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California education news: What’s the latest?

Thursday, October 22, 2020, 10:48 am

Link copied.First four Los Angeles County Schools approved for waivers are private schools

The first four schools were granted new school waivers for TK-2  in Los Angeles County Wednesday. All four are private schools. 

These waivers allow schools to bring pre-kindergarten through second-grade students back into the classroom for the face-to-face instruction that early learners have been missing since the pandemic began and schools were shuttered. The four schools are: Kadima Day School, Holy Angels School in Arcadia, Los Encinos School in Encino and Rabbi Jacob Pressman Academy of Temple Beth Ann.

Los Angeles county, which remains in the most restrictive purple tier, began accepting waiver applications from schools earlier this month. No more than 30 schools, evenly distributed between the five districts, will be granted approvals each week and priority is intended to go to schools with higher percentage of low-income students. Letters of support from groups representing teachers, school staff and parents are mandatory.

Karen D'Souza

Thursday, October 22, 2020, 9:42 am

Link copied.75 schools eligible for $47 million in literacy funding under lawsuit deal

The California Department of Education has followed up on the settlement in February of the “Ella T v. California” lawsuit that 10 student plaintiffs attending struggling schools in Los Angeles, Stockton and Inglewood had brought against the state for failing to provide them quality reading and writing instruction.

The administration of Gov. Gavin Newsom agreed to fund $47 million over three years to develop literacy programs in the 75 elementary schools in the state with the lowest third-grade scores on the Smarter Balanced reading and writing test in 2018 and 2019. This month, the department published the list of eligible schools, located in two dozen school districts, and the rules for the program.

Every school will initially get $50,000 to consult with parents and teachers on how to address poor reading and writing instruction, including how to support families’ efforts to help their children. Schools can then apply for larger grants. An additional $3 million will be used to select a county office of education with expertise developing and supporting districts in literacy instruction as the Expert Lead in Literacy to guide the state’s efforts.

At the time of the settlement, plaintiffs attorney Mark Rosenbaum, from the law firm Public Counsel, said, “The state will make certain not just that they have the financial resources,” but also proven programs in place “that we know work in terms of teaching kids how to read.” Public Counsel filed the lawsuit in 2017.

John Fensterwald

Wednesday, October 21, 2020, 9:01 pm

Link copied.Prop. 15 in tight vote, Prop. 16 losing in final poll before election

Proposition 15, the initiative to raise property taxes on commercial property by amending the tax limitation law Proposition 13, continues to have around 50% support, and Proposition 16, which would repeal the constitutional amendment banning affirmative action, continues to lag far behind, in the latest — and last — Public Policy Institute of California poll before the Nov. 3 election.

The latest results show 49% of likely voters support Prop. 15, 45% oppose, and 6% are undecided. The bad news for unions and community groups advocating for it is Prop. 15 has lost a little ground, and undecided voters are trending “no” since the September poll, when 51% backed it, 40% opposed and 9% hadn’t decided. Both sides are doing massive TV advertising.

Proposition 16, which would allow gender and racial preferences for college admissions, hiring and public contracting, picked up a little support, but it has a long way to go, with little time to make it up. In the latest poll, 37% of likely voters said they’d vote yes, 50% would vote no, with 12% undecided. A month ago, it was 31% yes, 47% no and 22% undecided.

There was a partisan split for both initiatives, with Democrats largely in favor and Republicans opposed. The survey of 1,701 voters took place between Oct. 9 and Oct. 18.

Among other findings, 57% of Californians said they would probably or definitely get a vaccine for Covid-19 if it were available today, while 40% said they definitely or probably would not.

John Fensterwald

Wednesday, October 21, 2020, 2:26 pm

Link copied.L.A. Unified students with disabilities struggling in distance learning, survey finds

Most students with disabilities in Los Angeles Unified are not having their needs met during distance learning, according to a new survey’s findings.

The survey, which was conducted by the advocacy group Speak UP, was released Wednesday and included parents of students at every grade level and across every type of school in L.A. Unified. That includes traditional district schools, charter schools and magnet schools.

The survey’s main findings included:

  • About 76% of parents said their children are not progressing effectively.
  • 74% of the parents said their students are showing regressive behaviors.
  • More than 60% of parents said they aren’t receiving adequate support from their schools.

“The findings in our survey speak to the failure of LAUSD to adequately serve the vast majority of our most vulnerable learners,” Lisa Mosko, director of advocacy for special education at Speak UP, said in a statement.

The report recommends that L.A. Unified begin offering in-person tutoring for students with disabilities, something they are permitted to do under county guidelines.

Michael Burke

Wednesday, October 21, 2020, 11:43 am

Link copied.Efforts to boost computer science education take a hit during Covid-19

Nearly 1 in 5 computer science teachers across the U.S. temporarily suspended instruction during the coronavirus pandemic, and rates are even higher among teachers in high-poverty schools and rural schools, according to a new report from the Computer Science Teachers Association and the Kapor Center, a nonprofit that focuses on equity in the technology field.

The organizations surveyed nearly 3,700 K-12 computer science teachers to understand how the transition to virtual learning has impacted K-12 computing education. More than half of all teachers at schools with higher proportions of Black, Latino and indigenous students said that distance learning posed a major challenge to computer science instruction, according to the report.

The study comes amid a statewide push for more equitable computer science education in California schools, and authors of the report say the report’s findings could exacerbate already disparate access to technology and computer science education across the state.

To build more opportunities for students to learn computer skills that prepare them for jobs in technology, the authors recommend prioritizing closing the gap between students who can access the internet at home and those who can’t, investing in teacher training for computer science and integrating computer science as a core course offering.

Sydney Johnson

Wednesday, October 21, 2020, 10:56 am

Link copied.More equitable admissions at San Francisco high school

All students in San Francisco Unified will have a chance next year at entering the long selective Lowell High School, under a new lottery system passed by the school board on Tuesday.

Lowell High offers opportunities such as AP classes and foreign languages that are not all available at other district high schools and is considered one of the best public high schools in the country. For years the district has only admitted students with high grade-point averages and test scores to Lowell High. But this year, the district doesn’t have grades from the spring, because after the coronavirus pandemic, it switched to a pass/fail system for the semester, and standardized tests were canceled statewide.

The change will only be in place for admissions for Fall 2021. The issue has sparked contentious debate in the city, with some saying the current system is elitist and racist while others say students with higher grades deserve a spot at the school.

Zaidee Stavely

Wednesday, October 21, 2020, 10:55 am

Link copied.Private Central Valley school fined for in-person instruction

A private K-12 Christian school in Reedley, near Fresno, was fined $15,000 for violating a judge’s order to stop in-person instruction, according to the Associated Press. It may be the first fine in California against a school for violating public health orders to stop the spread of the coronavirus. Immanuel Schools opened for in-person instruction on Aug. 13, and when health officials ordered it to close, the school challenged the order in court, eventually reaching a settlement by agreeing to institute health and safety precautions.

Zaidee Stavely

Tuesday, October 20, 2020, 3:34 pm

Link copied.California health official says it’s safe for many schools to reopen, two counties move to purple tier

As Covid-19 cases fluctuate throughout the state, Dr. Mark Ghaly, California’s Health and Human Services secretary, said he believes it is safe for schools to reopen if they have met the state’s requirements as it pertains to infection rates. But Ghaly added that he supports decisions by local health and school officials to wait longer than the state requires, if they believe that is in the best interest of their communities.

Ghaly and Dr. Erica Pan, the state epidemiologist, announced Tuesday that Riverside and Shasta counties have moved from the red tier back to the most restrictive purple tier in the state’s four-tiered, color-coded tracking system. This brings the total number of counties in purple up to 12 from 10, including 333 school districts and 590 charter schools that educate more than 2.5 million public school students, not including private schools.

Schools in counties in the purple tier cannot reopen for in-person instruction unless they receive elementary school waivers or adhere to strict guidance for small groups. However, if schools opened while counties were in the red tier and then the county moves back to purple, they do not need to close. Instead, they must increase testing of staff, according to state guidance. Counties must remain in the red tier for at least 14 consecutive days before schools can reopen.

