Governor Newsom’s Stay-at-Home Order requires “all individuals living in the State of California to stay home or at their place of residence except as needed to maintain continuity of the federal critical infrastructure sectors.” The Order exempted “16 critical infrastructure sectors whose . . . incapacitation or destruction would have a debilitating effect on security, economic security, public health, or any combination thereof.”
We all intuitively know academic institutions fit this description, and the Order agrees: “Government Facilities” are included as one of those 16 critical infrastructure sectors, and the cited-to guidance in the Order confirms that this includes an “Education Facilities Subsector [that] covers pre-kindergarten through 12th grade schools, institutions of higher education, and business and trade schools. The subsector includes facilities that are owned by both government and private sector entities.”
The State Public Health Officer published a list confirming who qualifies as “Essential Critical Infrastructure Workers,” which includes two areas relevant for educational institutions:
1) Workers supporting public and private childcare establishments, pre-K establishments, K-12 schools, colleges, and universities for purposes of distance learning, provision of school meals, or care and supervision of minors to support essential workforce across all sectors.
2) Workers and instructors supporting academies and training facilities and courses for the purpose of graduating students and cadets that comprise the essential workforce for all identified critical sectors
The State Public Health Officer also has a Frequently Asked Questions page to help provide guidance.
Accordingly, the Order follows prior local health agencies’ orders in exempting private and public schools from the mandatory closures. Schools must still enforce appropriate social distancing at the campus, and most educational institutions have already transitioned to online platforms to continue services while maintaining social distancing. Schools are being encouraged to have students move off-campus if they are able to so. The exemption appears to be targeted at permitting services to continue to support those students without other housing options (e.g., international students, students who are at-risk for abuse, students with disabilities who do not have other accessible housing options).
Educational institutions should continue to monitor local, state, accreditor and federal guidance during this rapidly changing regulatory environment. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; U.S. Department of Education; California Department of Public Health.