LEA leaders need more state-level guidance to reopen schools safely
As school districts and county offices of education close out the 2019–20 school year with distance learning, education leaders are looking for guidance from the state and federal governments on how to reopen schools next semester safely. District and county office boards across the state are planning now for what school will look like when students return to campus, while facing the daunting challenge of implementing physical distancing measures at a time when budgets are taking a severe hit.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond said at a May 13 press conference that the state does not expect a common start date for schools to reopen and that a state task force will provide guidance on how to reopen, but did not indicate when this guidance would be released.

“I want to be clear — opening will happen in a way where we place safety first,” Thurmond said. “We won’t ask any school to open their campus to students if we cannot point to data and health, and consultation from our health partners and workplace safety experts who help us understand the work and campus environment needs to support a return from students to our campuses.”

Thurmond said that students and staff may have to wear masks and pointed to the need for a steady supply of personal protective equipment before schools can reopen, as well as adequate testing and contact tracing. He noted that many schools are considering scheduling students in shifts or staggered days — paired with distance learning — to accommodate the required physical distancing measures.

Some counties begin to reopen
Gov. Gavin Newsom issued guidelines for Stage 2 of the state’s four-stage reopening plan (, which is defined as “lower-risk workplaces.” Newsom said adjustments to retail operations as well as the supports and logistics surrounding them would be the first to experience an easing of restrictions, through a curbside pick-up model.

Gov. Newsom also said that certain regions and counties may be able to open further depending on local circumstances. These areas can consider additional modifications if the counties can self-assess and self-verify with both the county public health official and county supervisor that it meets the following capacity requirements:

  • No more than one new COVID-19 case per 10,000 residents in the past 14 days
  • No COVID-19 deaths in the past 14 days
  • Essential workers must have access to personal protective equipment
  • A minimum of 1.5 tests per 100,000 residents being conducted daily
  • At least 15 contact tracers per 100,000 residents
  • Ability to temporarily house 15 percent of the county’s homeless population
  • Hospitals are equipped to handle a 35 percent surge at minimum
  • Nursing facilities have a two-week supply of PPE
  • Continue to monitor metrics to potentially re-enact restrictions

According to the state’s reopening plan, Stage 2 still includes the reopening of schools, but will occur with other modifications: “Later, relax retail restrictions, adapt and reopen schools, offices and limited hospitality, personal services.” As of this writing, the Governor was expected to release health and safety guidelines for reopening California schools, but had not yet done so. Visit for the latest information.

Other COVID-19 related education updates:
  • As previously reported in California School News, Gov. Newsom’s April 22 executive order extended the deadline for governing boards to adopt the Local Control and Accountability Plan and budget overview to Dec. 15, 2020, provided LEAs submit a written report by July 1, 2020, explaining changes to program offerings made in response to COVID-19. The report must include a description of how the LEA is meeting the needs of English learners, foster youth and low-income youth during school closures. Access the CDE template for the written report at
  • California’s Department of Health Care Services announced May 11 that LEAs may bill for covered direct medical services provided via telehealth under the LEA Medi-Cal Billing Option Program, effective retroactively from March 1 until the national emergency caused by COVID-19 has ended. The news is a significant victory for LEAs now providing much-needed mental and physical health services to students while adhering to social distancing guidelines. CSBA was among a coalition of organizations that has long advocated for LEAs to have the ability to bill for telehealth services.
  • The U.S. House of Representatives passed an expansive fourth COVID-19 stimulus package May 15 calling for more than $100 billion in total education funding. It now moves to the Senate for consideration. The Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions (HEROES) Act would provide $90 billion in a state fiscal stabilization fund which will provide grants to states to support K-12 and higher education, of which K-12 education should receive about $58 billion to be distributed based on the Title I funding formula. It also would authorize $5 billion in funding for the E-Rate program and provide increased funding for nutrition programs and child care.
  • The California Commission on Teacher Credentialing voted to grant various flexibilities to teacher credential candidates, including the deferment of the California Basic Education Skills Test (CBEST) for applicants who were unable to complete the examination due to the health and safety restrictions related to COVID-19 between March 19 and Sept. 1, 2020. Other flexibilities include issuing a one-year extension of an existing credential or permit due to hardships related to the pandemic and authorizing Variable Term Waiver requests for individuals who were in commission-approved preparation programs impacted by conditions related to COVID-19. These waivers are most appropriate for any educator preparation program that has candidates who have clinical practice/fieldwork, coursework, examination or performance assessment requirements that cannot be met due to conditions related to COVID-19 between March 19 and Sept. 1, 2020. In addition, the CTC confirmed that the 2019–20 school year qualifies as a full year of participation in induction. Visit the CTC website at for details.
  • The U.S. Department of Agriculture approved a new food assistance program for California children living in households struggling with food insecurity. The Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer (P-EBT) program provides electronic food benefits to families equal to the value of meals children eligible for free or reduced-priced meals would have received at school. Students who receive P-EBT benefits are still eligible to receive meals at COVID-19 emergency sites and may continue to receive CalFresh food benefits if eligible. The USDA also extended waivers from rules for school meal programs through Aug. 31, 2020, so that schools can continue feeding students affected by closures due to the coronavirus pandemic through the summer months.