county boards
A county perspective on the Learning Continuity and Attendance Plan

As the COVID-19 pandemic and its health and economic impacts rolled forward this spring and into the summer, the Legislature and Gov. Gavin Newsom reconciled significant education budget considerations, ultimately adopting a budget for the new fiscal year that maintains last year’s funding levels as much as possible. While the budget relies on the promise of massive federal funding, many in the education community still gave a sigh of relief that major cuts were not a factor that has to be addressed at the same time local educational agencies are facing the herculean task of preparing for an uncertain new school year that undeniably involves a kind of flexibility and effort that has never been seen before.

The required new Learning Continuity and Attendance Plan came as a big surprise to many school districts and county offices of education, as did the speed with which it must be adopted. The document addresses the expected, continuing and growing student learning needs and the need for continuity of learning whether instruction takes place in person or virtually.

The framework is similar to the traditional Local Control and Accountability Plan in terms of process and expected format. The timing requirements are not. A final template from the California Department of Education will be available by Aug. 1, 2020. School district and county office board members are required to follow a speedy public process including stakeholder input and two public hearings, culminating in a Sept. 30, 2020 deadline for plan adoption.

In the early days of the shutdown, districts, county offices, teachers, staff, board members, parents and students all made a truly heroic effort, without enough time or money, to adapt to an emergency while keeping students fed and learning. That work continues, and as of this writing in mid-July, it is clear that the spread of COVID-19 is not abating, and we are not going back to the normal use of physical facilities anytime soon.

Though many districts had been preparing for campus reopening and/or hybrid learning models, now, many districts, including some of the largest in the state, are announcing plans to begin the school year with 100-percent distance learning.

With that in mind, the need for new road maps is apparent, and the Learning Continuity and Attendance Plan provides the structure and appropriate timing — at the beginning of the school year — to create them. This plan will allow parents, students and staff to contribute and be informed, and will show legislators where resources remain woefully inadequate for the tasks at hand.

County boards and offices of education have their own school systems, dedicated to the most vulnerable and at-risk students — most often involving court and community schools, foster children and special education students — for which Learning Continuity and Attendance Plans will need to be adopted. Because these students often move between county office-run schools and those of the local districts, an extra layer of flexibility will be required. In addition, many county offices operate special education services within local districts. Previously, this generally meant that county office employees were present at district sites. Now, that structure requires some retooling and will require stronger communication. The relationship between county offices and local districts has always involved an enormous amount of cooperation and collaboration. Looking forward, a stronger bond than ever will be needed to work together to get through the unprecedented challenges ahead.