Governor Gavin Newsom announced and the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) issued a new mandate July 17, 2020, that school districts in counties on California’s “COVID Watchlist” must remain online only until they meet a series of requirements related to testing and numbers of new cases. Because Fresno County is on the watchlist we will need to meet this mandate before being allowed to offer on-site instruction as an option to families and schools will be opening in an online format.
We will continue to keep you updated as we learn more about the most recent mandates for schools. Our Governing Board's decision earlier this summer to provide families two choices -- to bring their children back to campus or to access online learning -- will be offered at a later date when we are allowed to return students to campuses. The Board's plan was made after weighing our ability to deliver all of the current health and safety practices, and the essential need of our students to receive the academic, emotional and physical benefits of being at school. Our employees also had an important role in guiding our decision-making as they are the key to serving our students; as did surveys of parents and staff showing support for a return to campus. Without the benefits our kids receive through in-person instruction on our school campuses they are struggling academically, emotionally and physically.
At the same time, after months of receiving a constant stream of new and differing guidance from Sacramento as COVID conditions change, we understood that our plans had to be ready to pivot to a full online instructional model at any moment. That the Governor’s announcement came just days after we, and hundreds of other school systems in California, had announced plans to open the school year is disappointing.
In making our decision to offer on-site instruction, we had analyzed the pediatric data for youth and COVID as well as adult transmission research, and held lengthy conversations with our employee groups and public health officials about how to reduce risk and meet health and safety guidance on our campuses. Board members in making their decision had also cited concerns about long-term risks facing students because of prolonged campus closures including loss of learning and slowed academic progress, food insecurity, increases in social-emotional struggles and hopelessness, inequity in technology access, loss of school-based supports, and struggles facing students with special needs to name a few.
We continue to respond to changes from Sacramento while working to save our students from the intrinsic harm they have suffered as they have been kept from our school campuses. We will also regularly assess COVID conditions in the hopes that by mid-August they have improved because our community is practicing needed safety measures.