By John Woolfolk
California officials Thursday ordered schools statewide to begin reporting new coronavirus cases within 24 hours and their reopening status every two weeks as part of Gov. Gavin Newsom’s broader effort to spur a return of kids to the classroom.
That effort marks a change from last summer when the state was encouraging schools to start the new school year in online-only “distance learning” and had no plans to comprehensively track school cases or reopening. Districts and teacher unions have cited a lack of information about school outbreaks and reopenings as a concern. The infection information is to be reported to the state effective immediately and the reopening status starting Jan. 25, but it was unclear how much would be publicly available and when.
“Getting our kids and staff back into the classroom safely will help us continue turning the corner on this pandemic,” Newsom said in a statement.
Source: Coronavirus: California details plan to track school cases, reopening – The Reporter
By Jeremy Bauer-Wolf
The UC governing board voted in May to largely discontinue the use of entrance exams, dealing a major blow to the College Board and ACT, which rely heavily on revenue the tests generate. A federal judge later ruled, and an appeals court upheld, that the system couldn’t use the SAT or ACT when making decisions on admissions or scholarships for fall 2021.
As part of the system’s initial move to phase out the tests, its leaders said they would study whether they could create or adapt an admissions test to be available for fall 2025 applicants.
Source: U of California groups recommend Smarter Balanced test to replace SAT, ACT | Higher Ed Dive
By Sydney Johnson, EdSource
As Covid-19 cases continue to soar in California, a majority of the State Board of Education is now in favor of pursuing a waiver from the federal government that would remove the obligation to carry out standardized testing for the second year in a row.
The U.S. Department of Education waived federal testing requirements following abrupt school closures in March 2020, but this school year, the department intends to resume testing. Now, as California faces the largest daily number of cases it’s experienced yet, State Board of Education members say they want a testing waiver to be made available for states.
“It would be educational malpractice to require LEAs (local education agencies) to provide results of assessments that really are seriously in jeopardy of being valid going forward,” said State Board of Education member Sue Burr, during a public meeting on Wednesday. “It’s important to make a strong statement about how we feel about that.”
Source: California school officials push for standardized testing waiver amid COVID-19 spike – Times-Herald
U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos announced today more than $4 billion in additional COVID-19 emergency relief is now available to governors to ensure learning continues for students of all ages and at all schools. This emergency relief aid, the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief (GEER) Fund, has two components: supplemental GEER awards (GEER II) and the Emergency Assistance to Non-public Schools (EANS) awards, which comprise $2.75 billion of the total. These funds are authorized by the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2021, (CRRSA) Public Law 116-260, signed into law by President Donald J. Trump on Dec. 27, 2020. In total, CRRSA authorizes $81.88 billion in support for education, in addition to the $30.75 billion Secretary DeVos expeditiously provided this spring through the Coronavirus Aid, Recovery, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.
“As I’ve said from the beginning of this pandemic, parents are counting on strong and decisive state, local, and school leadership to ensure their students can continue to learn in ways that work for them,” said Secretary DeVos. “While some state and local education leaders have risen to the occasion, far too many parents are frustrated by a stunning lack of access to in-person learning for their kids. Every governor needs to utilize these taxpayer funds to safely reopen schools and ensure all students have the option to learn in person if that is what they want or need. The impact of school lockdowns has been disastrous for our students—especially those from low-income families. And, far too many private school students have suffered because interest groups, politicians, and lobbyists predictably played politics and protected their own lucrative gigs with taxpayer funding. I was pleased to see, this time around, that Congress finally acknowledged what this Administration has said all along: All students and all educators at all schools — private, parochial, and public — are affected by this pandemic, and they all need and deserve support for PPE, cleaning supplies, learning materials, and more.”
Source: Secretary DeVos Announces More than $4 Billion Available in Emergency Education Grants for Governors to Help Students Continue Learning | U.S. Department of Education
State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond today issued the following statement in response to Governor Gavin Newsom’s proposed education budget for the fiscal year 2021–22:“
At a time when a global pandemic has created extraordinary challenges for our students, families, and educators, the weeks and months ahead represent the most important moment for public education in a lifetime. The investments we choose must help our schools urgently and immediately recover from this crisis and accelerate learning for the students and families hardest hit by a global pandemic that has deepened historic inequities. Our priorities should not only help our schools emerge safely from the impacts of COVID-19, but should immediately double down on our efforts to level the playing field for a generation of students.
“I want to thank Governor Gavin Newsom for proposing a budget that—until our educators, school employees and communities are vaccinated—addresses main areas of need as public schools consider how to safely resume in-person instruction. Today’s budget proposal also represents a strong start at tackling the growing access and learning gaps experienced most severely among our students of color, low-income households, children with disabilities, and students learning English.
