CMEA Response to Updated Guidance from the California Department of Public Health – September 1, 2021

CDPH Guidance Continues to Fall Short for Music Education

The California Music Educators Association (CMEA) is once again sorely disappointed in the guidance released on September 1, 2021 (click that link, item #16) by the California Department of Public Health (CDPH). In our efforts to work with the CDPH, we find them lacking in their ability to listen to us as professionals in the field of teaching music education in California. In June 2020, in a virtual face to face meeting, we asked them to separate in-school music teaching and learning from activities that take place after school, such as sports and clubs. We explained that music taught in the classroom to thousands of students daily is not “extracurricular.” When addressed in this manner, and in state guidelines by a state agency, they are reinforcing what we do as music educators and what our students do as music learners is not as important as math or science or other subjects taught in our schools.

The inability for the CPDH to differentiate in-class instruction from after school activity demonstrates a lack of knowledge and understanding of the California education code that states music is a required subject in schools. In addition, California has adopted music standards and a state adopted framework to guide instruction. Their inability to do so disrespects all of the work that music educators must do to provide music instruction in our schools, TK – 12, their efforts to follow the CDPH guidelines, and shows little respect for every student in our band and choir classes, that what they receive as part of their K-12 education in music is just an “extracurricular activity.”

It is difficult for CMEA to respect the agency that continually fails to support what music teachers and students are doing each and every day to have music education in our schools.

Research has shown that wind instruments can be played with appropriate bell covers with students wearing face coverings, and all singing can take place wearing a face covering. CMEA has provided this information since July 2020 based on the peer-reviewed, University of Colorado/University of Maryland Performing Arts Aerosol Study. Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) has been designed specifically for wind players and singers, as well as covers for all wind instruments. The fact that the guidance still does not specifically acknowledge that indoor instruction can take place with these appropriate face coverings and instrument covers falls short once again, and is left to interpretation by health departments, school administrators, and district/school legal councils. We believe the CDPH is more interested in activities such as sports and clubs than what is mandated as inclusive of an education for all students.

Finally, many schools do not have the capacity to maintain six feet of physical distance, and the science has shown that it is not necessary with the correct PPE and coverings for wind instruments and singers. Just as the guidance points out on page 4, item 2: Physical Distancing a. “Recent evidence indicates that in-person instruction can occur safely without minimum physical distancing requirements when other mitigation strategies (e.g., masking) are implemented. This is consistent with CDC K-12 School Guidance.” This is the same guidance when masking the wind player, the wind instrument, and the singer. We see a disparity between sports guidelines—which does NOT have physical distancing requirements, allows for full contact, and does not require  students to be masked—compared with the guidance for music education. CMEA feels there is an inequity in the CDPH’s approach, which highlights a disparity between activities, is a safety hazard, and creates confusion for many.

We once again implore CDPH to clarify its guidance and that California Administrators and Legislators work to help CDPH make these clarifications. We call on Governor Gavin Newsom, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond, State Board of Education President, Dr. Linda Darling-Hammond, California School Board Association President, Dr. Susan Heredia, Assembly member and Chair of the Assembly Education Committee, Patrick O’Donnell and Senator and Chair of the Senate Education Committee, Connie Leyva on behalf of music education and music students in CA schools to correct the language in the guidance dated September 1, 2021 to allow music students—singers and wind players—to sing and play wind instruments with appropriate coverings and face coverings and place music education where it correctly belongs, as part of the school day instruction for all of our students in California.

To share this document on CMEA letterhead, click here.

Update on CDPH Guidelines

CMEA met with California Department of Public Health in early June to discuss recommendations for getting music education back into the classroom safely. 

CMEA has since also provided the July 16 updated guidelines from the aerosol study, posted here. Currently, the CDPH language for guidance regarding the music classroom is included in the following places on their website, but they have also posted a statement that updated guidance will be forthcoming.

We are continuing to work on proposed guidance for music education / performing arts post June 15th. In the interim, for consistency in youth settings, please see current CDPH masking guidance and associated FAQ regarding masking indoors for youth settings. When we have updated guidance, we will be sure to let you know. 

