COVID-19 state update from ACSA

April 1, 2020 Staff Writer

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic has had an immeasurable impact on California public education and Gov. Newsom has shown leadership and strength throughout this growing national crisis. ACSA supports the strategy to solely support distance learning modules for the rest of the 2019-2020 academic year and close all California public school facilities, as it is a move to keep students and employees safe.
 
ACSA’s top priority is supporting California’s 6.2 million public school students and we believe the pivot to distance learning-only modules is what is best for students.  We know this new strategy will be challenging for school leaders as we work to create and provide strong curriculum and, at the same time, address equity.

In recognition of ACSA’s leadership around distance learning, State Board of Education President Dr. Linda Darling-Hammond specifically praised ACSA’s efforts to collect and share the distance learning plans developed by our members, which you can read more about below.

Many of our members have expected this decision to be made and over the past few weeks, we have seen district leaders increasing the commitment to supporting their school communities through free meals to students, child care and instruction. With the latest guidance from CDE on the expanded uses of Senate Bill 117 funding, that will continue whether students are learning at home or in a classroom.
 
ACSA looks forward to working with our local and statewide partners to make sure the learning continues through the spring and into the summer. As a service to our members, we have expanded the Distance Learning Section of the ACSA Resource Hub with new content from California school districts. See below to review the content.

Distance Learning:

ACSA has worked with school districts statewide to create a library of documents, strategies and plans for distance learning. View Distance Learning on the Resource Hub

District Communications:

School districts have taken a proactive step in creating messaging regarding facilities in their school communities. View District Communications examples on the Resource Hub


Sunday, March 22, 2020

Gov. Newsom issued a new executive order expanding the state’s response to the COVID-19 outbreak and the U.S. Department of Education issued guidance on serving children with disabilities during the crisis. 
 
Brown Act
The order expressly permits members of a local legislative body to receive COVID-19 updates and ask questions from federal, state, and local officials (including simultaneous updates). Board members must still comply with the Brown Act when discussing or acting on items.
 
Commission on Teacher Credentialing
The order extends, by 60 days, the following deadlines:

  • Disciplinary cases before the Committee of Credentials, except for sexual or chronic misconduct (Education Code (EC) §§ 44242.7(a), 44244(b)(1); 5 Cal. Code Regs. § 80306)
  • Processing of a military spouse or partner credential applications (EC § 44343.5) New Special Education guidance from the U.S. Department of Education 
  • Processing educator credentialing applications (EC § 44350)

New Special Education guidance from the U.S. Department of Education
On Saturday, the U.S. Department of Education issued guidance on the provision of distance learning for special education students. Specifically, the department recognized that some educators “have been reluctant to provide any distance instruction because they believe that federal disability law presents insurmountable barriers to remote education. This is simply not true.”  “We remind schools they should not opt to close or decline to provide distance instruction, at the expense of students, to address matters pertaining to services for students with disabilities. Rather, school systems must make local decisions that take into consideration the health, safety, and well-being of all their students and staff.”

Clarification of CalPERS Rules for Working After Retirement
Earlier this week ACSA shared a CalPERS circular regarding the governor’s suspension of specific limitations for retired annuitants working after retirement: (1) the 960-hour fiscal year limit, and (2) the 180-day separation from service requirement. 
 
The most recent executive order extended this exemption to retired employees of “local governments.” This created some confusion for us: did the original exemption apply to the state only? 
 
We have clarified with CalPERS that school employers may utilize the waived rules for retired annuitants found in executive order N-25-20 and CalPERS circular 200-015-20 (as may all other CalPERS employers). The most recent order is intended to provide greater legal clarity to certain types of local government employers.
 
Please remember to notify the director of the California Department of Human Resources of any individual employed pursuant to these waivers. Notification should be sent to CAStateofEmergency@calhr.ca.gov. CalPERS will be cross-referencing their employee data with the notifications sent here to avoid applicable penalties.


Thursday, March 19, 2020

Newsom orders all Californians to stay at home

On Thursday, Gov. Newsom issued a mandatory order for all California residents to stay at home as a result of the state’s fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. 
 
