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How Will Kids Go To School After Coronavirus? State Official Offers Ideas

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A sign outside of Kettering Elementary School in Long Beach announces that school will be closed until April 20th. (Adolfo Guzman-Lopez/LAist)
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Yesterday, Governor Gavin Newsom threw public schools a curveball. He announced he’s “considering” asking schools to start the new school year earlier than normal — perhaps as soon as July.

How would that work? We really don’t know for sure. We’d really like to know. So would a lot of teachers.

During a legislative hearing yesterday, State Board of Education Chair Linda Darling-Hammond gave some indication of how California officials envision schools reopening, whenever that happens. Some highlights:

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  • Newsom suggests students might have to ‘stagger’ their schedules — what does that mean? Would there be a morning shift and a night shift? Would it be like the bygone days in Los Angeles Unified, when students attended overcrowded schools year-round? On Tuesday, Darling-Hammond suggested students might attend a physical classroom every day, spending half their time in distance learning at home. This would make it easier to maintain physical distancing on campuses.
  • Keep kids with the same teachers — for a while: It’s a practice known as “looping,” and Darling-Hammond says research on “continuity in student-teacher relationships” supports her suggestion. She suggested schools might pass students on to their next grade-level teacher after the first quarter of next school year.
  • Schools may have to close campuses again and should be prepared to “toggle between being open and closed” if coronavirus cases spike, Darling-Hammond said.

When will schools reopen? Also unclear — and it’s not even clear how eager local school officials are to run with the governor’s suggestion.

But all of the uncertainty is beginning to fray nerves.

During Tuesday’s hearing, Assembly Budget Committee Chair Phil Ting (D-San Francisco) said he has been disappointed by what he called a lack of clear guidance from the state’s Department of Education on distance learning:

If this is the way things are going, why don’t we just do a red-shirt year? Let’s just take off next year! Let’s just call it what it is — if there are no guidelines and every teacher for him or herself … I thought that as a parent, I would feel reassured after this panel, and I’m even more concerned afterwards.

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