What is covered under “youth settings?”
  • “Youth settings” include K-12 schools and child care, and also cover day camps for youth, youth sports and other youth activities, including theater and music performances and band. Updated CDC guidance is forthcoming for youth settings.”
  • “During activities when increased exhalation occurs, such as singing, shouting, band, or sports and exercise. Move these activities outdoors or to large, well-ventilated space, when possible” (https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/schools-childcare/operation-strategy.html).

CMEA is actively engaging with CDPH to encourage the release of the updated guidance and are hopeful that it will be posted soon. Please watch our CMEA News feed and the CMEA FaceBook page for updates and please feel free to reach out again if you have further questions.

Keep Music Alive in California

On March 30, 2021, the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) issued revised public health guidance for K-12 schools. The current guidance states, “Outdoor singing and band practice are permitted, provided that precautions such as physical distancing and mask wearing are implemented to the maximum extent possible. Playing of wind instruments (any instrument played by the mouth, such as a trumpet or clarinet) is strongly discouraged.”

This language negatively and unnecessarily impacts music education by restricting band, choir, and also theatre, and dance. As shown in the third report of the International Coalition of Performing Arts Aerosol Study, the transmission of aerosols during indoor music-making can be significantly reduced through the adoption of specific mitigation strategies. These include specified face and wind instrument masks, along with 6 feet physical distance, ventilation recommendations, HVAC specifications, and other precautionary steps (such as washing of hands, using sanitizers).

We ask you to contact your state legislators and Governor Newsom to contact the CDPH to keep music alive and make the necessary changes that follow the science while also providing children with the social-emotional learning experiences that music and arts education provide. Click here to send a pre-written letter to your legislator and our Governor. You can add a personal message about who you are and your role in supporting music and arts education. When entering your information into the system it will automatically send the letter to your state legislators and Governor Newsom.

This will only take a minute please act now!

UPDATE: CPDH Guidelines for Performing Arts Activities

On March 22, the California Department of Public Health updated their guidelines regarding Performing Arts activities. Previously, the guidelines stated that such activities were “highly discouraged” and only allowed in very specific circumstances.

For more information these new developments regarding Outdoor and Indoor Youth and Recreational Activities, click here.

Relevant requirements, recommendations, and resources for Performing Arts activities can be found here.

UPDATE: CDC & Performing Arts Activities

With the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announcement of reduced physical distancing on March 19, 2021 many questions have been asked about whether performing arts activities can be also have reduced physical distancing. We applaud the CDC on removing the requirement for plexiglass barriers. The CDC’s new distancing recommendation only focuses on seated classrooms. With the rapid spread of more aggressive variants such as the B.117 variant, health officials do not recommend a change in physical distancing for activities that have increased exhalation.

However, with further research in the aerosol study being completed the following are the recommendations for performing arts activities:

  • Bell covers for woodwinds and brass should be made with a multi-layer cover with the center layer being made of MERV-13 filter material, or a 3-layer surgical style mask using an ASTM F2100 or GB/T32610 standard.
  • Singers produce aerosol at similar rates as woodwinds and brass. The amount of aerosol varies depending on consonants, vowels, intensity, and pitch. Singers wearing a well fit 3-layer surgical style mask that meets the ASTM F2100 or GB/T32610 standard reduces aerosol emission.
  • Face shields are only effective at close range to stop large droplets; they do not prevent aerosol from being inhaled or released unless a mask is also worn.
  • Reduced time in performing arts activities:
    • Indoors: 30-minute restriction followed by a minimum of one(1) air exchange
    • Outdoors: 60-minute restriction followed by a five(5) minute break (New3/19/21)
  • Practice good hygiene by washing hands, using sanitizers, and preventing uncontrolled spit valve release.
  • Rehearsal space recommendations in order of preference:
    • Outdoor rehearsals using individual mitigation techniques described above,
    • Indoors with elevated outdoor air exchange rate from HVAC,
    • Indoors with typical outdoor air exchange rate from HVAC plus recirculation air through MERV 13 filters or addition of appropriately sized HEPA air cleaners,
    • Indoors with outdoor air exchange rate from open windows supplemented with appropriately sized HEPA air cleaners when air flow is reduced under certain outdoor wind conditions.