Ghaly said the state plans to work more closely with the Los Angeles, Riverside and San Bernardino counties in Southern California that are in the purple tier to help them improve their testing, contact tracing and isolation practices to reduce the spread of Covid-19 in their communities. Pan also announced that Butte and Napa counties moved from the red to less-restrictive orange tier and that San Francisco moved from orange to the least-restrictive yellow tier, in part due to its success in meeting a new health equity metric, which requires counties to ensure their Covid-19 rates are as low in their most disadvantaged areas as they are countywide.

Ghaly also announced new guidance for large and small amusement parks, saying small parks located in counties in the orange tier can reopen at 25% capacity, but counties where large parks are located must reach the yellow tier before the parks can open at 25% capacity. He also released guidance for professional sports, saying outdoor stadiums in counties in the orange tier can open at 20% capacity and those in counties in the yellow tier can open at 25% capacity.

The state plans to release new guidance for youth sports soon, Ghaly said. However, he said it does not anticipate allowing college sports stadiums to open for audiences in the near future.

Theresa Harrington

Monday, October 19, 2020, 4:37 pm

Link copied.Biden trounces Trump in state’s mock student election

Reflecting the challenges of organizing and engaging students online, the number of students participating in this year’s California Student Mock Election dropped precipitously from four years ago, according to figures release by the California Secretary of State’s Office.

But the outcome is the same: Middle and high school students lean Democratic and don’t like President Donald Trump any more than, according to polls, their parents do. Democratic candidate Joe Biden defeated him 68% to 18%, with a victory margin exceeding Hillary Clinton’s 58% to 20% win in 2016; in that election, more students than this year voted for Libertarian and Green Party candidates, accounting for the difference.

This year, students in 181 middle and high schools cast 43,294 ballots from home — about a third of the number of schools and 21% of the ballots cast four years ago, when voting was done in-person, with rallies and civic events in schools preceding voting. Election Day this year was Oct. 6.

The students also cast ballots for initiatives. A majority backed every one, and gave overwhelming support for Prop. 14 (the bond for stem cell research that they will be paying back, with interest, well into adulthood), Prop. 15 (a significant commercial property tax increase), Prop 16 (allowing affirmative action for college admissions) and, not surprisingly, Prop. 18 ( permitting 17-year-olds to vote in primary elections if they’ll be 18 by the general election).

John Fensterwald

Monday, October 19, 2020, 11:43 am

Link copied.State schools chief wants donations to expand anti-hate training

State grants to train teachers to teach students to be tolerant of other races and religions, as well as to people in the LGBTQ community, drew interest from 200 school districts within a week of being announced, said Superintendent of Public instruction Tony Thurmond at a press conference Thursday.

The grants were funded by a $200,000 donation from the S.D. Bechtel Jr. Foundation.

Thursday Thurmond asked that other foundations donate additional funds to expand the program, so that all school districts that want the professional development can offer it.

“I want to put a call out to other foundations as well, to help us work with those 200 school districts that are saying yeah, I want to be part of the solution at a time when there are those, even in the White House, who would divide us,” Thurmond said.

The grants are part of a “Education to End Hate” initiative launched last month. The initiative includes student and teacher webinars on how to end discrimination and a roundtable with political and social justice leaders on how to create safe learning environment.

“We want to send a strong message that we will not allow our communities to be separated, that we will teach about the impacts of slavery, that we will address that antisemitism is on the rise and that we must address the awful acts of police brutality and racism that we see playing out on our television screens, almost, almost nightly,” Thurmond said. — Diana Lambert

Diana Lambert

Friday, October 16, 2020, 2:57 pm

Link copied.Oakland’s McClymonds High declared safe for students after chemical contamination last spring

McClymonds High in Oakland Unified, which was shut down last February after trichloroethylene, or TCE, was found in groundwater near the school, is now safe for students and staff, officials said Friday.

However, the entire district is in distance learning due to Covid-19 and has not yet decided to reopen any of its schools to students. The approximately 350 students who attend McClymonds in West Oakland have been learning remotely since the district closed all of its campuses for in-person instruction last March.

The district, in partnership with the county and state, tested air and water throughout the campus and found that there is no threat of TCE. It did find PCE, or tetrachloroethylene, in the outdoor air around the school, but not inside the school.

Principal Jeff Taylor said some staff members are already working on the campus. The district has installed air purifiers in all classrooms and other school facilities such as the gym to ensure that students and staff have the cleanest air possible, said district spokesman John Sasaki.

The likely sources of the TCE, Sasaki said, were a nearby metal shop or the ABC Dry Cleaners. He said the district would continue to advocate with the city to clean up environmental pollution and toxins, which he called “injustices” that many people in Oakland and other urban areas are unfairly subjected to.

Theresa Harrington

Tuesday, October 13, 2020, 3:52 pm

Link copied.Only 10 of state 58 counties remain in most restrictive level in state’s tracking system

As Covid-19 rates decrease throughout the state, only 10 of 58 counties remain in the purple tier of the state’s color-coded tracking system.

The 10 counties include 288 districts and 540 charter schools educating more than 2.1 million or about a third of the state’s public school students. The counts do not include private schools.

The purple tier is the most restrictive of the four tiers, meaning Covid-19 is widespread and schools cannot reopen unless they receive elementary waivers for students in grades TK-6 or adhere to strict guidance for small groups of students. The 10 counties in the purple tier are: Glenn, Imperial, Los Angeles, Madera, Mendocino, Monterey, San Bernardino, Sonoma, Tehama and Tulare.

Six counties moved from purple to red on Tuesday: Colusa, Kern, Kings, San Benito, Stanislaus and Sutter. Schools in these counties can reopen for in-person instruction if the counties remain in the red tier for 14 consecutive days.

Also on Tuesday, Alameda, Placer and Santa Clara counties moved from the red to the orange tier, and Sierra County moved from the orange tier to the yellow tier, said Dr. Mark Ghaly, Health and Human Services secretary, during a noon news briefing Tuesday. His report was the state’s weekly update on the counties in the state’s tracking system.

Schools in the orange and yellow tiers — where Covid-19 is considered to be moderate and minimal, respectively — can reopen for in-person instruction as long as they adhere to state guidance that includes physical distancing, mask-wearing and sanitizing. Counties and districts can impose stricter reopening requirements based on local conditions.

Theresa Harrington

Monday, October 12, 2020, 5:51 pm

Link copied.With quicker testing, California turns to improving Covid-19 contact tracing for schools

With improvements in testing and contact tracing, California is now looking to help set up systems so school districts, in partnership with their counties, can use testing and tracing to quickly control any Covid-19 outbreaks.

This comes as an increasing number of counties statewide have improved their infection rates to the point that they have moved from purple to the red level on the state’s four-tiered, color-coded tracking system, which allows schools to open after 14 days in that tier. The state updates this list every Tuesday. As of last week, only 16 of the state’s 58 counties remained at the purple level, meaning that schools could not yet reopen unless they received elementary school waivers for students in grades TK-6 or adhered to strict guidance for small groups of students.

This new focus on school contact tracing comes after the state significantly improved its testing turnaround time to within 24 to 48 hours, and as 95% of county health departments now report they are able to contact all the people they receive positive test results for on the same day, Dr. Mark Ghaly, the state’s Health and Human Services secretary, said Tuesday during Gov. Newsom’s daily press briefing on the coronavirus.

Ghaly said the state is focusing on improving Covid-19 contact tracing for schools so any outbreaks among staff or students at campuses that have reopened can be quickly traced.

“We are now turning a significant part of our focus to helping our partners with school-based models,” he said, to ensure “we’re able to trace at schools among staff or students and investigate outbreaks quickly.”

Theresa Harrington

Wednesday, October 7, 2020, 12:07 pm

Link copied.More than 80% of Los Angeles voters view child care as vital to recovery, poll finds

Eighty-two percent of likely voters in Los Angeles County consider access to child care “essential” to economic recovery in the wake of the coronavirus, according to a poll released Tuesday. 

The online poll of 843 likely voters, which was conducted during the last week of August in both English and Spanish, found that most of the county’s population sees a clear connection between families having access to child care and the reopening of the economy.

“This is no longer a parent issue. It’s a societal issue,” said Sonia Campos-Rivera, vice president for policy and public affairs at the nonprofit UNITE-LA, which teamed up with the LA Partnership for Early Childhood Investment to sponsor the poll. “Even prior to Covid, this was a real issue. Now families are being affected even more. It’s a struggle.” 

