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Tuesday, February 16, 2021


OC Zoo lends a helping hand, and a few furry friends, to Inside the Outdoors
Months later, after the devastating Bond Fire claimed the home of OCDE’s Inside the Outdoors program, kindness continues to pour in from the Orange County community. As we’ve noted, the Bond Fire arrived with a speed and intensity that made it impossible for the evacuation team to approach. As such, a number of Inside the Outdoor’s animal ambassadors did not survive the blaze. Recognizing the vital role animals play in developing an environmental education program, ITO’s longstanding partners at the Orange County Zoo stepped in to lend a helping hand.

OCDE seeks nominees for annual music and arts administrator awards
The Orange County Department of Education is currently seeking nominations for the Orange County Music and Arts Administrators — or OCMAA — awards. The annual event celebrates local leaders who’ve gone above and beyond to provide excellence for students while promoting the growth of arts education across the county. Educators and community members are encouraged to recommend art teachers, administrators and advocates by highlighting the ways their leadership has impacted local schools, districts and communities.

COVID-19 update: CDC releases new guidance for reopening schools; State launches interactive map on district reopening status
Citing evidence that in-person schooling can resume safely with proper precautions in place, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Friday released updated guidance for reopening the nation’s schools, including new indicators and thresholds for returning students to classrooms. To help monitor the severity of outbreaks in local communities, the new guidance also includes a color-coded chart — blue, yellow, orange and red — on assessing community spread. Districts with low community spread of COVID-19 (blue) or moderate transmission (yellow) are encouraged to consider reopening for full, in-person learning. Schools in areas with substantial or high transmission (orange and red) may still consider a limited reopening, as long as they can layer multiple safety mitigations strategies in the classroom, the CDC says.


High school football could be played until end of April, but CIF-SS hasn’t approved that change
While CIF State will allow football games to be played until the end of April, the CIF-SS still has an end date of April 17.

Placentia-Yorba Linda considering streaming of board meetings again
Placentia-Yorba Linda Unified School District leaders are looking at resuming live online streaming of school board meetings, a district spokeswoman said. Community members have been pressuring the district on social media, saying livestreaming access should be part of every board meeting. Some argued in-person attendance may be limited by COVID-19 concerns. The district had offered an online option that was curtailed last month when the state lifted the latest stay-at-home order, spokeswoman Alyssa Griffiths said via email. The school board’s meeting Tuesday, Feb. 9, was open for people to attend in person.

CDC says it’s safe to reopen schools, even without vaccinating teachers
The nation’s top public health agency said Friday that in-person schooling can resume safely with masks, social distancing and other strategies, but vaccination of teachers, while important, is not a prerequisite for reopening. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released its long-awaited road map for getting students back to classrooms in the middle of a pandemic. But its guidance is just that — the agency cannot force schools to reopen, and agency officials were careful to say they are not calling for a mandate that all U.S. schools be reopened. Officials said there is strong evidence now that schools can reopen, especially at lower grade levels.


Laguna Beach Unified School District provides update on COVID-19 and school reopening
Laguna Beach Unified School District officials provided an update on the coronavirus-impacted school year during the district’s board of education meeting Thursday night. Students attending secondary school in the district have remained in distance learning throughout the school year. The district had targeted a reopening date during the week of Thanksgiving. When Orange County received a purple tier designation on Nov. 16, it delayed the return of students to the district’s secondary school campuses of Thurston Middle School and Laguna Beach High School.

L.A. County elementary schools are cleared to fully open
Los Angeles County elementary school campuses are cleared to fully reopen for the first time in nearly a year because of dropping coronavirus rates, health officials confirmed Monday night.


LAUSD board to consider replacing officers with ‘school climate coaches’
Sworn officers from the Los Angeles Unified school police department could be replaced at secondary school sites by “school climate coaches” who will help mentor students.

LA County announces that many schools could reopen grades TK-6 as soon as this week
The state's tiered coronavirus assessment system permits elementary schools to reopen as regions attain an adjusted case rate of 25 per 100,000 population.