Source: Thurmond’s Statement on Governor’s Proposed Budget – Year 2021 (CA Dept of Education)
By Amy Maginnis-Honey
When youngsters return to the Fairfield-Suisun Adult School preschool program they will be welcomed by a completed mural that covers the outside walls of the classrooms and faces the play area.
Artist Stephanie Lombard added many details to the happy interactive scene where toddlers are encouraged to do modified push-ups with a painted raccoon, size their feet with the bear tracks painted on the cement, trace a bee trail and enjoy myriad creatures.
One detail includes a stick figure at two different mural locations – one in a bird’s nest, the other dancing with ladybugs.
Source: Fairfield-Suisun Adult School preschool welcomes new mural
By Richard Bammer
While COVID-19 has upended the world for nearly a year, it has forced us to put on our collective thinking caps to deal with it, especially when it comes to educating children and adults.
But as our public institutions shut down or scale back operations during the pandemic, with no sign of letting up amid another surge, two area school districts and the Solano County Library have locked virtual arms and reached out to increase reading and literacy and to promote digital learning.
Using wireless technology in an effort to support new generations of lifelong learners and readers, the library system and Fairfield-Suisun and Travis unified school districts have formed what educators and library leaders say is an innovative new partnership to increase access to more ebooks and e-audiobooks for students.
Source: Increasing literacy, online learning? There’s an app for that – The Reporter
By Kris Corey
The Fairfield-Suisun Unified School District (FSUSD) Governing Board approved a resolution proclaiming January 2021 as Positive Parenting Awareness Month. First 5 Solano, Solano County Board of Supervisors, and Solano County Office of Education are also supporting this proclamation. The collective goal is to bring awareness to the importance of positive parenting, nurturing healthy children, and resources available in the community to support families.
“This resolution affirms that quality of parenting is one of the most powerful predictors of a child’s future success,” said Parent and Family Engagement Coordinator, Holly Collins. “It encourages parents and caregivers to seek and accept support from community resources and programs, and marks a collaborative effort with organizations outside of our district to provide those services.”
Source: Good News: Fairfield-Suisun Unified School District Proclaims January 2021 as Positive Parenting Awareness Month
By Matt Sieger
Vacaville’s Imagine That! in Alamo Plaza was created to offer a place where kids of all ages can come play, learn and explore all the possibilities. But what happens to a creative program when a pandemic strikes?
Well, the creative people in charge imagined a way to adapt to the crisis.
Imagine That! came up with a unique School Support and Enrichment program which fuses its existing program with support for students’ schooling.
“It started with a throwaway line,” recalls Director of Operations Alex Christensen. “We were talking about doing afterschool programs, and (someone said), ‘Hey, instead of after school what if we just did school for them?’ The director at the time, her ears perked up and she took it to the board. Lauren (Runow, Board president) jumped on it and started talking with the Vacaville Unified (School District).”
Source: Imagine That! is doing school – The Reporter
By Nick Sestanovich
They are angels with bags of food for area elementary students who may be food-insecure during weekends when local schools are not offering or distributing free lunches and breakfasts.
As co-director of the Vacaville chapter of End 68 Hours of Hunger — a reference to the weekend time period that gives the group its name — Tinamarie DeStefano of Vacaville said the mission is to give away food to eat, Friday night to Sunday night, to young students in four Solano County school districts, making a difference at more than a dozen schools in all.
The food — nonperishable pantry foods, peanut butter and jelly, granola bars, fruit cups and the like — helps the students, many of whom are from poor families or at-risk, “to focus,” improve test scores, and lessen behavioral problems, such as Attention Deficit Disorder, DeStefano said.
Source: Angels with food bags for area school kids – The Reporter
By Jeremy Bauer-Wolf
DeVos, a billionaire and longtime GOP supporter, had a rocky start in the Trump administration, beginning with her high-profile confirmation hearings during which she infamously stumbled over basic questions from lawmakers and cited the need for guns in K-12 schools to protect them from grizzly bears.
She was a widely unpopular pick among legislators and education groups on the left. She barely passed muster with the Senate during her confirmation, with Vice President Mike Pence needing to serve as the tie-breaking vote.
While DeVos is perhaps best known for her advocacy of school choice in the K-12 realm, she introduced several notable regulations that confounded higher education.
Source: Betsy DeVos resigns, citing violent unrest in Capitol | Higher Ed Dive
State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond today congratulated two California schools for receiving national recognition as 2020 National Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) Distinguished Schools—formerly known as National Title I Distinguished Schools. Sixth Street Prep School in the Victor Elementary School District and Solano Avenue Elementary School in Los Angeles Unified School District are two of up to 100 schools throughout the country being recognized.
“Congratulations to principals Collin Rowe and Jorge Parra, as well as all of the educators, staff, administrators, parents, and students at these schools,” said Thurmond. “Not only were these two schools already named 2020 California Distinguished Schools, they’re also being recognized for their excellent work closing achievement gaps between student groups and ensuring academic growth for students who need extra assistance.”
