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COVID-19 Closes California Schools For The Remainder Of The Academic School Year

California Gov. Gavin Newsom confirmed on Wednesday, April 1 that California schools will not reopen for the remainder of the school year, but classes will still remain in session through online instruction.

The announcement comes after a message from California State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond that stated that students may not be able to return to campus. Thurmond added that, while the school campus is closed, there is still “distance learning” going on from home.

“School is not out for the year, in fact, we’re asking everyone to accelerate their efforts to make sure that our students get a great education,” Thurmond said.

During his daily press conference on April 1, Gov. Newsom announced that Google “stepped up in a big way” and pledged to provide thousands of WiFi hotspots and Chromebooks to students for at least three months.

The tech company additionally committed to providing a minimum of three months of access to broadband connectivity. Newsom said that, despite Google’s donations, more will need to be done.

“We still have a little more coverage that we’re going to need in remote parts of the state,” he said. According to the State Board of Education, California has more than 6 million students across 10,000 schools. State officials stated that about 20% of kids don’t have access to the internet or devices to get online, and Google’s effort will take care of more than half of that number.

President of the California State Board of Education Dr. Linda Darling-Hammond reinforced the collaborative efforts between the governor’s office and her department to launch distance learning.

“Just about every district now is launching a distance learning plan if they had not done so earlier,” Darling-Hamming said.

“People have been extremely creative” in places where internet connectivity is currently unavailable, according to Darling-Hammond. Some schools are sending out hard copy packets by school bus and retrieving them in order to provide instruction. The California School Administrators Association is collecting lesson plans from all school districts on its website for public viewing and education.

Newsom, the father of four children, thanked women — moms and teachers — for bearing the brunt of coping with the new reality of children being at home rather than at school.

“I know how stressful this is,” Newsom said.

In an “unprecedented” move, the University of California has temporarily suspended the SAT exam as a requirement for admission for students looking to enroll in the fall of 2021.

“The COVID-19 outbreak is a disaster of historic proportions disrupting every aspect of our lives, including education for high school students, among others,” UC President Janet Napolitano said in a statement. “The University’s flexibility at this crucial time will ensure prospective students aiming for UC get a full and fair shot — no matter their current challenges.”

The Cal State Academic Senate is in support of academic changes but warns of blanket reductions in entrance standards in the future. Systemwide Chair of the Cal State Academic Senate Catherine Nelson told the LA Times that faculty are worried that changes to admission standards might impact student’s preparation for university-level coursework and whether adequate support resources will be in place by this fall.

“This is a very unique and challenging time for students, and we want to make sure that if they had planned to be CSU-bound we do everything we can to help them reach that goal,” Nelson said.

Additionally, education officials addressed the issue of graduation for many of those students leaving high school and college.

“While we can’t provide a graduation ceremony then, we can make sure they graduate and move forward in their educational opportunities,” Thurmond said.

Officials say they are considering rescheduling graduation ceremonies to the fall.

“Schools are closed, but classes are in,” said Newsom. “Just because the campus is closed doesn’t mean we cannot accelerate learning.”

Ian Michael Anzlowar is a Staff Writer. He can be reached at ianzlowa@uci.edu.