Legal Update Memo No. 51-2020 ADDENDUM – Updated Guidance for Small-Group In-Person Cohort Instruction for Schools in Tier 1 Counties (K-12)

Download pdf: 51-2020 ADDENDUM – Updated Guidance for Small-Group In-Person Cohort Instruction for Schools in Tier 1 Counties (CDC)

As discussed in our Legal Update 51-2020, the California Department of Public Health (“CDPH”) issued guidance on August 24, 2020, for “providing targeted, specialized support and services at school” for schools located in a Tier 1 County.[1]  CDPH updated the guidance on September 4, 2020, to include a memorandum and a Frequently Asked Questions (“FAQ”).  Both documents are included with this Legal Update.[2]

The updated Cohorting Guidance (“Guidance”) clarified schools in a Tier 1 County are not required to provide small-group in-person services, clarified the definition of a cohort (to include 1:1 aides), and clarified social distancing for staff meetings:

Does the Cohorting Guidance require schools to provide small-group, in-person services if they are otherwise prohibited to reopen under the July 17 Framework?

 No. It clarifies the conditions that must be met to offer in-person services for small groups of students if a school is otherwise unable to reopen under state public health directives. This guidance enables schools to provide supervision and care for students, including specialized services for students with disabilities and English learners, access to internet and devices for distance learning, and in-person support for at-risk and high-need students.

What is the maximum size for cohorts?

 Cohorts are limited to no more than 14 students, with no more than 2 supervising adults in a supervised environment, or a configuration of no more than 16 individuals total (children and youth or adults) in the cohort. The number of students and staff who make up a cohort should be based on student needs. Cohorts can – and often will – be smaller than 14, staffed by 1 or 2 consistent adults. For example, a cohort could be 6 students with 1 adult or 8 students with two adults that stay together throughout the day. In addition, a cohort can be divided into subgroups of students that may interact with one another during the day, as long as there are no more than 16 individuals in that cohort overall.

Can more than two “supervising adults” be assigned to a cohort if, for example, a student (or students) require(s) continuous assistance from adult staff (e.g., an instructional aide) and the cohort already includes two “supervising adults”?

Yes. The number of adults assigned to a cohort should be minimized and is ideally limited to two. However, cohorts may include more than two adults, provided the total size of the cohort does not exceed 16 individuals (students and adults together).

Can staff meet?

 Group meetings with staff from different cohorts must be done remotely, outdoors or in large spaces such as gymnasiums or multipurpose rooms, with windows open, as much as possible, avoiding small spaces with windows closed. All staff must wear appropriate face coverings and maintain at least 6 feet of physical distancing.

Please contact our office with questions regarding this Legal Update or any other legal matter.

The information in this Legal Update is provided as a summary of law and is not intended as legal advice.  Application of the law may vary depending on the particular facts and circumstances at issue.  We, therefore, recommend that you consult legal counsel to advise you on how the law applies to your specific situation.

© 2020 School and College Legal Services of California

 All rights reserved.  However, SCLS grants permission to any current SCLS client to use, reproduce, and distribute this Legal Update in its entirety for the client’s own non-commercial purposes.

[1] As described in our Legal Update 52-2020, the reference to counties being “on the watch/monitor list” are now described as being at Tier 1 (Widespread).

[2] Also available at: and