As we prepare to say goodbye to summer and hello to a fully remote first day of school, I hope you found some time over the break to unplug from social media and the news cycle. The pandemic’s many disruptions have continued to bring up a dizzying array of issues impacting how our students will learn this year and in the future. Public education has never been more overwhelming, and it’s never been more important.
To help catch you up on the major developments impacting WCCUSD students and families, we present below your personal “cheat sheet” with the highlights you need to hit the ground running this fall. We know this list does not capture every update, highlight, or virtual event. However, it seeks to offer insight into what we can expect for the next school year.
Distance Learning 3.0: The new school year begins Monday, August 17 with continued distance learning, per state and county health directives stemming from high numbers of COVID-19 cases which put Contra Costa County on the state watch list.
- A New MOU: Last week, WCCUSD and UTR reached tentative agreement on an MOU describing conditions for fall distance learning. Key differences from the spring include a standard instructional day (10:00am – 3:00pm), a daily 25-minute homeroom period, and “Wellness Fridays”. Further reading: Superintendent Duffy’s Aug. 3 letter on the MOU.
- Community Input Required: By Sept. 30, all California school districts must complete a Learning Continuity & Attendance Plan after holding a separate hearing to gather community input. The plan must describe how the district will ensure learning continues during the COVID-19 crisis, and how it will address learning loss for low-income, English Learners, and foster youth. A plan template was subsequently released by the California Department of Education (CDE). Districts are required to hold a public hearing to engage the community in a plan prior to adoption next month.
State/Federal Policy Update: California leaders forged ahead, without the promise of additional federal support.
- Some good budget news: The state budget passed in June with a few surprises, including more money for K-12 education than had been expected given the Governor’s initial proposal. The funding for schools is, however, contingent on the receipt of additional federal stimulus dollars ($14 billion by October 15) – and utilizes cash deferrals to districts, a budget tactic used in the last recession. Further reading: CASBO State Budget Agreement Summary
- New state requirements: The budget’s trailer bill, S.B. 98, includes minimum requirements for instructional time: the equivalent of 4 hours a day for most students (3 hours for Kindergarten). There are no state requirements dictating how much instructional time must be live or synchronous. In contrast to the spring, districts are now required to take daily attendance to receive state funding, which is based on average daily attendance (ADA).
- LCAP Changes: S.B. 98 also frees districts from completing the LCAP in 2020-21, though it does require each district to develop and adopt a new tool, the LCFF Budget Overview for Parents, by December 15, 2020.
- Negotiations falter over the next federal stimulus package: While the House of Representatives passed legislation in May investing an additional $90 billion dollars in public K-12 schools as part of the HEROES Act, Congress has yet to come to an agreement. One sticking point (among many) is whether or not to include aid for state and local governments, which includes education. Further reading: Second coronavirus stimulus checks, schools: How the proposals differ (Washington Post)
WCCUSD Task Force & Community Town Hall: District leaders sought community input on the return to school, but ultimately the pandemic (and Governor Newsom) called the shots.
- A proposal: The district task force released its Back to School Vision & Framework in early July to a school community desperate for guidance on what to expect for the fall. The framework included a proposal for a tiered return to schools, with students with the greatest need able to attend in-person learning support hubs.
- Mixed reactions: A few days later, Superintendent Duffy and task force leaders held a virtual Return to School Town Hall to seek community input and hear from county health experts, who made clear the risks of returning to schools in person. Thousands tuned in for the event.
- State intervention: WCCUSD’s framework was submitted for county approval on July 20, but only after Governor Newsom released state guidance for re-opening schools which states that school districts may only reopen when their county has been off the state’s watch list for 14 consecutive days.
Other Things We’re Reading and Watching:
- Parents must have a say in districts’ distance learning plans under new California law
- Quick Guide: How has the pandemic altered California’s school accountability reforms?
- Los Angeles Unified reaches deal with teachers over distance learning while other districts struggle to finalize plans
- VIDEO: Montalvin 3rd grade teacher Jessie Welcomer shares how she engaged 100% of her students in distance learning this spring in this Mills College webinar
- Now is the right moment to measure educational disparities