Please refer to the Association for Heating, Ventilating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) guidance on ventilation during COVID-19: https://www.ashrae.org/technical-resources/resources

For more information on aerosol in Performing Arts activities please click here.

California Department of Education Arts Education Guidance 2020-21

Share this document(s) with your school/district administration and communities about guidance and resources to support LEAs when determining how to safely provide music education in alignment with California State Education Code, Section 51210 and 51220.

High Quality Arts Education During a COVID-19 Impacted School year

Performing Arts Aerosol Study – Round two

CAL OSHA Covid-19 Industry Guidance: Schools and School-Based Programs

As we continue through these unprecedented times, we know that many of you are experiencing competing narratives about varying distance expectations for music learning as your district shapes its approach to reopening school. We understand that districts throughout the state have had little to no conversations, have resolved to cancel ensemble classes, or even worse, eliminate music instruction all together.  Additionally, a new guidance document sent out on July 17, 2020, COVID-19 Industry Guidance: Schools and School-Based Programs has caused us all serious concern on the advice provided relating to the teaching of music in our school settings.

On Monday, July 27 CMEA sent letters to the following entities:

  • Ms. Sum, Director of Cal OSHA
  • Ms. Hagen, Director of CA Department of Industrial Relations
  • Dr. Angell, Director of CA Dept of Public Health

CMEA also sent a letter to SSPI Thurmond seeking his assistance in correcting the guidance. CMEA asked the entities that the guidance be updated to reflect the preliminary results from the International Coalition Performing Arts Aerosol Study.

CMEA requests that CDPH and CAL OSHA publish, as soon as possible, an update to the July 17, 2020  “Covid-19 Industry Guidance: Schools and School-Based Programs” with the requested revisions to page 12 to halt the elimination of music education courses.

Our letter provided the following suggested revisions:

CMEA’s Recommended Revisions

We recommend changing the wording of bullets seven and eight, page 12, to match what was published in the preliminary recommendations stated by the International Coalition Performing Arts Aerosol Study.

The rehearsal space recommendations from International Coalition Performing Arts Aerosol Study are:
Outdoor rehearsals are permitted using individual mitigation techniques described in the preliminary guidance document.

  • Outdoor gazebo style tents with open sides and a high-pitched ceiling with mitigations.
  • Indoors with elevated outdoor air exchange rate from HVAC.
  • Indoors with typical outdoor air exchange rate from HVAC plus recirculation air through MERV 13 filters or addition of appropriately sized HEPA air purifiers.
  • Indoors with outdoor air exchange rate from open windows supplemented with appropriately sized HEPA air purifiers when airflow is reduced under certain outdoor wind conditions.

Some of the solutions districts are exploring for re-opening music education may be growing out of decision makers’ limited perception of music learning. They may only be considering the physical, face-to-face rehearsals and performances aspects of music teaching. However, we know there is much more to music education beyond rehearsing for performances as we support students in becoming lifelong music makers. In the unpredictability of the months ahead, students who have been involved in music classes will once again experience a sense of loss by having their ensemble classes taken away from them. Simply eliminating music from their lives communicates to students and communities music education is no longer important during this period of distance learning. More importantly, we must be mindful of our students in rural areas, inner city schools, and communities of poverty that their music education is not disproportionately elminited compared with students attending schools in more affluent areas of our state.

We can create solutions so that all aspects of instrumental and vocal music education can be adapted and safely taught in a virtual or hybrid environment. This spring many of you demonstrated such abilities as you quickly adapted to addressing all aspects of music learning to ensure your students were not experiencing major learning loss. The solutions are many, but cancelling or removing music education is not the solution. Advocacy is needed at the local level to help individual districts in shaping their reopening plans. To access the letters to use for your own advocacy work at the local click here.  CMEA, like you, will be actively waiting to hear from these state agencies regarding our request.  It will continue to be of highest importance in our advocacy efforts to support continuity of learning in music education for all students in California.

Thank you for continual advocacy efforts in your local schools and districts. It will take all of us to keep a watchful eye on leaders at all levels so that the California Education Code and the UC/CSU A-G requirements are implemented. Equity for all is, and will remain, an integral component of a well-rounded music education that we consider a social justice issue for all students in the state of California.

Sincerely,
Armalyn De La O
President