The poll also found that 68% of respondents view access to early learning and child care for young children as a social justice issue.  

“The dual crises of COVID and the economic disaster that has ensued have shined a bright light on the inequity and vulnerability that many of us already knew existed,” said Parker Blackman, executive director of the LA Partnership for Early Childhood Investment. “There’s a desperate need for social infrastructure. The safety net is not there.”

Heading into a heated general election, other key issues identified by respondents included homelessness, lack of affordable housing, the impact of Covid-19 on low-income residents and the spread of the virus itself. 

Karen D'Souza

Tuesday, October 6, 2020, 2:43 pm

Link copied.No sign of Covid-19 spread as more California schools reopen; fewer counties now in highest tier of state’s tracking system, official says

There is no indication that school reopenings statewide have led to an increase of Covid-19 spreading in the community, California’s Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly said Tuesday.

“We have not seen a connection between increased transmission and schools reopening for in-person learning,” Ghaly said during a noon news briefing Tuesday, adding that it sometimes takes time to see the trends. “But so far, it’s encouraging to see the tremendous effort and planning that communities and their schools and their staff have done to make sure that it’s lower risk for students and staff alike and…I think that’s encouraging for all of California.”

Ghaly’s assessment came as the state announced a decrease from 18 to 16 in the number of counties in the highest level of purple on the state’s Covid-19 tracking system. Three counties have moved from the purple tier down to the red tier, and one has moved from red to purple, bringing the total number of counties in the purple tier to 16. Merced, Ventura and Yuba counties moved from purple to red, while Tehama County moved from red to purple.

The 16 counties in the purple tier educate more than 2.5 million public school students in 402 districts and 604 charter schools, not including private schools. That compares to last week’s tally of 18 counties in the purple tier.

Schools in counties in the purple tier — which indicates Covid-19 is widespread in the community — cannot open for in-person instruction unless they receive elementary waivers for students in grades K-6 or adhere to strict guidance for small groups of students.

Schools in counties in the red tier can reopen for in-person instruction after they have been in that tier for 14 consecutive days. Counties can impose stricter rules for reopening. Schools that were already open in Tehama County which moved back from red to purple must increase Covid-19 testing of staff, but do not need to close, according to state reopening guidance.

Theresa Harrington

Thursday, October 1, 2020, 3:30 pm

Link copied.Governor visits burned school in Napa County

Gov. Newsom visited the burned remains of the private Foothills Elementary School near St. Helena in the Napa Valley on Thursday, as part of a tour of damage from the Glass fire, which has burned more than 56,700 acres and was 5% contained since it began Sunday. The school had resumed in-person instruction about a week before the fire that destroyed a portion of its campus broke out, according to the Press Democrat.

“I’ve got four young kids in elementary school,” Newsom said, standing in the charred schoolyard after surveying the damage. “And I can’t imagine for the children and parents and the families…what’s going through your minds, with all that anxiety that you already had coming into this school season, to see your precious school burned down.”

“My heart goes out to every single one of you,” he said, adding that the state will help to restore the area. “We’re not just here for a moment. We’re here to rebuild and to reimagine your school. To all the kids out there, you’re going to get through this…You’ve got a lot of people that have your backs. And God bless you. We’re very sorry you’re going through all this.”

Napa County is in the red tier of the state’s county monitoring system, meaning schools can reopen for in-person instruction if they comply with Covid-19 guidance from the California Department of Public Health and the county health department. However, many schools are closed indefinitely due to recent fires and evacuations in the area.

Theresa Harrington

Tuesday, September 29, 2020, 7:20 pm

Link copied.Elementary schools in Los Angeles can apply for waivers

Elementary schools in Los Angeles County will be able to apply for waivers to resume in-person instruction for students in transitional kindergarten through second grade.

The county’s Board of Supervisors on Tuesday unanimously approved a resolution to allow waivers for those grades. The waiver process will be stricter than the state’s guidelines for waivers, which say that waivers can be made available for students in grades TK through sixth.

The resolution approved Tuesday limits the number of schools that can be approved for waivers to 30 per week. Waivers will be prioritized for schools with high percentages of students who qualify for free or reduced price meals.

“The state, county and school districts have invested heavily in distance learning technology, however gaps still exist that disproportionately impact minority communities,” said Board Chair Kathryn Barger, one of the authors of the resolution, according to the Los Angeles Times. “All students are entitled to a free and appropriate education. For many of our students most at risk, distance learning is neither free nor appropriate.”

Michael Burke

Tuesday, September 29, 2020, 2:14 pm

Link copied.Seven more counties move from purple to red tier in state’s monitoring system

California’s Secretary of Health and Human Services announced Tuesday that seven more counties have moved from purple to red in the state’s four-tiered, color coded tracking system: Butte, Contra Costa, Fresno, Sacramento, San Joaquin, Santa Barbara and Yolo. Schools can reopen for in-person instruction in these counties if they remain in the red tier for 14 consecutive days.

This brings the number of counties that are still in the purple tier — where Covid-19 transmission is widespread — to 18. They encompass 434 districts and 621 charter schools that serve 2.7 million students, not including private schools. Schools in this tier cannot open for in-person instruction unless they obtain elementary school waivers for children in grades K-6 or follow strict guidance for small groups.

Three counties moved from red to orange, meaning Covid-19 transmission is considered moderate: Amador, Calaveras and San Francisco. Schools in these counties were already allowed to reopen for in-person instruction, but they must ensure that Covid-19 testing and contact tracing is adequate, Ghaly said.

In response to a question about why guidance is stricter for playgrounds than for youth sports, Ghaly said playgrounds in many counties are still closed because they invite mixing of people from different households or neighborhoods, which increases the risk of Covid-19 transmission. He said youth sports usually involve the same group of students mixing together in what is called a “cohort,” which is less risky. However, he said he is not aware of any instances of Covid-19 transmissions that have been traced to playgrounds.

More information about state guidance is at covid19.ca.gov.

Theresa Harrington

Thursday, September 24, 2020, 6:20 pm

Link copied.Los Angeles Unified sued over ‘inadequate’ plan for distance learning

California’s biggest district is the subject of the state’s first lawsuit over distance learning.

Charging that Los Angeles Unified’s “inadequate” plan for remote learning violates students’ constitutional rights, nine parents filed a lawsuit Thursday in Los Angeles County Superior Court. They claim that Black and Latino children, English learners and students with disabilities have been disproportionately harmed by not getting sufficient instruction and the services they’re entitled to.

Two student advocacy groups, Parent Revolution and Innovate Public Schools, organized the lawsuit. The law firm of Kirkland & Ellis is handling the case without charge.

In legislation that Gov. Newsom signed this month, the state set minimum distance learning requirements, including hours of daily instruction, live daily interaction and support services, including mental health services. The lawsuit argues the district’s plan, which it negotiated with United Teachers Union, either doesn’t comply or falls short of what other districts are doing.

“Comparable districts like San Diego and Fresno have kept teacher time constant, rather than reducing student contact time in a time of crisis. Why is LAUSD retreating?” Paul Reville, a professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education and former Massachusetts secretary of education, wrote in a supporting testimony filed with the lawsuit.

Also Thursday, in other education litigation, three online charter organizations, representing 310 online charter operations in California, filed a second lawsuit over the state’s failure to fully fund the growth in student enrollments in their schools. In budget cleanup language passed in August, the Legislature partially increased funding for in-person charter schools with approved plans for growth in 2020-2021; that mostly addressed complaints by three of four charter schools organizations that filed suit last spring; the fourth, John Adams Academy, a TK-12 “Classical leadership” network, is continuing the lawsuit. The Legislature’s deal, however, left out online and hybrid charter schools — those whose students attend both online and in-person classes — leading to the second lawsuit.

John Fensterwald

Tuesday, September 22, 2020, 2:55 pm

Link copied.Five more counties move from purple to red tiers in state’s monitoring system

California’s Secretary of Health and Human Services, Dr. Mark Ghaly, announced Tuesday that five more counties have moved from the purple to the red tier on the state’s four-tiered, color-coded monitoring system: Alameda, Riverside, San Luis Obispo, San Mateo and Solano. Schools in counties in the red tier can open for in-person instruction after they have remained in that tier for two consecutive weeks. Nineteen counties are in the red tier.