Source: 2020 National ESEA Distinguished Schools Announced – Year 2021 (CA Dept of Education)
By Nick Sestanovich
Kairos Public Schools no longer has to wait days for a staff member to test negative for COVID-19 to return to campus. Through the acquisition of a rapid testing kit, all of that can be done in a matter of minutes.
On Dec. 15, Kairos received certification from the California Department of Public Health to be designated as a licensed clinical laboratory, allowing staff to receive a test and get results within 15 minutes. Jared Austin, executive director of Kairos, said that one of the challenges since reopening has been staff taking periods of time off as they await results. Currently, if a staff member is exhibiting symptoms, they must stay home until they receive a negative result or quarantine for 10 days. While no staff member has tested positive yet, he said that prolonged absences would create operational challenges.
Source: Coronavirus: Kairos becomes clinical testing lab – The Reporter
By Darren Sabedra
When the California Department of Public Health released its long-awaited youth sports guidelines in mid-December, it stated that while nothing would start before Jan. 25, it would reassess the situation by Jan. 4.
Well, Jan. 4 came and went without a reassessment — at least a public one — by the CDPH.
The Bay Area News Group reached out Monday to the California Interscholastic Federation, the state’s governing body for high school athletics, to see if there was an update.There was not.
Source: Bay Area high school sports on pause: Where things stand after holidays – Times-Herald
By Jennifer Crain
By the start of the coronavirus pandemic, the student nutrition department of Vacaville Unified School District had transitioned two of its heat-and-serve kitchens into scratch-cooking hubs, the better to serve its 13,000 students. They had also forged relationships with local farms and started making progress on nutrition goals, such as limiting sugars.
While many school districts experienced setbacks to similar programs when the pandemic closed schools, Juan Cordon, director of student nutrition, says he felt driven to continue delivering scratch meals to students.
Source: California school district improves scratch-cooking program
By Richard Bammer
Fairfield-Suisun Unified installed four members to its governing board earlier this month, including two newcomers, one a community college instructor, the other a private attorney and former trustee, it has been announced.
During a board meeting on Thursday, Superintendent Kris Corey administered the oath of office to veteran members Judi Honeychurch, who represents Area 3, and Bethany Smith, who represents Area 1, and to newcomer Helen Tilley, who represents Area 2. Solano County Supervisor Monica Brown swore-in Ana Petero, who represents Area 6, before a governing board meeting began. Each will serve a four-year term that ends in 2024.
A former governing board member, Tilley is a private attorney-mediator providing alternative dispute resolution services by appointment through her Benicia and San Ramon offices. Additionally, she is an adjunct law professor and subject matter expert with National University in Pleasant Hill.
Source: FSUSD swears in four trustees, including two newcomers – The Reporter
By Thomas Gase
The entire world is like a song by the Kinks when it comes to the two new COVID-19 vaccines — who will be the next in line?
Earlier this week it was recommended that the answer to that question be first responders, grocery store and restaurant workers as well as teachers.
With Gov. Gavin Newson announcing on Wednesday a $2 billion package of financial incentives to encourage state school districts to resume in-person instruction as early as February, it’s a good chance teachers will be in the next tier.
Source: Are teachers next for vaccine after Newsom announces school plan? – Times-Herald
By Todd R. Hansen
School and college boards governed over the end of one school year and the beginning of another in a very, very different world.
The Covid-19 pandemic added the term distance learning to the common educational lexicon.
And some of those boards got a new makeup of members in November.
Judi Honeychurch, for the second election cycle, faced no opposition and therefore did not appear on the ballot for her Trustee Area 3 seat on the Fairfield-Suisun School District. Bethany Smith similarly returns as the Trustee Area 1 representative.
Source: Voters fill plethora of Solano school, college board seats
By Susan Hiland
A return to in-person learning was on the minds of everyone Thursday at the Fairfield-Suisun School District governing board meeting.
But any plans for a decision to do so at the board’s meeting Jan. 14 remain in flux given that Solano County is now included in the state’s most-restrictive lockdown since March to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus that causes Covid-19.
Nevertheless, plans continue to be developed to allow for some sort of return to on-campus instruction.
Source: Fairfield-Suisun school board revisits plans for return to in-class teaching
By Kris Corey
The Governing Board of the Fairfield-Suisun Unified School District (FSUSD) will vote on the return to in-person instruction plan during the January 14, 2021 Governing Board meeting. To prepare for the Governing Board’s decision, FSUSD has strategically utilized Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) dollars to purchase personal protective equipment (PPE) and safety equipment to prepare for in-person instruction.
FSUSD’s Warehouse, Facilities, and Operations Departments implemented a robust plan to deliver PPE and safety equipment to school sites during the month of January, 2021.
Source: Press Release: FSUSD Prepares for In-Person Instruction