county boards
Planning for a back-to-school season like no other

While things are usually a bit more relaxed in the summer-break months, county offices of education and districts across the state are working harder than ever to develop plans for what learning will look like in the 2020–21 school year. What is clear is that this will be a back-to-school season like no other.

In Yolo County, that work began with leadership surveying parents, staff and students, running countless simulations, measuring classroom space and evaluating the effectiveness of cleaning supplies — all with the goal of providing the safest learning environment for students in the new school year. It will take the ingenuity and dedication of local educational agency leaders and staff to tackle these complex problems, and they are up to the challenge.

To aid districts with the daunting process of planning for the new school year, the Yolo County Office of Education created the Yolo County Schools Roadmap to Recovery Task Force. Led by Superintendent Garth Lewis and including county staff, district staff and public health leaders, the task force reviewed the state’s guidance to develop recommendations specific to Yolo County schools and provide direction for the upcoming school year and beyond.

“As COVID-19 has changed our landscape, we know that schools will look different when they reopen,” said Lewis. “This task force will allow our local education leaders to work together to leverage resources, share best practices and create the most comprehensive plan for our county.”

The guide can be used to support LEA decision-making as they address the needs of their individual communities by engaging staff, students, families, bargaining units and community partners in planning for the 2020–21 school year. As with most guidance issued during the COVID-19 pandemic, this guidance is considered interim and will be updated as new data and practices emerge.

The guidance covers the following areas: implementing social distancing; athletics; healthy hygiene; cleaning, disinfecting and ventilation; limit sharing; checking for signs and symptoms of COVID-19; plans for when a staff member, student or visitor becomes sick; maintaining healthy operations; considerations for total or partial closures; and training staff and educating families.

COEs and county boards play an important role as connectors in these processes. They are organizations politically positioned to provide a place where true collaboration can take place, bringing together excellent thinking from the school districts in the region and helping to refine ideas through dialogue and reflection.

While this pandemic has caused tremendous pain and loss, it has also enabled educational leaders to lean into new ways of teaching and learning and shone a spotlight on those areas of inequity that have always been there but were easier to ignore. In whatever form schools return in the 2020–21 academic year, county boards have the opportunity to collaborate with local district and charter schools to ensure that all students, regardless of their ZIP code, are able to access high-quality educational options that put students’ needs first.

The Yolo COE task force recommendations report can be found at