SACRAMENTO — State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond on Wednesday commended school districts across California for making student, teacher, and staff health and safety the foremost priority as they formalize plans for resuming learning this fall.
During his latest virtual news media briefing Wednesday, the State Superintendent encouraged schools to continue designing plans for in-person instruction this fall but urged educators to prepare for the possibility of resuming distance learning based on current health and safety conditions. COVID-19 infections continue to rise, and some of the state’s largest school districts have announced plans to resume learning virtually this fall.
“Everyone shares the desire to reopen schools and agrees that the best place for children to learn and thrive is in the classroom connected with caring teachers and staff,” Thurmond said.
“We also understand that schools are more than a place of learning: They provide critical necessities like meals, relationships with caring adults, and support for working parents,” he said. “But we can only open schools if it is safe to do so. As the largest educational agency in the country, our stance has been consistent during this pandemic: Science, data, and safety must guide any decision about reopening a school. The health and safety of our students and staff is too important to risk.”
Thurmond noted that now is the time for school districts to be charting ways they will address learning gaps exacerbated by the pandemic, whether they begin the school year in distance learning or implement some form of in-person learning. Some districts have moved their focus to strengthening distance learning, and some are creating small groups of specialized in-person instruction for high-need students.
To support schools in this work, the California Department of Education (CDE) will soon be releasing resources that will provide districts with tools, strategies, and best practices for ensuring continuity of learning.
“I respect and commend any school district that is making the tough call now to plan for a school year they believe is in the best interests of their students’ and educators’ safety,” Thurmond said. “There is no playbook for the times we’re in. At the CDE, we remain committed to helping schools get the clarity and guidance they need to make these difficult decisions.”
The State Superintendent said that the quickest way to reopen schools is for every Californian to do their part: Wear a face covering, wash hands, and practice physical distancing. While some evidence shows children are less at-risk for COVID-19, adult-to-adult transmission remains a concern. In other countries that have opened schools successfully, infection rates in the communities had already decreased.
Thurmond and CDE are monitoring and working closely with our school districts, county health officers, the Governor’s Office, and state health officials. Thurmond and CDE have also convened health officers from all 58 counties in California to help make sure superintendents and local decision-makers are keeping the lines of communication open and getting their questions answered.
With hundreds of thousands of students across California still lacking computing devices or reliable internet connections, Thurmond renewed his call for cross-sector partners to help bridge the $500 million needed to acquire sufficient technology for students. Partners interested in contributing can email firstname.lastname@example.org.
An archived broadcast of the full media check-in can be viewed on the CDE’s Facebook page.