This announcement brings the total number of counties in purple to 25 and includes 555 districts and 810 charter schools that educate more than 3.6 million public school students, not including private schools. Schools in the purple tier cannot reopen for in-person instruction unless they receive waivers for elementary students in grades K-6 or they adhere to strict guidance for small groups of students.

Meanwhile, Ghaly warned that many colleges have seen spikes in Covid-19 cases since students have returned, including San Diego State University. The spike caused San Diego County to exceed the purple case metrics for one week. However, a county must exceed the metrics for two consecutive weeks before it moves into a more restrictive tier, so it remained in the red tier, Ghaly said, during his noon news briefing. To help prevent the spread of Covid-19, he said families should take precautions when welcoming college students back home, such as wearing face masks, staying 6 feet apart and minimizing mixing.

Theresa Harrington

Wednesday, September 16, 2020, 2:28 pm

Link copied.Governor addresses homeless housing for former foster youth, Pac-12 football

Gov. Newsom on Wednesday announced that the state is awarding more than $3 million to to the city of El Centro to build 13 tiny home duplexes in partnership with Imperial Valley College and the Imperial Valley College Foundation to house 26 homeless students who are former foster youth. The project is part of $76 million in first-round awards through the state’s “Homekey” program that aims to purchase and rehabilitate housing for people at risk of or experiencing homelessness.

Newsom also said he has been in conversation with Larry Scott, Commissioner of the Pacific-12 football conference, regarding the state’s guidance for college football. He said that nothing in the guidance prevents college football from resuming, but it does restrict practices to groups of 12 players and also requires them to be tested periodically.

And Newsom delivered an unequivocal “no” in response to a question about whether the state would allow San Diego County to exclude San Diego State University students from its Covid-19 testing metrics in determining where the county falls in the state’s four-tiered, color-coded monitoring system. He noted that the college students are part of the community spread. If San Diego County, which is currently in the red tier, exceeds the metrics to remain in that tier for one more week, it will move into the most restrictive purple tier on Sept. 23, said Dr. Mark Ghaly, secretary of the state’s Health and Human Services Department.

Theresa Harrington

Tuesday, September 15, 2020, 1:52 pm

Link copied.Three more counties move from purple to red on state’s four-tiered list

Inyo, Marin and Tehama counties have moved from the purple tier to the red tier on the state’s four-tiered, color-coded county monitoring system, Dr. Mark Ghaly, secretary of California’s Department of Health and Human Services, said Tuesday. This brings the total number of counties rated purple down to 30, and those rated red to 17, while the numbers in orange and yellow remained unchanged at nine and two, respectively. The 30 counties on the purple list include more than 3.9 million public school students in 640 districts and 933 charter schools, not including private schools.

Schools in counties that remain in the red tier for two consecutive weeks can reopen for in-person instruction, while those in the purple tier must continue distance learning unless they receive elementary waivers for K-6 students or follow guidance for small groups of students. Ghaly acknowledged that San Diego County, which has been rated red for the past two weeks, is reporting an increase in cases that could lead it to move into purple if the surge continues. A high number of cases reported at San Diego State University may have contributed to this surge, Ghaly said, during a noon news briefing.

Ghaly also clarified that schools open for in-person instruction are required to ensure that staff is tested for Covid-19 regularly. Although state guidance issued July 17 recommended that staff be tested at least once every two months, Ghaly said each county public health department can determine the level of testing they believe is appropriate. A recent state contract with the diagnostics company PerkinElmer is expected to help schools meet the demand for testing, he said.

Theresa Harrington

Monday, September 14, 2020, 12:24 pm

Link copied.Los Angeles Unified launches Covid-19 testing, contact-tracing programs

Los Angeles Unified on Monday launched the beginning of an ambitious plan to provide coronavirus testing and contact tracing to hundreds of thousands of teachers and staff.

California’s largest school district, the second largest in the nation, has begun testing staff who are currently working at school sites, as well as their children in child care at schools. In the coming weeks, tests will be provided to all 500,000 students who are enrolled in L.A. Unified schools. All 75,000 staff members in the district will also be tested. 

However, a return to in-person learning is not imminent. The goal of testing all students will be to give the district a better understanding of infection rates across the district. There will be a second round of baseline testing once the district is closer to fully reopening campuses.

“Don’t expect to see a decision about a return to school classrooms by students until the case rate in the area is significantly lower and remains there,” Superintendent Austin Beutner said Monday in a pre-recorded speech.

 

Michael Burke

Friday, September 11, 2020, 11:32 am

Link copied.Long Beach Unified to continue with distance learning through January

Long Beach Unified will continue with online-only learning through at least the end of the current semester, which continues until Jan. 28, Superintendent Jill Baker announced Thursday.

“One of the hardest things about navigating through this pandemic is that we cannot see its end,” Baker said in a video message. “The never-ending feeling is hard on all of us as we try to make decisions in the best interest of our students, while protecting everyone’s health and safety.”

With more than 70,000 students, Long Beach Unified is California’s fourth largest district and the second largest in Los Angeles County. The county’s public health director, Barbara Ferrer, told school leaders Thursday that schools in the county won’t be able to fully reopen for in-person learning until November at the earliest, according to the Los Angeles Times.

However, schools are permitted beginning next week to bring back small groups of students who who are English learners or students who have individualized education plans. Baker said Thursday that Long Beach Unified would “continue to plan for potential phasing in of some student support services and some limited in-class instruction prior to the end of the first semester.”

Michael Burke

Wednesday, September 9, 2020, 2:44 pm

Link copied.Governor reiterates education support, previews new equity testing protocol

Gov. Newsom on Wednesday reiterated the state’s support for schools that are dealing with the challenges of distance learning, saying it is providing $5.3 billion to help mitigate learning loss that can be used in a variety of ways, including for devices and internet access, mental health and academic support. As the father of four children who are learning from home, Newsom said his youngest children are finding it tougher to remain online for long periods of time than are his older kids. He added that the state wants to ensure students can go back to campuses as soon as possible, but that it must be safe to do so.

Newsom also said that he supports the affirmative action initiative on the November ballot, Proposition 16, which he believes will restore opportunities to Black students and others who have been denied access to University of California and California State University campuses since affirmative action was abolished in 1995. “The drawback of the status quo is self evident,” he said, citing data that shows dwindling minority enrollment in state universities.

And in response to a question about a new “equity” Covid-19 testing protocol that is expected to be released later this week, Newsom said some counties are not testing diverse populations as much as they should, noting that Covid-19 disproportionately impacts Black and Latino communities. On the other hand, he said, other counties are doing a good job of testing diverse communities, which could impact their case numbers and positivity rates, and that all counties should be making robust testing efforts.

Theresa Harrington

Tuesday, September 8, 2020, 2:33 pm

Link copied.Five counties move from purple to red in state’s four-tiered system

State Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly announced Tuesday that five counties have moved from the purple to red tier in the California’s color-coded tracking system: Amador, Orange, Placer, Santa Clara and Santa Cruz. If these counties stay in the red tier for 14 consecutive days, they will be able to reopen for in-person instruction, according to state guidelines.

Gov. Newsom also announced during his noon news briefing that the state has teamed up with Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit that funds “Sesame Street,” to release three new public service announcements featuring the characters Elmo, Grover and Oscar the Grouch highlighting back-to-school safety messages about wearing masks and other health precautions. The short videos were funded through the Skoll Foundation, founded by philanthropist Jeff Skoll, and his Participant media company, as part of Sesame Workshop’s #CaringForEachOther initiative to support families during the Covid-19 pandemic, according to a news release.

Although both Newsom and Ghaly said Covid-19 cases are decreasing statewide overall, they warned that spikes might be seen in the next few weeks based on gatherings that occurred over Labor Day weekend. Ghaly said 33 counties are now in the purple tier (indicating widespread cases), 14 are in red (indicating substantial cases), nine are in the orange tier (indicating moderate cases) and two are in the yellow tier (indicating minimal cases).

