Q: How many districts have closed schools in California?
A: All schools are effectively closed for classroom instruction.
The only exception identified by EdSource may be the Outside Creek School District in Tulare County, which consists of a single elementary school with about 100 students. As of April 1, the school was still open. No one could be reached at the school as of April 2. It is unclear if the district is still closed.
However, state leaders and local school districts are stressing that even though students are not physically in class, schools are not actually closed and will be offering “distance learning” in some fashion.
Q: How long will schools be closed?
A: The clearest answer is that no one knows for certain. However, it seems increasingly likely that most or all schools will not open for in-class instruction before the end of the school year, unless there is a dramatic improvement in the evolution of the pandemic.
On April 1, State superintendent Thurmond sent a letter to all 58 county superintendents recommending that they plan on offering digital instruction through the end of the school year. The following day Newsom endorsed that message. “I can’t be more clear about this,” he said, adding that it would not make sense to send more than 6 million children back to school when state officials are predicting the peak surge in coronavirus cases in California will likely occur in mid-May.
However, Newsom has not issued an order for schools to be closed until the end of the school year, and doing so is still a local decision. Following the recommendation of both Thurmond and Newsom, a growing number of school districts have indicated that they will not reopen for in-class instruction until the end of their school year. these include all schools in Sacramento, Monterey and Riverside counties, as well as all schools in districts such as Long Beach Unified, West Contra Costa Unified and Fresno Unified. As of Friday April 3, 54 out of 80 districts in Los Angeles County had also announced they will be closed through the end of the school year.
Other districts are still awaiting guidance from their county departments of health and county offices of education before making final decisions about whether to remain closed.
Q: Are schools actually closed?
A: Schools are closed as far as providing regular classroom instruction. However, many schools are open at certain times to provide a range of services, including distance learning, school meals, and in some cases child care. Some employees, such as cafeteria workers involved with providing school breakfasts and lunches to go, are still on school sites.
Q: Are teachers still working?
A: Yes, but their duties and responsibilities have changed significantly. Almost all are working remotely. Their responsibilities and availability to students and parents varies from district to district. Most are ramping up distance learning plans, which can include online instruction or packets of materials sent home to students. During the first few weeks in April, many teachers will be on “spring break” and will not work during that time.
Q: Gov. Newsom has issued an executive order ordering Californians to “stay at home” or “at their place of residence.” What does that mean for parents and children?
Californians are urged to only leave home for groceries, prescriptions, exercise or other “essential” business or activities. When going out, people are expected to stay at least 6 feet apart and are encouraged to wear face masks. Newsom’s order does not specify an end date.
To prevent overcrowding in parks, Newsom ordered parking lots closed at state parks and beaches. Many counties also closed parks, playgrounds and beaches. Details on state park closures and restrictions is at www.parks.ca.gov.
Q: Can school children and their parents or guardians still pick up school meals?
Yes, in most cases and in most parts of the state. Schools are considered essential businesses and facilities, and are expected to continue to provide meals on a pick-up-and-go basis. This expectation was laid out in Gov. Newsom’s executive order. Residents may travel by foot, bike, car or public transit to pick up school meals, but must practice social distancing while they do so. Some districts allow families to pick up meals for more than one day or are partnering with local food banks to provide more food to families.
School districts have received a waiver from the federal government to provide meals for any children age 18 or younger who request one.
Check the website of your school district for more information, since not all schools are distributing meals.
Gov. Newsom’s “Stay at Home” Executive Order, March 20, 2020.
Gov. Newsom’s Executive Order for Closed Schools, March 13, 2020.
Guidance for Schools, California Dept. of Education,
For the latest developments in education, go here.
Q: What are schools are supposed to offer parents and children?
A: Under an executive order issued by Gov. Newsom districts are expected to provide “high quality education opportunities” through methods including online learning, take-home materials or independent study — but only “to the extent feasible.” School districts are expected to serve special education students, although the state and federal government have given districts some flexibility in applying federal regulations and laws.
The California Department of Education has created a web page with resources and guidance for schools and districts here.
Q: Are teachers grading students’ work during school closures?
A: Whether to award grades will be decided by each district. Several districts have announced they will grade students work, and the number is expected to grow. The California Department of Education has issued detailed guidance on grading and graduation requirements here.
What will vary considerably is how grades will be awarded. Some grades will be awarded on a pass-fail or credit-no credit basis alone. In some cases the grade will go onto a student’s transcript, and in other cases they will not. In In general, the overall view is “to hold students harmless” during this pandemic — in other words, the work they do will not have a further negative impact on their overall GPA to graduate or gain admission to college.
Q: What impact will the work high school students do have on their chances for admission to the University of California and the California State University?
A: High school seniors can submit credit/no credit grades in place of traditional letter grades for A-G courses completed in winter, spring or summer 2020. A-G courses are the set of high school classes students must take to be eligible to attend one of the nine UC undergraduate campuses or one of the 23 CSU campuses.
Community college students planning to transfer to a CSU or UC campus can also submit credit/no credit grades for prerequisite classes completed during the same time frame.
