As of now, Mendocino County school calendars for the 2020-21 school year remain unchanged, even after Governor Gavin Newsom’s recent remarks about possibly beginning the school year as early as July. Mendocino County Superintendent of Schools Michelle Hutchins explained that the governor did not—and likely will not—order all California schools to adjust their calendars.
She said, “Governor Newsom will most likely leave the decision to reopen schools in the hands of local leaders. California is a huge state with sparsely populated rural areas and high-density urban centers. A one-size-fits-all solution won’t work, and Governor Newsom knows that.”
Hutchins explained that local school districts are in the process of contingency planning, creating multiple scenarios to bring students back into the classroom safely. This is made more difficult as schools try to maintain social distancing within existing facilities.
“Our schools were designed to have students in close proximity. The only way to comply with social distancing is to change how we deliver education, which may include a blend of in-classroom and remote learning. As schools plan next year’s offerings, they must consider not only on-site classroom education but every service they provide, from transportation to foodservice. It’s a big lift,” Hutchins said.
One complicating factor is the California Education Code, which includes strict rules governing the services schools provide and the manner in which they provide them. “The Ed Code was developed with a certain paradigm in mind, one that did not include a global pandemic, so school districts throughout California need guidance on how to proceed—they need to know where the State will be flexible and where it won’t,” Hutchins explained.
Currently, Mendocino County Office of Education, Mendocino County public schools, and Mendocino County Public Health are working in partnership to keep local students safe and learning.