Theresa Harrington

Wednesday, September 2, 2020, 12:07 pm

Link copied.Legislature fixes funding for growing districts and some charter schools, gives them more time to spend learning loss aid

In the 2020-21 state budget approved in June, the Legislature agreed to fund school districts based on 2019-20 attendance levels, anticipating that the coronavirus pandemic would create havoc with school attendance this year. While most districts welcomed the idea, school districts and charter schools that had planned for growth in enrollment complained they’d be underfunded as a result. Before they adjourned on Monday, legislators approved a compromise. The state will mostly fund enrollment increases that were budgeted for as of last spring. Left out of the deal, however, are online charter schools, which have threatened to file a lawsuit to get their share of the additional funding.

Among other final actions on education, legislators:

John Fensterwald

Friday, August 28, 2020, 3:19 pm

Link copied.California replaces county monitoring list with color-coded list

Gov. Newsom on Friday announced that the state is replacing the county monitoring list with a new color-coded list that includes four categories that will guide when businesses can reopen and schools can offer in-person instruction.

The new coding system, which goes into effect on Monday Aug. 31, includes four tiers, each of which is assigned a color. Purple, or Tier 1, indicates “widespread” incidence of the virus. Red (Tier 2) indicates “substantial” incidence, while orange (Tier 3) indicates “moderate” and yellow (Tier 4) indicates “minimal” incidence of the virus in the county. The assigned color or tier will be based on a combination of the number of new positive cases per 100,000 population and the percentage of positive test results of the total number of tests administered.

Go here to see where your county ranks on the tiered list. Check out this Q&A from the Los Angeles Times. 

https://twitter.com/CAgovernor/status/1299430489883770880?s=20

The situation for school openings and closings will remain effectively the same. Tier 1 — colored purple — is equivalent to the previous county monitoring list. Schools in counties within Tier 1 “are not permitted to reopen for in-person instruction,” unless they have received waivers tor children in K-6 grades. According to EdSource’s tally, “purple,” or Tier 1 counties include 5.3 million, or 87%, of California’s public school students, as well as hundreds of thousands of other students in private and parochial schools.

However, the new color-coded system did generate some changes from the state monitoring list — as well as confusion in at least one county regarding plans for offering in-school instruction.

As a result of the new tiered ranking, both San Francisco and Napa County will now be ranked “red,” giving them permission to open schools for in-person instruction in two weeks, assuming that they continue to meet the criteria for that ranking during that time. However, while they might have the ability to open, that does not mean that they will, as Jill Tucker reports in the San Francisco Chronicle.

There was considerable confusion regarding the ranking of Orange County, which came off the state’s monitoring list less than a week ago (on Aug. 23). Some public and private schools were planning to open their schools for in person instruction after Labor Day, after they had stayed off the list for the required two weeks. But according to the new ranking system Orange County is now in Tier 1, with a purple color code, which means they couldn’t offer in-classroom instruction.

Gov. Newsom hinted in his Friday briefing that some counties would come off the Tier 1 list very soon. That might apply to Orange County. In a tweet on Friday, Dr. Clayton Chau, the county’s new public health director, said Friday that “as long as Orange County continues trending in a positive way,” K-12 schools will be in a position to resume on-site instruction as early as Sept. 8.

However, on Saturday, the county’s health care agency tweeted again saying it was requesting “additional clarification” from the state, and that the county is still “in limbo.” For more explanation on the situation in Orange County, check out the website of the county’s Department of Education here.

Counties are rated purple if their case numbers exceed 7 per 100,000 residents or the fraction of positive test results is more than 8%, indicating that Covid-19 is “widespread.” A county is rated red if it records 4 to 7 new cases per 100,000 residents or 5% to 8% of total tests are positive, indicating “substantial” spread.

Schools in counties on the purple list cannot reopen until their county has moved to red for 14 days, unless they receive an elementary waiver for students in grades K-6, said Dr. Mark Ghaly, the state’s secretary of Health and Human Services, during a news briefing.

Counties reporting 1 to 3.9 new daily cases per 100,000 residents, or 2% to 4.9% positive results out of the total tested, are rated orange for “moderate” spread; and those with less than 1 new daily case per 100,000 residents and less than 2% of total tests that are positive are rated yellow for “minimal” spread.

This is what the guidance from the California Dept. of Public Health on Aug. 28, called Blueprint for a Safer Economy, said about schools specifically:

Schools may reopen for in-person instruction based on equivalent criteria to the July 17th School Re-opening Framework previously announced. That framework remains in effect except that Tier 1 is substituted for the previous County Data Monitoring List (which has equivalent criteria to Tier 1). Schools in counties within Tier 1 are not permitted to reopen for in-person instruction, with an exception for waivers granted by local health departments for TK-6 grades. Schools that are not authorized to reopen, including TK-6 schools that have not received a waiver, may provide structured, in-person supervision and services to students under the Guidance for Small Cohorts/Groups of Children and Youth.

Schools are eligible for reopening fully for in-person instruction following California School Sector Specific Guidelines once the county is off Tier 1 for 14 days, which is similar to being off the County Data Monitoring List for at least 14 days.

Potential re-closure should follow the July 17th School Re-opening Framework.

Louis Freedberg contributed to this news update on Saturday, Aug. 29 to reflect recent developments. 

Theresa Harrington

Thursday, August 27, 2020, 11:15 am

Link copied.California has given 109 schools waivers to open for in-person instruction

The California Department of Public Health has approved 109 schools for waivers as reported in its new statewide list of elementary schools that have received waivers to open as of Aug. 25, the latest update. The schools are primarily private and religious schools in Orange, San Diego and San Bernardino Counties. Four schools were denied.

In July, the state said that county health officers, after consulting with state public health officials, could permit K-6 schools to open in counties where schools are closed to in-person instruction because of high rates of infection and other coronavirus-related criteria. Schools must submit plans assuring that health protocols would be followed, including social distancing, face coverings and testing.

Several small elementary school districts in San Benito, Orange and San Diego counties, the Moreland School District in San Jose and the Learning Choice Academy, a charter school network in San Diego County, also have received waivers. San Diego County announced this week it was suspending waiver applications, since the county is off the state monitoring list, and all schools will be allowed to reopen, as of Sept. 1.

John Fensterwald

Thursday, August 27, 2020, 9:50 am

Link copied.Students, teachers who test positive for Covid-19 don’t need to retest before returning to campus

California workers and students who test positive for Covid-19 should not have to be retested for the virus before they are allowed to return to work or school, according to new guidance from the California Department of Public Health released Monday.

The decision was based on international studies that show that patients can test positive for the virus for up to three months after infection, although virus levels are too low to infect others.

Individuals who test positive can return to campuses and workplaces after at least 10 days have passed since symptoms first appeared and after at least 24 hours have passed without a fever. Symptoms should also have improved, according to the Department of Public Health. People who test positive for Covid-19 but never develop symptoms can return to school or work 10 days after the test.

Previous guidance required a person to wait 72 hours after a fever before returning to work or school.

Diana Lambert

Wednesday, August 26, 2020, 3:46 pm

Link copied.Governor announces county monitoring list down to 34 California counties

Gov. Newsom on Wednesday said the state’s Covid-19 county monitoring list now includes 34 of the state’s 58 counties, with the addition of Tehama and the recent removal of Amador and Glenn. The list includes 706 districts and 1,023 charter schools that enroll more than 4.8 million public school students, not including those in private schools, according to an EdSource analysis.

Based on state guidance, schools in counties on the list cannot open for in-person instruction until they have been removed from the list for 14 consecutive days, unless they receive an elementary waiver for students in grades K-6 or are adhering to newly released guidelines for small groups of children.

Newsom also announced a new plan to double the state’s Covid-19 testing capacity and reduce turnaround times for test results to 24-48 hours. Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly said the state’s new deal with PerkinElmer, a major diagnostics company could allow testing to be done at schools in the future and would help schools and communities to conduct contact tracing when Covid-19 outbreaks occur.

Theresa Harrington

Tuesday, August 25, 2020, 3:38 pm

Link copied.Los Angeles County districts can now apply for waivers to open elementary schools for in-person instruction

Although Los Angeles County is still on the state’s county monitoring list due to a high number of Covid-19 cases, its case numbers have fallen below 200 per 100,000 residents. This is the threshold that allows elementary schools to seek waivers to provide in-person instruction to students in grades K-6, the state’s Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly said during a Tuesday news briefing.