Universities are also giving students flexibility for submitting their official transcripts, which are typically due in July. The UC and CSU systems are still requesting that final transcripts be submitted by their usual deadlines but say they won’t rescind admission offers for late transcripts.
The UC system also is suspending the SAT and ACT requirement for current high school juniors for this upcoming year because of widespread testing cancellations. The CSU system is reviewing whether to also drop its testing requirements for 2021 admissions.
Q: Will students still be required to take the standardized tests that students in grades 3-8 and 11 take every spring?
A: No. On March 18, Newsom signed an emergency order suspending standardized testing, meaning students in grades 3-8 and 11 will not be required to take Smarter Balanced tests in math and English language arts this school year. The U.S. Department of Education gave the state preliminary approval to waive standardized testing for this school year and the requirement to include the test data that would have been produced in the state’s school accountability system, the California School Dashboard. The waived tests include the Smarter Balanced and science tests that assess the Next Generation Science Standards, and the English Language Proficiency Assessments for California for English learners. Final approval is expected after a public comment period ends on April 15.
Q: What impact is the virus crisis having on AP exams, as well as the SAT and ACT college admissions tests?
A: Shortened versions of Advanced Placement exams will be administered online from May 11-22. The 45-minute tests, which are accessible by i-Phones, will be open-book and will only include written responses, with no multiple choice questions. Security measures including anti-plagiarism software are expected to discourage cheating,
AP test takers can earn college credit if they score high enough on the AP exams, which are offered in 38 subjects including biology, U.S. history and Spanish. Free online prep classes are available and students who don’t have access to technology or the internet can seek help here.
The University of California system has suspended requiring students in the class of 2021 to submit ACT or SAT scores, and the California State University system is considering doing so.
ACT has rescheduled the April 4 national ACT test date to June 13, 2020. All students who have already registered for the test will receive an email with instructions for next steps. Additional test dates and other information is available at www.ACT.org.
The College Board has canceled the May 2 SAT administration. Registered students will receive refunds and the College Board will provide additional SAT testing opportunities as feasible, according to a news release. It has not yet canceled the June 6 test and advises students to access free online resources at https://www.khanacademy.org/sat.
Q: For younger children, can I still arrange playdates for my children, or have groups of children together to do homework?
A. Limiting social interactions for children is tough, but under the statewide order to “stay home,” they are prohibited. The symptoms of the coronavirus can take days to show up, and people can be contagious even if they do not yet have symptoms. Also, each additional child has other circles of contacts — their family and the people their family is in touch with. “Even if you choose only one friend to have over, you are creating new links and possibilities for the type of transmission that all of our school/work/public event closures are trying to prevent,” writes Dr. Asaf Bitton, a primary care physician and public health expert, in an opinion published on Medium.
In lieu of in-person playdates, some families are setting up video playdates for their kids, and encouraging them to write letters or emails to other family members or friends.
Q: What are the symptoms of the coronavirus and what should parents or guardians do if their child develops them?
A: The symptoms of the coronavirus are similar in children and adults and can be mild or severe. Those symptoms include fever, cough, runny nose, shortness of breath and sometimes vomiting or diarrhea.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, children do not seem to be at higher risk of getting the coronavirus although some children and infants have been sick with the disease and one has died in California. Older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like lung disease, diabetes or suppressed immune systems are at higher risk of contracting the virus and possibly dying.
The CDC recommends contacting a healthcare provider for medical advice if you think you or your children have been exposed and have any of the symptoms. The CDC has also released additional tips to help keep children healthy while school is out that include suggested routines for continuing children’s education at home.
Q: What should I tell my child about the virus?
A. The Centers for Disease Control has a number of recommendations. These include:
- Remain calm and reassuring;
- Make yourself available to listen and to talk;
- Avoid language that might blame others and lead to stigma;
- Pay attention to what children see or hear on television, radio or online;
- Provide information that is honest and accurate;
- Teach children everyday actions to reduce the spread of germs.
The National Association of School Psychologists has also issued helpful hints for parents similar to those from the CDC. Among them: Limit television viewing or access to information on the internet and through social media. Try to avoid watching or listening to information that might be upsetting when your children are present.
State Surgeon General Dr. Nadine Burke-Harris has released a 1-minute video on Twitter to help parents and caregivers talk to children about the coronavirus.
— Office of the California Surgeon General (@CA_OSG) March 23, 2020
Burke-Harris urges adults to approach the conversation in a calm way, ask what children have heard and allow them to share their fears, correct any misinformation, reassure them, and remind them about the importance of proper hygiene, healthy eating and exercise.
National Public Radio has created a comic to help parents talk to their children about the virus. And the independent national nonprofit The Child Mind Institute, which focuses on children’s mental health, has posted an article titled: “Talking to kids about the coronavirus: Kids worry more when they’re kept in the dark.”
Staff writers Theresa Harrington, Larry Gordon, Sydney Johnson, Zaidee Stavely and Louis Freedberg contributed to this report.