On Friday, Governor Gavin Newsom released strict guidelines to reopen schools and ordered counties on the state's monitoring list, which includes Riverside County, to keep classrooms closed and start the new school year with distance-learning programs.
The valley's three school districts already planned on starting the school year digitally. With Palm Springs Unified School District Superintendent Dr. Sandra Lyon says today's announcement won't affect those plans.
"I think we're in a good place right now because we already had a plan to have a good transition. What we weren't clear on were the markers and criteria to have students back," Lyon said.
Local school leaders were happy to get more clarity on the situation.
"My first reaction was thank you, really to finally have some clear um mandates," said Laura Fisher, Assistant Superintendent of Student Support Services for the Desert Sands Unified School District.
One of the main concerns now is ensuring all students have the equipment and connectivity for a smooth online learning experience.
"All students will have a device no matter K-12 grade. We have the wifi's in case parents don't have good connectivity in their homes so we feel very confident with our connectivity," Fisher said.
Coachella Valley Unified School District Superintendent Dr. Maria Gandera said they are asking parents to participate in a survey to make sure which remaining students need additional equipment.
"We will be passing out all our remaining iPads so we will be able to have a 1-to-1 with those students who need it before school starts," Gandera said.
All local districts say they are working to make sure students also have adequate connectivity.
"In addition to connectivity, needing a device, our students also need a workbooks and materials so they can write and practice. And do all of those things with paper and pencil as well so we'll be setting up those opportunities," Lyon said.
One key point Gov. Newsom addressed is being able to provide a rigorous environment for students just as it would be in a classroom.
"The distance learning we had from march to june is not what we're planning for August," Fisher said.
The transition to online learning was tough for schools in March, but come the new school year, it's a different story.
"Students are being held harmless in March. That's much different than now. Now your grade, you will be measured upon what work you turn in so if you don't turn in any work, it will be very hard for us to measure growth that you are demonstrating throughout this time," Gandera said.
If students are not turning in work at CVUSD, it may be considered an absence. Expectations at PSUSD won't be much different.
"New content, meeting students where they're at, pushing them forward, really helping them with the skills and abilities that they need to continue to progress grade level to grade level," Lyon said.
Educators say now more than ever, parent participation is key.
"It's going to become important for the parent to work with the teacher when there is a situation at home that they communicate together so they're able to receive instruction that they would need to get every single day," Lyon said.
Newsom said that that counties must be off the state's watchlist for 14 consecutive days to be able to hold in-person instruction.
Schools that are eventually allowed to reopen will have to meet a series of other requirements, including mandatory masks for staff and students in third-grade and above, physical distancing mandates and regular on-campus coronavirus testing.