Editor’s Note: CSDC is offering these Coronavirus-19 updates for public viewing, to members and non-members alike, and in front of our usual member’s only “paywall” as a service to the larger charter school community. We hope nonmembers will consider joining CSDC.
Sacramento, CA — California’s schools will not reopen anytime soon, Governor Newsom and State Superintendent Thurmond announced today during a webcast press conference addressing the Coronavirus-19 (COVID-19) crisis. The Governor, State Superintendent Tony Thurmond (who yesterday had communicated similar themes), and State Board of Education President Linda Darling-Hammond joined the conference via telephone. They reviewed a broad range of issues during the conference including the current and growth curve of COVID-19 hospitalizations in California, grim projections for the next several weeks, the need for continued “social distancing,” and even supporting the notion of using homemade face coverings by the general public.
Schools May Be Closed, But Classes Are “In”
“It seems self-evident that we should not prepare to bring our children back into the school setting,” said the Governor, noting a large graph showing the rapid growth of COVID-19 hospitalizations exceeding available beds in coming weeks.
Instead, Newsom said “the right thing to do is to make sure that we are preparing today to set up our school system where we are increasing class time but increasing it at home and fulfilling our obligations through distance learning and other mechanisms to make sure we are educating our children but not on school sites” and “with the expectation that school will not reopen but classes are ‘in’.”
Other key takeaways from the press-teleconference include the following.
Fuzzy Accord Targets Labor Unrest
The Administration and several school district labor union and statewide school management groups reached a set of vague understandings regarding labor relations issues and COVID-19 that have quietly generated significant conflict at local bargaining tables. Some teacher unions have reportedly demanded overtime or double compensation to provide distance learning instruction while others, such as the Sacramento City Teachers Association, have presented lengthy lists of demands. These labor issues have compounded delays in providing distance instruction in many districts where students reportedly have received only token support.
The accord announced today outlines a series of fuzzy principles, purportedly in alignment with the governor’s executive order (N-26-20) including but not limited to the following:
Neither CSDC nor any other charter-specific organization was party to the accord. CSDC presumes the guidance is intended primarily to assist school districts and labor unions to reach more expeditious agreements, that it is not necessarily legally binding, but may offer guidance to charter schools addressing similar issues, albeit often outside of a union representation context.
Google to Donate Hotspots, Chromebooks
Google’s parent organization Alphabet will partner to provide 100 thousand wireless Internet points of access with three months of free service along with 4,000 Chromebook computers to help students who lack access and technology to participate in distance learning. The Governor acknowledged that “we need more Googles, but this is a substantial amount” to help close the gap. Darling-Hammond commented that an estimated 20 percent of the state’s students lacked internet connections at home, that recent efforts have reduced it by half, and that efforts to address the remaining 10 percent continue.
More Executive Orders Coming
The Administration anticipates releasing additional executive orders to address COVID-19 education issues, including offering more specific childcare guidelines and addressing other unspecified topics. Current guidance on childcare has been quite general, leaving many schools wondering about their specific role.
CDE Offering Special Education Distance Learning Webinar
The California Department of Education (CDE) will be offering a “Distance Learning Innovations for Special Education Webinar” Thursday, April 2 at 3:00PM. Though registration has exceeded capacity, the event will also be livestreamed on the CDE Facebook page. See also CSDC’s guidance on point posted last week.
Forthcoming Guidance to Address High School Graduation Concerns
Superintendent Thurmond and President Darling-Hammond noted that various postsecondary institutions are relaxing their usual college admissions requirements, including many that are suspending testing requirements. Darling-Hammond noted that state officials will post guidance soon on high school graduation requirements and grading issues, guidance on ensuring students are held-harmless from grading consequences related to COVID-19, that many colleges have agreed to accept pass/no pass grades for high school courses with no negative impact on grade-point averages, and that colleges plan to allow for revised financial aid reviews given students’ changing economic circumstances.
The joint guidance and additional details from the various higher education segments (UC, CSU, community colleges, private colleges) is posted online here.
Federal Waivers Allow for More Flexible Child Nutrition Support
The federal government has granted a number of waivers allowing for increased access to grab and go meals and has extended additional flexibility that allows schools to provide for child nutrition during the crisis under extraordinary constraints.
Newsom Gushes with Empathy for Moms
Governor Newsom repeatedly emphasized his empathy for families that are struggling to cope with stay-at-home orders, noting his personal experience as a father of four children. “As a parent of four, the oldest being ten, I have deep respect and empathy,” noting “my wife does a heroic amount of work.” Newsom offered support “particularly to women and moms, they’re already carrying a disproportionate burden.”
CSDC is continuing to publish regular, sequentially numbered updates summarizing key COVID-19 developments, along with webinars and other resources, all targeting the school perspective. If you have questions or concerns regarding charter schools and COVID-19, please let us know.