School campuses closed to in-person instruction will stay that way for the remainder of the 2019-20 school year and possibly into the summer, local and state officials said Thursday.
But unlike schools that have called for an end to their educational programs for the year, as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, Colusa County and most California schools are still very much in session.
The five school districts and Colusa County Office of Education have scrambled since schools closed two weeks ago to provide remote or “distance learning” opportunities to students within the county, in order to slow the spread of COVID-19.
“All superintendents are meeting weekly and are maintaining open channels to their staff and board members,” said Colusa County Superintendent of School Mike West, in a statement. “All precautions and directives related to reducing the spread of the COVID-19 virus should be followed until Public Health Officials state otherwise.”
Last week, Tony Thurmond, California’s superintendent of public instruction, issued the recommendation that students not return to school due to safety concerns and the continued need for social distancing.
The state has provided funding and additional resources ($17.37 for each ADA) to support distance learning for students.
Most of the local districts have now sent packets of lessons home for students to do school work, and have provided resources, such as chrome books, in order for students to take online classes.
Colusa Unified was one of the first districts in the area to get teachers and students on an off-campus educational program, and in some instances, had converted completely to online curriculum within 48 hours of the initial school closure.
“I’m very proud of my students and my staff, obviously,” said Colusa High School Principal Joshua Mason, during the district’s video conference on March 26. “It’s been a transition that I didn’t know if it would go well because this is very unprecedented. However, everybody stepped up. And I say that with confidence because the feedback has been overwhelmingly good.”
Gov. Gavin Newsom reiterated during his daily news briefing on Thursday that “kids are not going to go back” to their school campuses this school year but will continue working at home.
Williams Unified, at a special meeting the same day, officially placed the schools in distance learning mode until further notice.
Districts boards that had previously set their sights on opening in late April or early May will affirm that schools are closed the remainder of the school year when next they meet. Maxwell Unified is set to meet tonight. Pierce is scheduled to meet Thursday and Colusa Unified on April 16.
“When the governor lifts his order to shelter in place and things go back to normal, then that is when we will come back and take a look at when we are starting regular school,” said WUSD superintendent Edgar Lampkin. “However, until then, we will remain in distance learning mode. That is the recommendation of our state superintendent and the superintendent of the county, as well as superintendents across the state.”
Princeton has also shut down classroom instruction, although students in the small river community have limited access to campus and teachers using social distancing precautions.
In guidelines released April 1, the California Department of Education left it up to the local districts to decide how to address grading and graduation requirements.
Additionally, the university systems are also willing to accept credit/no credit grades in lieu of letter grades for all courses, including A–G courses, completed in winter/ spring/ summer 2020 for all students.
Grades of credit/no credit will not affect the University of California or California State University calculations of grade point average, officials said, and universities have identified a range of other flexibilities they will offer to support students’ access to college during this time.
“California’s K-12 and higher education communities are committed to helping high school and community college students overcome university admissions and placement challenges presented by the suspension of in-person instruction,” said the California State Board of Education, in a joint statement. “The State Board of Education, CDE, CSU, the UC, California Community Colleges, and independent nonprofit colleges and universities have been working together to understand and address the heightened concerns of students and families and the difficult conditions of this time.”
The College Board announced Friday that much-shortened versions of Advanced Placement exams will be administered online from May 11-22. The tests, accessible even on iPhones, will be reduced from three hours to 45 minutes. The will be open-book and will include only written responses with no multiple-choice questions.
While state officials said school districts are having to deal with unprecedented approaches to educating students in the face of a pandemic, WUSD President George Simmons reminded people there were times in the past when communities and schools had to deal with serious health crises.
“When I was young, we had polio. We had small pox. We had German measles. We had a lot of different things,” Simmons said. “We had polio and when you got it, we were quarantined to our quarters. We are not being quarantined to our quarters. We are out walking around.” ■