One year later: Covid’s impact on California education
Design by Dana Amihere, Yuxuan Xie, Justin Allen; Research by Ali Tadayon
For most of California's 10 million K-12 and college students, the beginning of March marks one year of learning online. Though a return to in-person instruction is now on the horizon for many as the number of new Covid-19 cases drops and millions receive vaccines, the last year for the education community has been characterized by anxiety, disruption, reckoning and uncertainty. Here's a glance through key milestones over the past year, and EdSource's reporting about them.
California Department of Education and California Department of Public Health issue joint guidance on the coronavirus to school districts.
Colleges in California and nationally move to online instruction in response to the coronavirus. The California Department of Education receives a USDA waiver that enables districts to feed students during coronavirus-related closures.
Newsom signs executive order assuring closed schools remain funded as schools throughout the state announce closures and distance learning begins.
State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond advises districts to plan for providing distance learning through the end of the school year.
Newsom projects a $54 billion deficit and $19 billion less in Proposition 98 funding over two years for schools and community colleges. Proposed budget slashes funding for preschool and child care plans, teacher development programs.
College graduates forced to abandon the traditional celebrations and ceremonies associated with graduation turn to families or even video games to mark their accomplishments.
In Los Angeles, Oakland, West Contra Costa County, Sacramento and San Francisco, K-12 officials reconsider whether police should be in schools and activists urge for their removal in the wake of the George Floyd killing.
A spike in Covid-19 cases prompts more districts to plan for online education for the beginning of the 2020-2021 school year.
State imposes strict regulations for school opening and closing based on counties on state's monitoring list. Establishes waiver process to allow some elementary schools to reopen.
In response to new regulations, many school districts abandon plans for fall hybrid learning and in-person classes.
Los Angeles Unified reaches deal with teachers over distance learning while other districts struggle to finalize plans.
State health officials release first health and safety guidance for how colleges and universities can reopen, but most classes must be offered remotely and have other restrictions in place.
State-issued guidance permitting limited openings will apply to districts in counties on the coronavirus watch list, where schools are shut down, followed by guidance allowing small cohorts of 14 students and two adults for special education, homeless and foster students.
Los Angeles Unified announces plan to offer coronavirus testing to all students, staff. Power outages due to a heat wave hit California as school resumes virtually across the state.
Almost all colleges and universities open with few in-person classes, but dorms still house students and some campuses plan for testing and contact tracing.
Newsom introduces four-tiered color coded county tracking system to replace the previous monitoring list for counties. The "Blueprint for a Safer Economy" tracks counties by the number of Covid-19 cases recorded each day and the percentage of positive cases out of the total number of tests administered, both averaged over seven days. The system has had a major impact on a school’s ability to reopen for in-person instruction.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture reverses earlier plans, allows schools to continue offering free grab-and-go meals to any student, regardless of eligibility, as they did over the summer.
Lucerne Valley Elementary in San Bernardino County is one of the first public schools in the state to get approval to reopen under state's waiver program.
California community colleges see drops in fall enrollment with some showing double-digit losses.
UCLA researchers announce research showing big jump in homeless students.
"Leading school superintendents call on Newsom to impose a "common standard" for reopening schools in California."
Joe Biden is elected 46th president of the United States, with arguably the most ambitious education agenda of any president. California voters reject Proposition 16 to restore affirmative action as well as Proposition 15 to raise commercial property taxes denying schools more revenue from this source in the future.
As Newsom "sounds the alarm," pandemic surge puts 28 more counties in the "purple" tier, putting opening of regular classrooms on hold for millions of California students.
Impatient with Newsom's policies on school reopening, California Assembly leaders press for all districts to resume in-school teaching in the spring.
Congress approves $900 billion Covid-19 relief package, including $82 billion for K-12 and colleges, plus $22 billion for Covid-19 testing that could help to reopen schools. Of the $82 billion, $6.5 billion went to California for K-12 schools.
Newsom announces "Safe Schools For All" plan, which allowed in-person instruction in counties in "purple" tier with daily case rate of less than 25, and a $2 billion incentive program to bring back in-person instruction for elementary grades and students with special needs in prioritized categories by mid-February.
Supporters of former President Donald Trump storm the United States Capitol in a riot. California educators condemn and reflect on what many call an "insurrection."
In his January budget speech, Newsom announces a record $89.2 billion budget proposal for K-12 schools and community colleges, and calls for $4.6 billion for expanded learning, including summer school and $2 billion in incentive funding to open elementary schools by mid-February.
Some teachers and school staff begin receiving Covid-19 vaccines in California.
State health officials pull together all previous guidances in one publication.
Statewide parent group turns up the pressure on state, district officials to reopen schools; President Biden addresses the issue of school reopening in his first press conference since becoming president.
School employee unions issue seven-page critique of Newsom's school reopening plan. Newsom says schools could reopen before teachers are vaccinated, but school employee unions rebut that and other points.
Long Beach Unified becomes largest school district in California to announce reopening plans
Newsom announces the state would designate 10%, or 75,000, of its vaccine doses each week for school employees starting March 1. The vaccines will be prioritized for school workers who are returning to classrooms.
Health officials report dramatic drop in new Covid-19 cases, enabling more schools to reopen.
Newsom and lawmakers reach deal on school reopening. Days later, Assembly and Senate Bill 86 passes with overwhelming bipartisan vote, including $2 billion as an incentive for schools that have not already done so to offer in-person instruction beginning April 1. The legislation also allocates $4.6 billion for all school districts regardless of whether they meet the timetable Newsom called for in his “Safe Schools for All” plan.
Newsom touts California as "getting kids back in the classroom" in State of the State speech, says more than 7,000 schools have opened or plan to reopen by mid-April.
President Biden in nationwide speech pledges that "the majority of K-8 schools" will open during his first 100 days in office. "This is going to be the No. 1 priority of my new secretary of education, Miguel Cardona," he said.