Credit: Alison Yin for EdSource
High school students at Oakland Technical High School in Oakland, Calif., Monday, May 1, 2017. Photos by Alison Yin for EdSource

Gov. Gavin Newsom said Tuesday that most school districts should expect to remain closed for the rest of the school year and not reopen in a few weeks, as many parents are anticipating, because of escalating coronavirus infections.

“I need to be honest and transparent with you,” he said to parents and educators, citing the “changing nature of the dynamic” of the pandemic and the need to continue social distancing by having students remain at home.

“Don’t anticipate schools are going to open in a week. Please don’t anticipate in a few weeks,” he said.

During his press conference, he also suggested that school sites may be repurposed to provide child care during the closures for low-income children and parents with no other alternatives. He said there would be more details in coming days.

Newsom had declined to order that all schools be shut down, but he said that 98.2 percent of schools have closed and that the remaining rural and small schools will likely do so soon, after they have made plans for providing student meals and child care.

He also said that California  is requesting a waiver from the U.S. Department of Education to suspend the state’s annual standardized tests for this year. This week, the Legislature extended the window for testing by 45 days. But Newsom said that, in speaking with State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond and President of the State Board of Education Linda Darling Hammond, he recognized eliminating testing would be best for students.

“We think it would be inappropriate for students to worry about coming back and being tested,” he said.

“We won’t be the only state applying for a waiver,” said Linda Darling-Hammond, president of the State Board of Education, pointing out that by far the majority of states have already closed their schools or are planning to do so. “Since we are in a state of national emergency, it is possible that the federal government will grant a wholesale waiver to any state that asks for one.”

Troy Flint, spokesman for the California School Boards Association, said Newsom’s prediction that schools wouldn’t reopen for the rest of the school year was not a surprise.

“You hope for the best but prepare for the worst,” he said. “We recognized that school closures might last longer than some initially anticipated. Now that the governor has confirmed this will be the case for most if not all school districts and county offices of education, we will redouble efforts to answer questions from families and other school communities.”

After Newsom spoke, the California Department of Education released extensive guidance on expectations for school districts while closed because of the coronavirus. Those obligations include providing long-distance learning, school meals — at a minimum for low-income children — and child care during school hours where “practicable.”

“It is an understatement to say that it is difficult to plan in this constantly evolving situation, and regular reassessments are critical as the public health considerations continue to change,” the cover letter stated.

In recent days, districts have been bombarded with a slew of executive orders, emergency legislation and federal waivers. Darling-Hammond said that the purpose of the guidance is to “package all of this in as easily digestible a form as possible for districts that have thousands of questions regarding what they are allowed to do in each of these areas, what are some strategies they can use and what resources they can tap.”

The guidance includes sections on distance learning and independent study, school meal delivery and child care supervision. It emphasizes providing equal access for low-income children and accommodating the needs of special education students. It also includes resources for schools planning distance learning and best practices from California and around the nation.

It states that school districts that are closed but receiving funding should either provide child care on school sites or partner with other local agencies to help families find child care programs that are still open. Child care should be available especially to families who are responding to the crisis, such as health care workers, emergency response personnel, child care workers and key government employees.

Check back for more information on this developing story.

Louis Freedberg and Zaidee Stavely contributed to this article. 

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  1. Jennifer Torres 1 week ago1 week ago

    I am a fulltime healthcare worker and I just had to pull my two children from their Emergency Pop Up Day Care program in Marin, due to high costs. I cannot afford to take my younger child who is only 5 years old to this program as they are charging more than $1,550 per month for one child. Now since he can't go, I will need to pull out my other child who is 14 … Read More

    I am a fulltime healthcare worker and I just had to pull my two children from their Emergency Pop Up Day Care program in Marin, due to high costs. I cannot afford to take my younger child who is only 5 years old to this program as they are charging more than $1,550 per month for one child.

    Now since he can’t go, I will need to pull out my other child who is 14 years old. The older age group of kids are free from grades 6th-12th but the younger preschoolers are charging a pretty penny at a time like this no one can afford to pay that kind of money. Not on my salary; I simply cannot afford it.

    I want to do all that I can to continue to come to work and serve my community but this makes it impossible to focus not knowing who will care for your kids while you are at work. This program was nicely set up at first “Free Pop Up Healthcare” for frontline workers. Now all of the sudden April 1st the beginning of a new month when rent and bills are due this costs comes in, very unexpected and now it is just a huge glitch and burden for people like me. My stress and anxiety level just went up 90% more than it ever was before.

  2. Lauran Cherry 3 weeks ago3 weeks ago

    Statewide testing should be suspended this year. Students from low socioeconomic communities within districts have far much less access to meaningful virtual learning and experiences. Conversely, students from high socioeconomic districts have much greater access to virtual learning, resources & experiences. This virtual learning access discrepancy will widen the existing achievement gap between high and low socioeconomic districts, which unfairly increases criticism and biases of the low performing communities and the … Read More

    Statewide testing should be suspended this year. Students from low socioeconomic communities within districts have far much less access to meaningful virtual learning and experiences. Conversely, students from high socioeconomic districts have much greater access to virtual learning, resources & experiences. This virtual learning access discrepancy will widen the existing achievement gap between high and low socioeconomic districts, which unfairly increases criticism and biases of the low performing communities and the districts in which students attend schools.

    Replies

    • John Fensterwald 3 weeks ago3 weeks ago

      Lauran, on Wednesday Gov.Newsom issued an executive order to suspend state tests this year. You can read it here.

  3. Gregory Lin Lipford 3 weeks ago3 weeks ago

    Do we expect continued social promotionand faux graduations in light of the likelihood of increased underachievement?

  4. Joseph H. Bayless 3 weeks ago3 weeks ago

    So what happens to employees that are in maintenance and operations if school is closed for the rest of the year

  5. ImAConsernedKid 3 weeks ago3 weeks ago

    Please don’t. I don’t want to repeat a grade and I love learning.

  6. VR 3 weeks ago3 weeks ago

    It makes zero sense for the governor to push the Legislature to pass an emergency funding bill with the stipulation that school districts open back up before the end of the school year, only to say the next day that he does not anticipate that districts will open up before the end of the school year. What was the purpose of the emergency bill?

    Replies

    • John Fensterwald 3 weeks ago3 weeks ago

      The emergency funding bill did not mandate that school districts open before the end of the year, VR.

  7. Michael Louden 3 weeks ago3 weeks ago

    This is the responsible thing to say. Of the theory of action is to reach herd immunity with as few deaths as possible, we are in for the long haul. Let’s hope for a medical miracle, but plan for the worst.