Five months into the pandemic and with fall right around the corner, California school districts are beginning to announce their plans for the upcoming school year. California has set specific guidelines to determine whether schools can conduct in-person learning or whether they will be required to implement distance learning. Specifically, schools can physically reopen only when its county has been off the monitoring list for 14 days and only if they follow strict health and safety requirements including the use of masks and physical distancing.
As a result, most California K-12 schools, colleges, and universities are moving online this fall. In Northern California, districts currently not reopening in the fall include West Contra Costa County, East Side Union in San Jose, and the Oakland Unified School District. Teachers will be required to take attendance and are expected to track student learning daily, along with giving out grades.
In Southern California, Los Angeles Unified School District, San Bernardino City Unified School District, San Diego Unified School District, and others have announced they will not be reopening their campuses in the fall and will instead be implementing distance learning. Recently, as of August 18th, 2020, San Diego County was removed from California’s County Data Monitoring list. San Diego County had been on the list since the 4th of July weekend. Now that it is off the list, school districts in San Diego County can open for in-person learning as soon as September 1st if the county remains off the list for another 14 days. Whether the schools will immediately choose to do so is uncertain, as some districts have indicated they will be implementing stricter criteria for reopening. As a result, it may still be months before some students in San Diego County return to the classroom.
While a measured approach to reopening schools is critical to ensure the safety of students and teachers, as well as their families, there are valid concerns that uneven study environments at home will negatively impact some students. While Governor Newsom signed an executive order ensuring California public school districts will retain state funding for distance learning and high-quality educational opportunities, the fact remains that some parents have limited or no ability to monitor their children and to facilitate their education at home. Some parents are choosing to put their children in “learning pods” or “pandemic pods” – small groups of children who spend several hours a day with a teacher or tutor to help facilitate their virtual instruction. However, these pods are not a viable option for many, either due to cost concerns, health issues, or scheduling and space constraints.
In an effort to address some of these concerns, funds are being prioritized to students in need. With respect to internet access, the California Emerging Technology Fund has provided access to affordable offers, as well as a telephone line to assist parents: 1-844-841-4636. For more resources and information on the California Department of Education’s response to COVID-19, visit their website: https://www.cde.ca.gov/ls/he/hn/coronavirus.asp.