Trouble viewing this email? Click here »

Coronavirus update: Schools should remain closed for remainder of 2019–20 school year, writes superintendent of public instruction

In a March 31 letter to California’s county superintendents, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond stopped short of a school-closure directive but stated that, “Due to the current safety concerns and needs for ongoing social distancing, it appears that our students will not be able to return to school campuses before the end of the school year.” That assessment echoed off-the-cuff remarks Gov. Gavin Newsom first offered during a March 17 press conference and repeated in recent days.

In the absence of an official declaration, the suggestion that schools would not reopen in 2019-20 fueled public speculation and put pressure on local school leaders to make public health decisions without clear guidance from the state. Thurmond’s letter seeks to address this quandary by providing a stamp of approval for decisions to close schools while still respecting local control. 

Prior to the March 31 letter from Thurmond, school board trustees and superintendents had petitioned the state for a more formal and definitive announcement on the matter. Specifically, the letter follows a March 30 conference call that Newsom and Thurmond conducted with the state’s 58 county superintendents.

This update comes as districts across the state work to implement distance learning programs in order to continue the school year without a physical location. While acknowledging the challenges that districts are facing in this regard, Thurmond urged all districts to implement or continue to strengthen their distance learning programs. The goal, he said, is to provide “consistency across schools in the state, and provides our districts and educators with clarity and the ability to plan for delivering education for the rest of this school year through a distance learning model.”

In addition to
guidance on distance learning already released by the California Department of Education, Thurmond writes that the CDE will provide webinars and training on the subject as well. The CDE is also working along with CSBA on addressing technology needs for students without home devices or internet access through the pursuit of public–private partnerships with leaders in technology and the philanthropic sector “where possible and where available resources and donations allow.”
SPI Letter to county superintendents