Schools must have COVID relief funds and more resources to reopen safely, Fauci says
Dr. Anthony Fauci says a COVID-19 stimulus package needs to pass for schools to reopen safely. Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, discussed Sunday on ABC’s “This Week” the new guidelines released last week by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on reopening schools during the coronavirus pandemic. He said school districts will need more resources to follow the guidelines.

Sacramento County teachers, other school workers to receive vaccinations starting Feb. 16
Sacramento County teachers will begin receiving vaccines for COVID-19 beginning Feb. 16, according to county health officials. The decision affects more than 23,000 public and 1,500 private school teachers in the county. The vaccine will also now be distributed to preschool, daycare, and childcare workers, all educational support services and administration employees, school bus drivers and crosswalk guards. The announcement, made on Friday afternoon, noted that the scheduling of shots will depend on the availability of doses. The county indicated that some school employees will need to wait a little longer; staff at colleges, universities and technical and trade schools will become eligible later due to the limited vaccine supply.


California quietly launches new school reopening exemption process
There is a new way school districts can apply to reopen their campuses even if their county doesn’t meet the COVID case rate thresholds set by the state — but only certain schools will qualify for the exemption. This week California’s public health department published a new appeal process that would allow schools to potentially reopen if they do not qualify under the state’s current school reopening guidance — if they believed they qualified under the state’s old guidance, which expired Jan. 14. Schools can only apply and be approved for an exemption to reopen if they were, as of Jan. 14, “actively in the process of bringing back additional students for in-person instruction as part of a phased reopening plan,” according to the department.


S.F. teachers set a reopening demand: two days a week in-person for a few hours a day
San Francisco students returning to school in the coming months would be back in person at the most two days per week and for the morning only if the district agrees to accept union demands. The United Educators of San Francisco this week informed their 6,000 members, including teachers, counselors, aides and others, that they have proposed the limited schedule for a return to in-person instruction, which is still under negotiation. Reopening public schools in the city hinges on the district and union reaching an agreement on what the school day would look like for teachers.


California prep coaches say Gov. Newsom’s sports timeline a ‘shock,’ ‘out of left field’
Leading return-to-play advocates for youth and high school sports in California demanded clarification from Gov. Gavin Newsom’s office and described a timeline released in a statement Thursday night as “out of left field” from what had been discussed in recent talks. In the statement provided to Sacramento TV station KCRA, following a rally held by Let Them Play CA outside the state Capitol, the Governor’s office said, “We are working on updates to youth sports guidance and hope to share details in the next two weeks.”


Maps show reopening status of all schools in California
State officials Friday posted maps online revealing the reopening status of public, charter and private schools, showing those offering at least some in-person instruction are concentrated in the northern and eastern parts of the state and in wealthier pockets of urban areas. The maps on the state’s Safe Schools for All Hub website follow a report by this news organization that found the wealthiest have at least partly reopened. Those serving families of average means and the poor remain largely in remote “distance learning.” The state website also includes information on public charter and private schools, based on a Jan. 14 directive that all schools statewide report their reopening status every two Mondays. starting Jan. 25.


Special education teachers grapple with risks of in-person classes: ‘An impossible choice’
As pressure mounts for California schools to reopen for in-person instruction, special education teachers who have already been meeting with students in person describe the experience as a mix of fear, anxiety and occasional joy, with conditions changing at a moment’s notice. The state does not track how many districts are open for in-person instruction, but some started offering in-person assessments and instruction for students in special education in spring 2020, with more opening in the fall.

White students in California more likely to be getting in-person instruction than Black, Latino and Asian students
As Covid-19 cases drop in California, Black, Latino and Asian students are less likely to be back on campus compared to their white peers, according to an EdSource analysis. On Friday, nearly a year after schools initially began closing their physical campuses due to Covid-19, the California Department of Public Health released a much-anticipated statewide map illustrating where and to what extent 990 school districts across California are offering in-person instruction.

