Closures and Confusion Vex California Schools
Shifting public health rules have confounded businesses and public agencies, and California’s public school districts are no exception. As KTVU reports, superintendents are expressing confusion about how to handle the rise in positive COVID-19 cases and exposures.
A number of schools have closed or are facing possible closure due to staff shortages. A dozen schools in Oakland shut their doors Friday following some 500 call-outs. At Sacramento City Schools, teacher absences reached over 12%. San Francisco Unified saw 11% of teachers call out. In Kern County, as much as 15% of staff are home.
Staff shortages are so acute at West Contra Costa Unified that Superintendent Chris Hurst shut down his district's administrative office and taught a physics class himself on Monday. The district will close schools Friday and next Monday. It was forced to shut down King Elementary in Richmond after 10 students tested positive.
“Superintendents facing the prospect of closing a school or the entire district report they're confused about whether they will get state aid for the days campuses are shut down,” according to KTVU.
“That's because last June, the Legislature passed a law to make it difficult for districts to close schools. The law requires district officials to consult with both the California Department of Education and their county office of education before closing schools.”
Currently, districts get funding if school closures are caused by staff shortages from COVID, but not because of student absences. The funding can be obtained retroactively, but only if the district can show it exhausted all options to obtain substitute staff. Schools still need to file for an emergency exception to secure funding.
"The policy was written in anticipation that districts could plan for this, but the practical reality is that a lot of them are worried on any given day because of absences, they would not be able to operate," Edgar Zazueta, senior director of policy and governmental relations for the Association of California School Administrators, told KTVU. But the current surge is moving like a wildfire.
"There's a lot of nervousness around the state.”
Read more about how the COVID surge is impacting school districts here.