Dear County and District Superintendents and Charter School Administrators:
Support for Schools Impacted by Wildfires and Emergencies
Our schools have been dealt extraordinary setbacks during this back-to-school period: a pandemic, a return to mostly virtual learning, blackouts—and now evacuations and school cancellations due to wildfires. Our hearts go out to our students, educators, and families who have lost homes, or lost loved ones, during this unparalleled crisis.
No one ever anticipated that this is what the new school year would look like, and I want our communities to know that our team at the California Department of Education (CDE) sees you, we are here for you, and we’ve got your back. Thank you for your unwavering, around-the-clock focus on the health, safety, and well-being of all members of your school communities.
Our best estimates indicate that at least 45 schools are located in evacuation zones, and tens of thousands of students have been impacted by cancelled instruction.
I encourage every school district unable to provide distance learning or in-person learning due to recent wildfires or unsafe conditions to file a J13-A state waiver when instruction is cancelled due to an emergency (please see the CDE 2020–21 Funding and Instructional Time FAQs web page at https://bit.ly/3bbyZUJ). Keep in mind, there’s no deadline for submitting this form, and you’re not facing an immediate loss of funding. The CDE is here to support you in this process when the time is right—we want you focused right now on the health and safety of your communities, not your paperwork.
Additionally, I want to remind you that state and federal law allows for flexibility in requirements for student meal programs so that schools don’t have to worry about disruptions to service or funding because of a disaster or emergency (more information can be found on the CDE Disaster Relief Guidelines web page at https://www.cde.ca.gov/ls/nu/sn/disaster.asp.)
While we have not received reports of any school facilities damaged in the fires, I want to offer CDE’s “Guidance to Consider when Reopening a School After a Fire” (available on the Resources from CDE web page at https://www.cde.ca.gov/ls/fa/sf/resourcescderfq.asp). These resources may continue to be helpful as impacted schools navigate potential forms of in-person learning in collaboration with local health officials and in accordance with state guidelines.
Families Experiencing Homelessness Due to a Disaster
For information regarding homeless children and youth, please refer to MB 18-04, which is located on the CDE website at https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/ci/mb1804.asp. MB 18-04 communicates provisions for contractors in order to better support and serve families who are experiencing homelessness.
Resources for Disaster Response and Recovery
California Resource and Referral (R&R) programs provide training and technical assistance as well as resources for early learning and care providers. Please contact your local R&R for information on available resources. A list of R&Rs is found on the CDE website at https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/rragencylist.asp.
For information on Governor Newsom’s emergency proclamation, please refer to the Office of Governor Gavin Newsroom web page at https://www.gov.ca.gov/2020/08/18/governor-newsom-declares-statewide-emergency-due-to-fires-extreme-weather-conditions-2/.
For information on the CDE Disaster Relief Guidelines, please refer to the CDE Disaster Relief Guidelines web page at https://www.cde.ca.gov/ls/nu/sn/disaster.asp.
For information on disaster assistance and resources in California, please refer to the CDE Disaster Resources web page at http://www.cde.ca.gov/re/di/dr/.
For information on emergency resources from federal, state, and local agencies, please refer to the California Office of Emergency Services (OES) website at http://www.caloes.ca.gov.
Information on the California Department of Social Services (CDSS) Community Care Licensing Regional Offices can be found on the CDSS Community Care Licensing web page at https://www.cdss.ca.gov/inforesources/community-care-licensing.
For information on helping your child cope after a disaster, visit the Office of Head Start Early Childhood and Learning Center web page at https://eclkc.ohs.acf.hhs.gov/publication/helping-your-child-cope-after-disaster.
The California MAP to inclusion and Belonging: Coping with Trauma Resources web page is https://cainclusion.org/camap/resources-and-links/coping-with-trauma-a-collection-of-resources/.
The National Child Trauma Stress Network web page is https://www.nctsn.org/what-is-child-trauma/trauma-types/disasters/wildfire-resources.
The CDE Wildfires web page is https://www.cde.ca.gov/ls/ep/wildfires.asp.
We will continue to work with state and federal partners, as well as community-based organizations, to ensure our schools have the support they need to navigate these challenges.
As always, I am inspired by your resiliency and determination in the face of great adversity. Thank you for all you are doing for our students and families, and please let CDE know how it can be most helpful to you.
State Superintendent of Public Instruction