As a Los Angeles County resident and former county employee, Ghaly said he trusts county officials to make good decisions for students in their local communities regarding waivers, in partnership with districts, labor unions, parents and community members. Ghaly also said that updated state guidance for reopening businesses to be released later this week would not impact schools, so districts in counties on the monitoring list can continue to plan for possibly bringing students back to campuses after their counties have been removed from the monitoring list for 14 consecutive days, unless they receive elementary waivers.

Theresa Harrington

Monday, August 24, 2020, 4:24 pm

Link copied.Governor announces five counties recently removed from monitoring list, bringing total to 35

Gov. Newsom on Monday announced that the state’s county monitoring list now includes 35 of the state’s 58 counties, down from 40 a few days ago. The counties recently removed are: Calaveras, Mono, Napa, Orange and Sierra, he said.

The current list includes 702 school districts and 1,023 charter schools that serve more than 4.8 million students, 78% of all California students. That does not include students in private schools, according to an EdSource analysis. Based on state guidance, no public or private school can open for in-person instruction if it is in a county on the list until that county has been removed for 14 consecutive days, unless it has received an elementary waiver for students in grades K-6.

Theresa Harrington

Monday, August 24, 2020, 11:06 am

Link copied.Oakland Unified teachers’ union ratifies distance learning agreement

The Oakland Education Association teachers’ union has voted to approve a tentative agreement reached Aug. 12 with Oakland Unified that will guide how distance learning will be provided to students starting Monday and extending through Dec. 30.

The agreement — approved by 77% of all teachers — requires that students receive between 60 minutes and 150 minutes of live instruction each day, depending on grade level, along with at least 100 minutes to 215 minutes of pre-recorded or other instruction that is not presented live. Instruction is expected to take place between 9 a.m. and 3:15 p.m. Teachers and other union members — including counselors, psychologists, social workers and nurses — are expected to work an average of six hours and 10 minutes each day. Teachers are also given flex time during the school day to use for a variety of tasks such as connecting with families and collaborating with colleagues. In addition, teachers will be given extra time to plan for online courses each Wednesday through Sept. 23.

Although school started Aug. 10, negotiations continued before both sides reached an agreement. In a joint statement, district Superintendent Kyla Johnson-Trammell and union President Keith Brown said the agreement “prioritizes health and safety as well as a rigorous learning experience despite the unprecedented challenges we are facing during the Covid-19 pandemic.”

Theresa Harrington

Friday, August 21, 2020, 5:33 pm

Link copied.Governor says he expects San Francisco and Orange counties to come off watch list soon

Gov. Newsom on Friday said San Francisco and Orange Counties are expected to soon be removed from the county monitoring list, starting a process that could result in the reopening of schools in those counties to in-person instruction.

That list currently includes 38 counties that educate nearly 5.3 million public school students in 734 districts and 1,057 charter schools, not including private schools. Calaveras County and Napa County were removed from the list as of Friday after San Diego, Placer and Santa Cruz counties were removed earlier in the week.

According to the state’s data, Orange County has met the threshold to be removed from the list for two days and will be removed on Saturday if it continues to meet the requirements for reduced cases and other criteria. San Francisco is still exceeding the threshold for its number of Covid-19 cases and has fewer intensive care unit beds available than the state requires, so it is not likely to be removed from the list before Monday.

In response to a question about California’s guidance for reopening schools, Newsom reiterated that the state wants students to be able to go back to classrooms for in-person instruction as soon as possible, but only if it can be done safely. He said the state has released detailed guidelines related to the steps schools and districts must take if they do open for in-person instruction, including that they must be off the county monitoring list for 14 consecutive days, should ensure that staff is tested for Covid-19 every two months and must ensure that contact tracing is conducted in partnership with local health officers if an outbreak occurs on campus.

Theresa Harrington

Thursday, August 20, 2020, 1:17 pm

Link copied.Data glitch, confusion over county monitoring list, prompt school closures

Three small schools in Mendocino County were told they needed to close in-person learning on Wednesday after officials determined their county was on the state’s monitoring list. The confusion began on Tuesday when the schools were told by county Schools Superintendent Michelle Hutchins who was told by the state that they could stay open but on Wednesday the state reversed course and said they had to close. As a result, Whale Gulch School, the Waldorf School of Mendocino County and the Ukiah Junior Academy Christian school were forced to move to distance learning.

Part of the confusion stemmed from a data glitch that froze the county monitoring list late last month, after it was discovered that the state’s database numbers for Covid-19 cases were inaccurate. Since the county was not on the list before it was frozen, schools assumed they were free to open for in-person instruction. However, they were told on Wednesday that the state decided to retroactively add the county to the list as of July 25, before they opened. This means that all public and private schools in the county are not allowed to open for in-person instruction until the county is removed from the list for 14 consecutive days. However, the schools can apply for elementary waivers for their K-6 students, based on state guidance.

Theresa Harrington

Wednesday, August 19, 2020, 4:00 pm

Link copied.Placer County off state monitoring list, bringing total to 40 counties

The county monitoring list that guides when schools can reopen for in-person instruction continues to fluctuate daily, with Placer County dropping off the list Wednesday, bringing the total to 40 of the state’s 58 counties that have been on the list for three or more days. San Francisco County is expected to drop off on Thursday, Gov. Newsom said during his Wednesday news briefing.

With San Diego and Placer Counties off the list, it now covers 745 districts and 1,060 charter schools with a combined 5,323,076 students. That’s 87.67% of students in the state.

Theresa Harrington / EdSource

Gov. Newsom discusses the county monitoring list that determines when schools and businesses can reopen during an Aug 19, 2020 news briefing.

When asked about a private school that called itself a day care center and opened in Sacramento County, which is on the list, Newsom said he was not aware of that specific situation, but he acknowledged that some people may be “testing the boundaries of some of the state orders,” and said local health officers should enforce the orders to ensure that students and school staffs are safe. He reiterated that schools in counties not on the monitoring list can provide in-person learning with modifications, but added that community spread of Covid-19 must be taken into consideration.

Newsom said the state expects to release updated guidance next week related to modifications for reopening businesses, which could include 21-day waiting periods instead of the current 14-days, so that reopening is “sustainable, not just episodic,” as the state anticipates a “second wave” of Covid-19 infection in the fall.  However, he didn’t say which sectors the new guidance would affect.

Theresa Harrington

Tuesday, August 18, 2020, 5:32 pm

Link copied.San Diego comes off state monitoring list allowing schools to open if it stays off for 14 days

San Diego County was taken off the state’s county monitoring list Tuesday, which could allow the approximately 780 public schools and roughly 200 private schools in the county to open for in-person instruction if the county stays off the list for 14 consecutive days.

The county’s rates of infection fell below the level required to remain on the list, below 100 per 100,000 residents, according to Music Watson, spokeswoman for the San Diego County Office of Education. 

California’s Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly told a press briefing Tuesday that in general case numbers are coming down in southern California, although they are rising in some smaller northern California Counties added to the list on Monday. He also noted that Santa Cruz County was removed from the list on Monday. 

Based on state guidance, no public or private school can open for in-person instruction if it is located in a county on the list until the county has been removed from the list for 14 consecutive days. However, Ghaly noted that elementary schools in counties on the list can request waivers to open for K-6 students if the total number of Covid-19 cases is less than 200 per 100,000 residents.

At the same time, Placer County has been put back on the list resulting in 41 counties on the list which guides when schools and businesses can reopen.

As flu season gets underway, Ghaly urged Californians to get flu vaccines and said children should also get caught up on other vaccines they may have fallen behind in getting since the shelter-in-place order last March.

“Unlike flu, Covid-19 has not had as significant an impact on young people,” he said. “Flu is notorious for having a great impact on our youngest children, including infants and toddlers.”

Of the total Covid-19 cases statewide, Ghaly said about 66,200 were reported in youth ages 0-17, or less than 10% of the total cases, although children in that age group make up 22% of the state’s population. Of those 0-17 with Covid-19, Ghaly said about 570 were admitted to hospitals and 60 were admitted to intensive care units. He added that the disease is disproportionately affecting Latino children, who make up 71.5% of the age 0-17 cases across the state.

