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California may start fall school year in the summer

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Posted at 12:38 PM, Apr 28, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-28 20:26:00-04

(KGTV) — Gov. Gavin Newsom said Tuesday that the state may begin the fall school year as early as this summer, after schools shuttered across California this spring due to the coronavirus.

Newsom said the state is considering the idea of reopening schools "as early as late July, early August" for the fall year over concerns regarding loss of learning due to school closures last March.

"We believe we are weeks, not months away from making meaningful modifications to that indicator and in this space," Newsom said. "We recognize there has been a learning loss because of this disruption. We're concerned about this learning loss even into this summer."

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Newsom cautioned there have been no decisions over when the fall school year begins, but that the state is considering the early start to get students back into classrooms.

The decision of when that could happen, though, depends on how COVID-19 cases trend and progress on testing, according to the governor.

"But I want to caution everybody. If we pull back too quickly and we walk away from our incredible commitment ... it could start a second wave that could be even more damaging than the first," Newsom added.

It's unclear if this would affect non-traditional school schedules in the state.

A spokesperson with the San Diego County Office of Education sent 10News a statement on the possibility of returning students to class in the summer:

"While there hasn't been any official guidance from the governor or California Department of Education, we have been advising local school districts and charter schools to plan for every scenario, which now includes considering the possibility of starting the 2020-21 school year as early as July or August. For some San Diego County school districts, that is already planned; a number are set to begin the 2021-20 school year on July 20.

Gov. Newsom said in his press conference that the state's recovery plan be driven by data, not dates. The same is true for schools. As we get additional guidance from the state and local public health, we will make determinations around reopening. It's important to note that school calendars are negotiated items that take a great deal of planning and coordination; moving a school start date is a complicated prospect."

State Superintendent Tony Thurmond also issued the following statement:

We all heard for the first time today the idea of schools reopening as early as July or August. If possible, this could help us address equity issues facing our most vulnerable students while providing an opportunity to start recovering the learning loss we know students have experienced between the time we closed campuses and shifted to distance learning.

We also recognize the importance of schools reopening to help parents and caregivers in their much-needed return to work.

If this is going to work, there are some major questions we will have to answer. First and foremost: Can this be done in a way that protects the health and safety of our students, teachers, and school staff?

We also must consider the fiscal implications. Social distancing in schools may require smaller class sizes, but schools are going to need additional resources to make it happen—including the possibility of hiring more teachers. Additionally, teachers and school staff will need personal protective equipment and cleaning supplies so that our schools are sanitized. We expect that some form of social distancing will be with us through the summer, so if we start school early, we need resources to make it a reality.

Clearly, for now, we still have more questions than answers. But now is the time for us to problem-solve and plan for the future. My team will be in regular communication with our partners in the Governor’s Office, the State Board of Education, the Legislature, the Department of Finance, public health leaders, employee group leadership, and superintendents and educational leaders from all across the state and nation.

Together, we will create a path forward that works for all students.

Since California's stay-at-home order, schools around the state have transitioned to virtual or distance learning.