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State Education Leader Says Public Schools 'Unlikely' To Reopen Before Summer Break

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A padlock holds a gate closed at L.A. Academy Middle School in the South Park neighborhood of Los Angeles. The charter school co-located on the campus, Summit Preparatory Charter School, ceased instruction on May 3, 2019 -- a month earlier than initially planned. (Kyle Stokes/KPCC)
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California public school students should not expect to return to their brick-and-mortar classrooms before summer break, the state’s top elected education official said Tuesday.

In a letter — which you can read on the news site EdSource — state superintendent Tony Thurmond urged local school district leaders to prepare to beef up their online course offerings through the end of the academic year:

Due to the current safety concerns and needs for ongoing social distancing it currently appears that our students will not be able to return to school campuses before the end of the school year. This is in no way to suggest that school is over for the year, but rather we should put all efforts into strengthening our delivery of education through distance learning.

We acknowledge that students only being able to be served through distance learning creates hardships for some students, families, and educators. However, we are urging a safety first approach out of an abundance of caution.

Thurmond’s letter is a recommendation to the state’s 58 county school superintendents, not a directive. Ultimately the decision on whether to keep campuses closed will be up to individual school districts.

So far, L.A. County has only recommended that schools remain closed through early May.

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But Gov. Gavin Newsom has also previously advised Californians to get into the mindset that campuses won’t re-open at all this school year — and many educators are beginning to operate from that assumption as well.

The shift to distance learning hasn’t been easy. Earlier this week, the L.A. Unified School District reported that roughly 15,000 high schoolers failed to check-in online during the first two weeks of the district’s shutdown. LAUSD has been rushing to get laptops and internet hotspots to all students as soon as possible.

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