Theresa Harrington

Tuesday, August 18, 2020, 5:29 pm

Link copied.Citywide Oakland technology campaign begins distributing devices to students

Although school started remotely in Oakland Unified on Aug. 10, a citywide campaign aimed at closing the digital divide in Oakland did not begin distributing devices to students in the district until Tuesday – six days after students were expected to log into classes. The campaign, called “Oakland Undivided,” expects to distribute 25,000 Chromebooks and about 10,000 WiFi hotspots to K-12 students in both district and charter schools by the end of the month.

Courtesy of Oakland Unified

Oakland Unified students receive free Chromebooks through the Oakland Undivided campaign on Aug. 17, 2020.

The group characterized its distribution of about 300 devices to students at Futures Elementary, Community United Elementary and Coliseum College Prep Academy as a “soft launch,” meaning the bulk of the technology is not expected to be given to students for about two weeks. In the meantime, the district has provided students with  district-owned devices that can be exchanged for permanent computers that students can keep to use each year as they progress through elementary, middle and high school.

The campaign – which is a partnership between the district, city and nonprofit Oakland Public Education Fund – was not able to deliver the devices sooner due to a backlog of orders nationwide, organizers said. The campaign raised $12.5 million last May – including a $10 million contribution from Twitter founder Jack Dorsey – to ensure that students have the technology they need for distance learning.

Theresa Harrington

Monday, August 17, 2020, 3:45 pm

Link copied.Newsom said power outages expected to ease by Wednesday

In response to rolling blackout power outages that have occurred due to a heat wave in California over the weekend, Gov. Newsom on Monday signed an executive proclamation aimed at investigating the reasons Calfornia wasn’t prepared and didn’t give residents and businesses adequate warning. He said the power outages could continue through Wednesday and urged Californians to limit energy use from 3-10 p.m.

Although Newsom noted that the outages are “short-term,” he said the state would likely take loss of power into consideration if it affects distance learning in terms of required instructional minutes and student attendance. However, he was not sure how this would be addressed.

Newsom also announced that the county monitoring list that has been frozen since July 31 has been updated with backlogged data, with Amador, Mendocino, Inyo, Calaveras and Sierra counties added to the list and Santa Cruz County removed, bringing the total to 42 counties. County public health departments are using the list to determine whether schools can reopen for in-person instruction and whether to require elementary schools to request waivers for K-6 instruction.

Theresa Harrington

Sunday, August 16, 2020, 10:19 pm

Link copied.LA Unified to unroll ambitious Covid-19 testing for all students and staff

Putting flesh on a strategy he outlined several months ago, Los Angeles Unified Superintendent Austin Beutner has unveiled a plan that eventually will test the approximately 600,000 students and 75,000 staff members in the district for Covid-19.

The proposed plan, to be conducted in collaboration with several universities, private companies and insurers, and testing labs, represents the most ambitious plan proposed by any school district in the nation.

Described the testing plan in an op-ed piece published Sunday evening in the Los Angeles Times, Beutner said “an effort like this is not simple and the scale is daunting.” But, he said, if it works “it can be a model for the school districts and communities across the country.”

The district will open on Monday via distance learning, so the vast majority of students and staff will not be in school. Under current state guidelines, LA Unified is barred for the foreseeable future from providing in-school instruction. But a major goal of the plan is to prepare for bringing students and staff safely back to school when health conditions improve in the county.

The testing initiative will begin with staff who are currently in schools and children participating in child care programs offered by the district.

Those tested may also include classified staff, such as those making meals in cafeterias, school counselors and school administrators working either in schools or in district headquarters.

Beutner said testing would also be provided to family members of students and staff who test positive for virus, or show symptoms of the disease.

UCLA, Stanford and Johns Hopkins University will participate in overseeing the testing and contact tracing program. Microsoft will provide an application to manage the program and share information. Testing labs and health insurers Anthem Blue Cross and HealthNet will also “share their data to provide a more robust overall picture of how the novel coronavirus affects different communities.”

According to the New York Times, former U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan will also be involved, and help coordinate the multiple agencies involved in the ambitious program.

Beutner said the plan would cost about $300 per student over the course of the year. “But this is really about something that can’t be measured in dollars and cents,” he wrote in the op-ed piece. “It’s about creating opportunity for children. A good education is the path out of poverty for many students and the promise of a better future for all of them.”

Louis Freedberg

Friday, August 14, 2020, 3:07 pm

Link copied.Newsom signs executive order to close digital divide; small groups of students allowed to attend schools in-person

In an effort to close the so-called “digital divide” throughout the state and provide computers and internet access to all students and families who need them, Gov. Gavin Newsom on Friday announced that he has signed an executive order that calls for improvement in these areas. Newsom said during his noon press briefing that he is calling on broadband providers to improve their efforts to make internet services affordable and more widely available in all parts of the state.

https://twitter.com/CAgovernor/status/1294371525060001792?s=20

Newsom and Linda Darling-Hammond, president of the state Board of Education, also said the state expects to release new guidance within the next week that would allow schools to provide in-person instruction to small groups of vulnerable students who cannot be adequately served through distance learning, including those with special needs, even if they are located in counties on the state’s “monitoring list.” Darling-Hammond said she expects the guidance to be similar to guidance for child care centers, which are allowed to provide in-person care to small groups of students even in areas where schools are not allowed to reopen.

Newsom said the state has finished updating its backlog of cases that resulted in a data glitch and required the state to freeze the county monitoring list. Of the approximately 295,000 backlogged lab reports, he said there were 20,000 positive Covid-19 test results, which will be added retroactively to county databases by Monday, when the county monitoring list will be updated. This will allow counties to begin processing elementary school waivers, he said.

Theresa Harrington

Friday, August 14, 2020, 3:03 pm

Link copied.Inland Empire elementary school receives waiver to reopen

A San Bernardino County elementary school is one of the first in California to reopen starting next Thursday with a hybrid model after receiving approval for a waiver that will allow the school to offer in-person instruction despite being located in a county on the state’s monitoring list for Covid-19.

Lucerne Valley Elementary plans to resume instruction with a hybrid model where no more than 12 students in a class at one time, according to Lucerne Valley Unified superintendent Peter Livingston. The district had already welcomed all of its students back to school virtually on August 6 before gaining approval to re-open the school.

Students will return in cohorts for two days per week and will do distance learning the remaining days they are at home. Classrooms will be outfitted with dividers between students in an effort to maintain six feet of distance between students, there will be temperature checks at bus stops and before students walk on campus, and lunch schedules will be adjusted to avoid clustering students together.

Families who prefer to continue with distance learning will have the option to do so, Livingston said, however the majority of parents told the district they would participate in the hybrid mode.

Waivers are only available for elementary schools and the requirements for approval are extensive. Located more than 50 miles northeast of the city of San Bernardino, Lucerne Valley has about 57 cases per 100,000 residents, which falls below the state requirement of 200 cases per 100,000 residents to be considered for an elementary school reopening waiver. In comparison, the threshold that puts counties on the state monitoring list is 100 cases per 100,000 residents.

Sydney Johnson

Wednesday, August 12, 2020, 9:20 pm

Link copied.Oakland Unified reaches tentative agreement with teachers’ union

After negotiationg for more than a month, Oakland Unified School District announced Wednesday that it has reached a tentative agreement with the Oakland Education Association teachers’ union  regarding how distance learning will be provided to students during the 2020-21 school year, which started Monday. The district did not release specific details about the agreement, saying in a news release that both sides were still “fine-tuning some of the details.”

The district said the agreement “prioritizes teacher flexibility as well as a quality learning experience for students with consistent live interaction with their teachers and other OEA members” despite ”the unprecedented challenges” presented by the Covid-19 pandemic.

“While we do not always agree on the details, both OEA and OUSD are passionate about serving Oakland’s students and families,” said Superintendent Kyla Johnson-Trammell and OEA President, Keith Brown in a joint statement. “We have worked diligently to reach an agreement to shape distance learning for all students and OEA members. We thank all students, families, staff and the entire community for their support and patience during this challenging time.”

The union and school board expect to vote on the agreement “over the next week or so,” according to the news release. “If it is ratified, students and families can look forward to seeing the hard work of OEA and OUSD’s bargaining teams pay off in the virtual classroom setting.”