Talks slow, no word yet from Newsom and top lawmakers on deal to reopen schools
Gov. Gavin Newsom’s optimism on reaching a deal this week with the Legislature on reopening California’s schools turned to silence late Friday, with no announcement of a settlement — or any indication of the issues that still divide them. Newsom and his staff have been meeting with legislators for more than a week. He said Tuesday they were close to agreeing on a timetable and conditions for reopening elementary schools.

California teacher credentialing requirements continue to be eased during pandemic
The California Commission on Teacher Credentialing extended a waiver Thursday that will allow those in teacher preparation programs to begin teaching while they finish required exams, coursework and practice hours. It was the latest in a series of state actions to ease teaching requirements during the Covid-19 pandemic. Since the pandemic began many teacher candidates — those who are in or have completed a teacher preparation program but have not yet earned a teaching credential — have been unable to complete required exams because testing centers were either closed or had a backlog of appointments due to social distancing requirements. Others have not been able to complete student teaching or required coursework because school campuses are closed.

CDC issues color coded guide for school reopening but could create more confusion in California
As educators around California await further guidance from Sacramento on school reopening, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a color-coded guide to help school districts decide under what conditions they could offer in-person instruction. The CDC guidance bears a striking resemblance to what California already has in place. But it could generate more confusion because the color codes it has in mind don’t match California’s four-tier system, and in general are less stringent than the state has set for each level.


Kids on campus during COVID: Merced County high school shows how it can be done
Students at Hilmar High, the rare California secondary school that has opened to its full student population, said it’s good to be on campus even though every minute is a reminder that we’re still very much in the grip of the COVID-19 pandemic. Hilmar Unified School District in north Merced County opened on a hybrid schedule in early November, splitting high school students into two groups. One group is on campus Mondays and Tuesdays, and the other on Thursdays and Fridays. Initially, Wednesdays were distance learning for all. This semester, though, Groups A and B began coming to school on alternating Wednesdays. So now, every other week, a student gets three days of in-person learning.


LAUSD to open its first coronavirus vaccination site this week
The Los Angeles Unified School District will open its first COVID-19 vaccination site on Wednesday, Feb. 17, with plans to inoculate only district employees for the time being and only those currently eligible to receive the shots under county rules, which, in the district’s case, means employees 65 and over and those working at testing and vaccination sites.


School Police Budget Cut Is Back On The LAUSD Board Agenda After Months Of Delays
The L.A. Unified School Board is expected to hear a plan to cut $25 million from the school police budget at Tuesday's meeting, after discussion was delayed again and again. A 35% funding cut to the LAUSD police budget was approved by the school board in a 4-3 vote last summer in the wake of a racial justice movement, but the details — like exactly how to reduce spending and redistribute the money — have taken a while to iron out.


CDC Offers Clearest Guidance Yet For Reopening Schools
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released on Friday its much-anticipated, updated guidance to help school leaders decide how to safely bring students back into classrooms, or keep them there. Rather than a political push to reopen schools, the update is a measured, data-driven effort to expand on old recommendations and advise school leaders on how to "layer" the most effective safety precautions: masking, physical distancing, hand-washing and respiratory etiquette, ventilation and building cleaning, and contact tracing. For politicians, parents and school leaders looking for a clear green light to reopen schools, this is not it.


Where is California’s school reopening plan?
It’s the question on everyone’s minds: When will Gov. Gavin Newsom and lawmakers announce a school reopening deal? Though Newsom said he hoped to unveil a plan last week, Friday came and went without any mention of an agreement — or of the issues on which the governor and legislators disagree, though negotiations were rumored to be intense and difficult. But the state on Friday did release, for the first time amid the pandemic, maps that reveal which of California’s schools have physically reopened — and the divide is stark, CalMatters’ Ricardo Cano reports.

School reopenings more common in rural areas and in private schools, state data shows
New state mapping data details California’s school-reopening divide, in which hundreds of school districts — mostly smaller and rural or inland — are offering in-person instruction to elementary students while many of the state’s largest, urban districts remain indefinitely in remote learning. But the divide between public and private schools is much starker: Eleven months after schools closed for in-person learning, most California private schools appear to offer some form of in-person learning, according to the state’s map data.

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