO — Local elementary schools can begin applying for a waiver from the State’s ban on in-person instruction, County officials said Wednesday afternoon, July 29.

San Luis Obispo County Office of Education Superintendent James Brescia and County Public Health Officer Dr. Penny Borenstein sent a joint letter this week to local elementary school leaders letting them know how to apply for a waiver through the County Public Health Department.

“We will continue to prioritize and prepare for safe in-person learning for elementary school students as provided for in the State’s guidance,” Brescia said. “We have also asked the State to allow in-person instruction to populations with special needs under certain conditions.”

Because San Luis Obispo County is on the State’s COVID-19 County Monitoring List, the State has banned in-person school instruction locally. However, the State allows local health officers to grant waivers to K-6 elementary schools for in-person instruction when requested by a local superintendent (or equivalent for charter, private, and parochial schools) and in consultation with labor, parent and community organizations.

Waivers are issued based on the most current scientific data and a review of local epidemiological data, in consultation with the California Department of Public Health, along with other public health considerations. San Luis Obispo County must remain off the County Monitoring List for at least 14 days before broader in-person instruction may reopen.

“COVID-related risks in schools serving elementary age students are different from the risks to staff and students in schools serving older students,” said Dr. Borenstein. “There appears to be a lower risk of child-to-child or child-to-adult transmission in children under 12 years old, and the risk of infection and serious illness in elementary school children is considered low.”

The County Public Health Department began accepting waiver application submissions Wednesday from schools or school districts in accordance with the State Guidance for Schools. Waiver requests are expected to take at least one week for review after submission.

For updates on COVID-19 in SLO County, visit ReadySLO.org or call the recorded Public Health Information Line at 805-788-2903. A staffed phone assistance center at 805-543-2444 is available Monday through Friday, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. to assist with COVID-19 questions.

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