Theresa Harrington

Monday, August 10, 2020, 3:57 pm

Link copied.Governor says California’s Covid-19 county monitoring list will soon be updated

California has worked through its data backlog of nearly 300,000 cases which will allow an update of the state’s county monitoring list, Gov. Newsom said Monday.

Newsom said the data been sent to counties to be properly counted on the dates they were collected, with demographic data added. He said he expects that data to be added retroactively to each county’s records within 72 hours, so that dashboards for the past 14 days can be corrected and the county monitoring list can be updated.

If a district’s county is on the monitoring list, the district would have to apply for a waiver to open for in-person instruction for K-6. That process has been frozen since July 31, county public health departments have been unable to decide on elementary school waivers because they could not be sure how many cases were occurring in their jurisdictions. Based on state guidance, no public or private school in a county on the monitoring list can open for in-person instruction unless it has received an elementary school waiver for students in grades K-6 or until the county has been removed from the list for 14 consecutive days.

In response to a question about Orange County, which has high concentrations of Covid-19 cases in some areas but much lower percentages of cases in others, Newsom said it might be appropriate to grant elementary school waivers in the areas with a lower number of cases. Ultimately, these decisions are made in consultation with the local county Department of Public Health.

At his press briefing, Newsom took questions about the data glitches that have prevented the state from accurately reporting Covid-19 cases and positive rates of infection over the past two weeks.  Newsom said he has accepted the resignation of Dr. Sonia Angell, director of the Department of Public Health, and looks forward to working with a new team that has resolved not to repeat past mistakes.

Although Newsom declined to say why Angell resigned, he said it was an appropriate decision and noted that Dr. Mark Ghaly, secretary of the state’s Department of Health and Human Services, announced last Friday that a delay in communications about the problems would be investigated and people would be held accountable.

Newsom said he did not find out about the problems until last Monday afternoon, after he announced during his noon press conference that Covid-19 cases were trending downward. However, the Los Angeles Times reported that some local officials throughout California received communications from the state Department of Public Health the previous week about a problem with the CalREDIE data-tracking system.

While the infection data was a problem, Newsom said the state’s other data indicators on hospitalizations and death are trending positively.

 

 

Theresa Harrington

Thursday, August 6, 2020, 1:35 pm

Link copied.California elementary waivers stalled due to faulty Covid-19 case data statewide

Data related to Covid-19 case rates are incomplete due to glitches in the transmission of test results from testing labs to the state’s database, California officials have announced.

As a result new infection and positive testing rates over the past several days may be artificially low. Because this data is used to determine which county’s are on the state’s “monitoring list,” the faulty data is impeding the ability of elementary schools to submit waiver applications to reopen in person.

Dr. Mark Ghaly, the state’s Health and Human Services secretary, mentioned the data problems during a virtual news briefing Tuesday. He told reporters that “discrepancies” in the CalREDIE system had been discovered in the past few days.  “We’re working hard and immediately to reach out to the labs that we work with to get accurate information in a manual process so that we can feed that to our county partners,” Ghaly said.

The state subsequently stopped adding and removing counties from its monitoring list, the Sacramento Bee reported late Wednesday. The monitoring list is used by the state to determine which businesses open and whether schools can resume in-person instruction. Counties on the list with fewer than 200 infections per 100,000 residents can apply for the waivers, which must be approved by county public health officials. But without accurate case data, school and county officials do not have a clear idea of how risky it may be to reopen.

Theresa Harrington

Tuesday, August 4, 2020, 10:00 pm

Link copied.No union agreement yet in Oakland Unified, with school set to start Monday

Despite bargaining unti 3:30 a.m. Tuesday, the 21-member bargaining team for the Oakland Education Association announced Tuesday evening that it has not yet reached an agreement with Oakland Unified to determine how distance learning will be provided to students when school starts Monday.

Eighty-two % of union members – who include teachers, school psychologists, nurses and other staff members who work directly with students – voted to approve a “collective work action” starting Monday if no agreement is reached, they said during a Facebook Live event.

District spokesman John Sasaki said the district looks forward to coming to an agreement soon. “Even though we disagree in a few areas,” he said, “we know that OEA and OUSD are working hard to reach a deal and want the best for our students and families.”

A work action means that the union would abide by work hours, instructional plans and other items they have been negotiating based on their last offer instead of abiding by the district’s proposal. Major disagreements continue regarding how teachers will spend the first two weeks of school, the amount of flexibility they will be given within their work days, and what kinds of training they will receive, and how schedules for students in grades 6-12 will be determined.

The union wants to spend the first two weeks of school building relationships with students and families, ensuring that they have the technology and training necessary to begin online learning, and planning lessons with colleagues in the same grade levels and subject areas. Teachers and other members of the bargaining team said they remain committed to their proposal, which also includes provisions for improving the education of Black students.

Union member Bethany Meyer told EdSource after the presentation that teachers will report to work virtually Wednesday through Friday for professional development, as planned, and will report to schools virtually Monday to work according to their proposal. However, she said negotiations are continuing.

 

Theresa Harrington

Tuesday, August 4, 2020, 10:15 am

Link copied.California issues guidance for elementary schools to obtain waivers to reopen

The California Department of Public Health on Monday released guidance outlining the process for public and private elementary schools to seek waivers to reopen for in-person instruction if they are located in a county that is on the state’s “monitoring list” for Covid-19 cases. Under the guidance, which applies to students in grades K-6, schools or districts must apply for waivers to their county public health departments and must meet several strict criteria, including detailed plans for physical distancing, how they will handle outbreaks, and when they would close, if necessary.

The state recommends that schools in counties where the 14-day Covid-19 case rates are more than twice the threshold to be placed on the list (more than 200 cases for every 100,000 residents) not be considered for a waiver. Currently, 38 counties are on the list, representing more than 90% of the state’s population.

The state has also released a set of Frequently Asked Questions about its school guidance, which includes a section on the new elementary waivers. Before applying for a waiver, a school must consult with its staff, parents and community organizations. Local health officers should base their decisions about whether to grant the waivers on local case data and available interventions, and must consult with the state’s Department of Public Health. In addition, the state released updated school guidance covering a variety of issues related to school reopening protocols, as well as for youth sports.

Theresa Harrington

Monday, August 3, 2020, 4:49 pm

Link copied.Some California teachers join in national day of action seeking safe, healthy, equitable schools

A coalition of education activists and teachers’ unions is participating in a “National Day of Resistance” seeking “safe, healthy” and “equitable” schools. The coalition – which includes teachers’ unions in Los Angeles, Oakland and West Contra Costa Unified – is conducting rallies on Monday, as well as an online petition drive with several goals, including removing police from schools, improving safety protocols when schools reopen, and directing more federal funds toward education.

In Oakland, the group planned a late afternoon rally outside La Escuelita Elementary, followed by a car caravan to Superintendent Kyla Johnson-Trammell’s home. Members of the United Teachers of Richmond union in nearby West Contra Costa Unified planned to join the rally. They also sent a letter to the Contra Costa County Health Department and Contra Costa County Board of Education listing safe standards for reopening, which have been endorsed by 25 other educator unions in Alameda and Contra Costa counties.

By 3:45 p.m., more than 2,900 people had signed a letter to President Donald Trump on Change.org posted by the Journey for Justice Alliance – a group of “predominantly Black- and brown-led” community organizations from 30 cities throughout the country. More information about the national day of action is at www.demandsafeschools.org.

Theresa Harrington

Monday, August 3, 2020, 4:47 pm

Link copied.California Legislature’s ethnic studies bill heads to governor’s desk

Assembly Bill 1460, which would create an ethnic studies graduation requirement for students attending California State University, now awaits Gov. Gavin Newsom’s signature. The bill was approved by the Assembly last year and the Senate in June. The Assembly voted 51-9 today to approve minor amendments made by the Senate.

The bill’s author, Assemblymember Shirley Weber, and members of the California Faculty Association, the union representing CSU faculty, will hold a press conference Tuesday urging Newsom to sign AB 1460 to law. The bill is stricter than the new general education ethnic studies requirement the CSU Board of Trustees approved last month.

Ashley A. Smith