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 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
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 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 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 John Fensterwald, EdSource
School districts say they now have another reason to be skittish about planning to reopen schools in the spring: new statewide emergency temporary regulations on protecting workers from exposure to Covid-19.
School officials are complaining that the new rules, which went into effect Nov. 30 after adoption by Cal/OSHA earlier in the month, are creating confusion and could significantly raise school districts’ costs. This applies particularly to Covid testing expenses, which districts and county offices of education are responsible for.
And they view the imposition of the regulations, with Cal/OSHA’s exacting demands for detailed reporting and documentation, as one more burden in an already taxing year.
Source: School districts balk at California’s new COVID worker safety regulations – Times-Herald
By Todd R. Hansen
The Solano County Public Health Division posted on its webpage this week guidance for what schools are to do if they have or if they suspect a Covid-19 case.
The guidance is basically the same as the original document, but did amend some language so schools are more clear as to what they should do.
“I think the reason we posted (the guidance) was for clarity . . . on how to handle student cases and contacts,” Dr. Bela Matyas, the county public health officer, said in a phone interview.
Source: Solano County clarifies school guidance for Covid-19 cases, exposure
By Evie Blad
Shorter COVID-19 quarantine periods, as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now recommends, could ease some of the burdens that have made in-person learning difficult for schools, but challenges remain.
The new recommendations, announced Wednesday, would allow for close contacts of people diagnosed with the virus to resume normal activity after 10 days if they don’t show symptoms, or as little as seven days if they test negative.
The ideal quarantine period is still 14 days, but federal health officials hope that offering shorter options will encourage more people to cooperate by reducing the burden of being away from work and school for extended periods, they told reporters on a conference call.
Source: CDC Shortens COVID-19 Quarantine Periods. Here’s What That Means for Schools – Politics K-12 – Education Week
By Kara Arundel
The pandemic-driven upheaval of the K-12 education system is doing something many say has been nearly impossible — opening a door for significant reforms that would disrupt decades or century-old practices and rituals.
And even though school administrators are in the midst of responding to the immediate health crisis, they are setting aside time to discuss long-term planning for how post-pandemic schools could be even better than before the health crisis.
“I’m so excited about the modernization of public education that will now come,” said Michael Johnson, commissioner of the Alaska Department of Education and Early Development, during a Council of Chief State School Officers virtual forum Nov. 10. “The move from the old models to the new models, we want them to be effective.”
Source: 3 ways K-12 schools can evolve post-pandemic | Education Dive
Citing the spread of coronavirus cases as the culprit, Gov. Gavin Newsom said Monday, Nov. 16, that California is considering delaying the release of new guidelines for high school and youth sports competition, a development that casts doubt on whether the already-delayed high school season will start on time next month.
Speaking during a news conference about the state’s response to the pandemic, Newsom said he reviewed guidelines for high school and youth sports to return to competition and “signed off” on them but added that he is considering delaying their release.
Since Aug. 3, high school and youth sports in the state have been limited to physical conditioning and skill training and prohibited from competition because of the coronavirus pandemic. The high school and youth sports communities have been waiting for weeks for an update, especially after Dr. Mark Ghaly, secretary of the California Health and Human Services Agency, said last week that an update would be ready soon.
Source: Gov. Newsom says surge of COVID-19 cases might delay release of new guidelines for high school, youth sports competition [The Orange County Register]
By Susan Hiland
The Fairfield-Suisun School District visited the topic of returning to school in person at the Thursday board meeting – but no decisions were made.
A recap of the past few months noted that Gov. Gavin Newsom implemented a warning/monitoring system July 17 that resulted in all schools being placed in distance learning as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The next week, July 20, the board took action to approve its 5-Phase Continuum Plan, affirm that the district would open in distance learning per the governor’s orders and set Oct. 8 as the board meeting date to re-evaluate the re-opening of school facilities for in-person instruction.
Source: Fairfield-Suisun school board hears plans for reopening in new year
By Richard Bammer
Amid the ongoing pandemic, parents and families with K-12 students need all the information they can get to achieve success as distance learning continues.
To that end, Fairfield-Suisun Unified has posted the district’s most recent parent and family newsletter, dubbed Engage!, on the district website, at www.fsusd.org, directing viewers to resource centers.
The Engage! newsletter, published biweekly (every other week), contains articles and important information designed to keep families updated and connected.
Source: Fairfield-Suisun Unified parent newsletter offers district resource centers – The Reporter
The Benicia High School Youth Advocacy Club made a video presentation at the recent statewide Virtual Youth Summit as a resource to help peers cope with the stresses of Covid-19 and distance learning.
“The result is a video and presentation on Brain Dance, a full body-brain exercise that reduces stress, increases levels of the feel-good hormone serotonin, and helps develop new neural connections,” according to a statement released by the Solano County Office of Education.
“We created brain dance to give young developing minds a way to grow,” sophomore club member Lillian Theis said in the statement. “We thought making a video would be a fun and beneficial way to reach younger audiences.”