The order represents the most drastic measure any governor has taken to control the coronavirus disease. Citing a model that state planners have been using, he suggests that 56 percent of Californians, or more than 25 million people, could contract the virus in the next eight weeks.
 
How the order will be enforced is unclear at this time, but officials said they expect residents to follow the mandatory order.
 
By utilizing the federal Department of Homeland Security guidelines, schools are included on the list of “critical federal infrastructure sectors.” As a result, the governor’s executive order issued March 13 relating to guidelines for COVID-19 public school closures remains in effect and exempt from the stay-at-home order. Newsom’s order and guidance documents set forth expectations for providing school meals, offering distance learning, student supervision, and continuing to pay employees.
 
While the governor’s previous guidance stops short of requiring schools to provide specific services, education leaders should continue to do what they can to provide the aforementioned services to students despite the latest statewide “stay-at-home” order.
 
Please contact Edgar Zazueta, ACSA Senior Director of Policy and Government Relations, at ezazueta@acsa.org with any inquiries. 


Wednesday, March 18, 2020

To keep you apprised of the latest developments in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, ACSA is providing you with updates on the following key topics:

COVID-19 School Closure Webinar

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond hosted a webinar discussion today with California school leaders to provide an overview of statewide guidance related to distance learning, school meals, child care and student supervision.
 
ACSA Governmental Relations department, the California Department of Education and ACSA Executive Director Wes Smith assisted in leading the discussion. In addition to offering praise to our state leaders for their attempts to respond to the pandemic, Smith reminded our members that while the state has offered extensive guidance and options on how services can be provided to their respective communities during this crisis, the governor’s executive order is careful to leave the discretion in the hands of educators on the ground. 
 
Smith reminded the audience “to not ask what we have to do in terms of providing services to our students and instead think about what we can do to serve our kids during this challenging time.”
 
The comprehensive guidance and webinar can be found HERE.
 
Suspension of Standardized Testing

Gov. Newsom issued an executive order today to waive, pending federal approval, this year’s statewide testing for California’s 6.2 million K-12 students.
 
“This time is stressful enough for students, families and educators without the additional burden of annual testing,” Newsom said. “This is an unprecedented time, and our main focus is on supporting the mental and socioemotional health of students while continuing to provide educational opportunities such as distance learning.”
 
The governor’s full executive order can be found HERE.
 
Labor-Management collaboration

While we are aware of the countless examples of communities coming together during this unprecedented time, we have also been made aware of the challenges some members are facing with collective bargaining issues during this difficult period.
 
Our team has been in daily contact with the governor’s office and state Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond regarding these issues. ACSA has been invited to a meeting this week hosted by Thurmond with California labor leaders. 
 
We are hopeful these discussions will be fruitful and will ultimately result in tangible actions that will help our members perform the critical important works of providing services and support to our students.
 
CalPERS and CalSTRS issue guidance on executive orders

CalPERS released a circular to announce the suspension of two key limitations on retired annuitants working after retirement: (1) the 960-hour fiscal year limit, and (2) the 180-day separation from service requirement. These changes are far-reaching, largely because critical state, county, and city employees are covered by CalPERS.
 
As districts continue to pay employees during school closures, CalSTRS is seeking to clarify that districts should report this compensation “like any other employer-approved paid leave of absence,” adding “there should be no adverse impact to a member’s service credit because the member’s earnings should reflect the compensation they would have received had schools not been closed.”
 
Whether this guidance will correspond with actual compensation practices in the field is an open question. As a result, district administrators should work directly with CalSTRS to ensure correct reporting.
 
Review the CalPERS Circular Letter HERE and review the CalSTRS Employer Information Circular HERE
 
One-stop COVID-19 website 

California has launched covid19.ca.gov, a comprehensive website dedicated to the coronavirus disease. The website outlines critical steps people can take to stay healthy and provides resources for Californians impacted by the pandemic, including paid sick leave and unemployment assistance. 

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