SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KTXL) – California’s 1,037 school districts had to shift quickly into emergency mode with distance learning strategies when schools were closed in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Distance learning has been hit-and-miss statewide but, according to the California State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond, there is a determination to keep going.
“We can’t hide or duck from the challenges, we have to move forward,” Thurmond said Wednesday.
Thurmond said the challenges are huge, including how to determine exactly when schools will reopen.
He also said state officials cannot dictate reopening dates.
Instead, state officials are monitoring how different school districts are choosing dates and then learning the reasons behind those decisions. Then they share that information with the districts that have yet to decide reopening dates.
Thurmond hinted at what classrooms might look like in future.
“Students may have to wear masks, whereas teachers and staff may have to wear masks,” said Thurmond. “We need to have much smaller class sizes so that school campuses can reopen with social distancing provisions.”
To accommodate smaller class sizes, the class might have to be split between morning and afternoon shifts.
Gov. Gavin Newsom’s guidelines for the general public will apply to schools as well.
“That means we have to have lots of personal protective equipment,” said Thurmond. “That’s means we have to have lots of testing and contact tracing.”
Whether testing and tracing will be available to schools has yet to be determined.
One of the key unanswered questions is how much it will cost schools to implement safety measures before they are allowed to reopen in the late summer or fall.
Forty percent of the state budget goes to education and the state is looking at a historic $54 billion budget shortfall caused by the lockdown of businesses.
State and district officials will be comparing notes to create the best options for their schools.
“Create the best playbook for how our students can open and make sure our schools open safely,” said Thurmond.