Source: Benicia High club creates video to help peers deal with Covid-19 stress
By Andrew Ujifusa
It’ll be no surprise if Election Day is the turning point in coronavirus relief negotiations. But what exactly might happen after all the votes are counted and there are definitive winners and losers?
Without those results, it’s impossible to say definitively, of course. But based on conversations with a few veteran Washington education lobbyists, it’s possible to sketch out scenarios that hinge on control of the presidency and the Senate, with the House all but certain to remain under Democratic control. Those scenarios range from the passage of a relatively small relief package not long after the election, to a big aid deal that includes money for longstanding federal education grants—but doesn’t get completed until well into 2021.
Source: How Election Day Could Alter COVID-19 Aid Talks for Education – Politics K-12 – Education Week
By Anya Kamenetz
Despite widespread concerns, two new international studies show no consistent relationship between in-person K-12 schooling and the spread of the coronavirus. And a third study from the United States shows no elevated risk to childcare workers who stayed on the job.
Combined with anecdotal reports from a number of U.S. states where schools are open, as well as a crowdsourced dashboard of around 2,000 U.S. schools, some medical experts are saying it’s time to shift the discussion from the risks of opening K-12 schools to the risks of keeping them closed.
“As a pediatrician, I am really seeing the negative impacts of these school closures on children,” Dr. Danielle Dooley, a medical director at Children’s National Hospital in Washington, D.C., told NPR. She ticked off mental health problems, hunger, obesity due to inactivity, missing routine medical care and the risk of child abuse — on top of the loss of education. “Going to school is really vital for children. They get their meals in school, their physical activity, their health care, their education, of course.”
Source: What the Research Says About School Reopening and COVID-19 Transmission – MindShift
State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond announced Thursday that the California Department of Education (CDE) has launched a statewide fundraising effort to bolster aid for schools in regions ravaged by wildfires and other disasters.
Thousands of students, families, and educators across California have endured weeks of back-to-back challenges exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, wildfires, power outages, and poor air quality. The new CDE Emergency Response Fund, launched Thursday in partnership with the Californians Dedicated to Education Foundation (CDEF), will support the rapid generation of resources to schools facing unprecedented loss and uncertainty.
“Too many of our school communities are hurting and have endured more challenges than many of us will experience in a lifetime,” Thurmond said. “Californians are resilient, generous, and always have each other’s backs in times of crisis. Let’s continue to come together for our communities in need so they can get back on their feet.”
Source: CDE Emergency Response Fund – Year 2020 (CA Dept of Education)
By Nick Sestanovich
After seven whole months of students learning from home, the Kairos Public Schools Vacaville Academy was once again bustling with students, albeit with social distancing protocols in place.
Kairos resumed in-person classes Tuesday for students who wished to return, which amounted to about 78 percent of them. Despite the fact that it was 10 weeks into the school year on a brisk October morning, there was definitely the feeling of a back-to-school day, complete with Kairos’ middle school ambassadors welcoming back the younger students with signs.
There were also indicators that this year on campus would begin differently than previous years, such as barriers at the desks, shorter recesses and a socially distanced physical education class where students did their stretches while spaced 6 feet apart.
Source: Coronavirus: Kairos returns for in-person learning – The Reporter
By Diana Lambert and Betty Márquez Rosales, EdSource
Many California school districts offered a wide variety of training over the summer to prepare teachers for distance learning in the fall, but some struggled to offer enough to meet the needs of all teachers, leaving many to find training on their own.
Many districts offered in-house trainers or hired teaching consultants. But in many places, training focused only on teleconferencing tools like Zoom and educational platforms like Google Classroom. In other districts teachers were largely on their own to convert lessons from in-person to virtual, according to a recent EdSource survey.
Source: California school districts struggled to prepare teachers for distance learning this fall – The Reporter
Members of the Travis School District governing board will consider how to reopen schools to in-class instruction now that all schools in the county have the green light to do so with proper safety protocols in place.
Trustees are scheduled to meet at 6 p.m. Tuesday.
One of the issues on the agenda is a discussion on increasing the board members’ meeting stipend from $240. However, a staff report to the board states that is not legally possible.
Source: School reopening discussion, trustee stipend increase on Travis school board agenda
By Richard Bammer
The Fairfield-Suisun Unified governing board on Thursday voted to continue distance learning until the end of the 2020 calendar year and will revisit the matter in mid-January.
In a Friday press release, Angie Avlonitis, director of student services for the district, the county’s largest with 22,000 students, noted that Solano County has sustained 14 consecutive days in the red tier on California’s Blueprint for a Safer Economy. Being in the red tier allows school districts the choice to open schools for in-person instruction.
Still, on Thursday trustees decided to remain in the distance-learning mode until year’s end and take up the matter again at the Jan. 14 governing board meeting.
Source: FSUSD trustees vote to continue distance learning until year’s end – The Reporter