California could begin new school year as early as July, Gov. Newsom says

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LOS ANGELES — The academic year could start in July or early August to address learning losses brought on by coronavirus-forced school closures that have affected about 6.1 million California students, Gov. Gavin Newsom said Tuesday.

“We recognize there’s been a learning loss because of this disruption. We’re concerned about that learning loss even into the summer,” Newsom said. “Our kids have lost a lot with this disruption. … And you can either, you know, roll over and just accept that or you can do something about it. So that’s our thinking.”

It’s unclear whether campuses would physically reopen or online learning would resume as part of an early start to the academic year.

“The governor’s office is looking at the health criteria for the physical reopening of schools and child care centers and the criteria for what schools would need to do, once open, to maintain health and safety,” State Board of Education President Linda Darling-Hammond said in an email. “The possibility that this could happen in some communities this summer (based on the health criteria) is being evaluated.”

Dr. Sonia Angell, director of the California Department of Public Health, said reopening child care centers is also important for parents.

“As we open up schools, as we make sure that child care is more broadly available, it also makes it more possible for parents to go back to work,” Angell said.

California schools have been closed since mid-March because of the coronavirus pandemic. State officials have not specified a date for reopening or how campuses will be reconfigured for the health and safety of students and staff.

“We have made no decisions definitively in that space, but I just want folks to know the concern around learning loss,” Newsom said. “Having talked to many other parents and educators, even the kids, I think we might want to consider getting that school year moved up a little bit.”

The magnitude of learning loss because of coronavirus school closures is unclear, researchers said. A research brief this month applied summer learning loss research to the current pandemic.

“We’re kind of assuming that in the slowdown projection that the new materials are being offered but the new learning is not continuing at the rate that it should,” said Megan Kuhfeld, a research scientist at the NWEA and co-author of the brief.

“You think about the long game … this is potentially a COVID-19 generation that is going to be playing catch-up for many years,” said co-author and NWEA’s executive vice president of research, Beth Tarasawa.


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