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CDE Currents: March 2020

The Monthly Newsletter for the California Department of Education.

Tony’s Message

Tony Thurmond

As we are in week 3 of schools being closed, I want to commend all of our students, teachers and staff, educators, and administrators for coming together under these very difficult circumstances. At the California Department of Education, we continue to work on the guidance that we provide to our school districts, and we look forward to your feedback on how we can strengthen that and make it easier for you to deliver education to our students using a distance learning format. We also want to provide professional learning and support for our educators on how we address the change from classroom environments to distance learning.

For our seniors who have questions, we want you to know that we support you and we are going to get it all figured out together—graduation requirements and your college applications or whatever your plans are for post-secondary education—we’ll get those questions answered together. You have spent many years leading up to this exciting time, the end of your formal K–12 public education. Although this isn’t how anyone wanted it to end for you, it will be memorable, and you will be stronger because of it. I wanted you to know that we hurt for you, and are doing our best to figure out how to ease some of the stress and anxiety you may be facing.

We are working with donors who have approached us from all over the state to help expand the amount of technology that is available in communities that don’t currently have access. We are also working on ways to provide more resources around mental health to support our students during this time.

Again, thank you all for your efforts. We welcome your questions so that we can be responsive and supportive to your needs. You can email and together we’ll get answers. We’re stronger together, we can do more together, and we will get through this all together.

Tony Thurmond's Signature

News Briefs

picture saying test

Statewide Testing Suspended for 2019–2020 Academic Year

Statewide assessment testing has been officially suspended. On March 17, 2020, Governor Gavin Newsom issued an executive order External link opens in new window or tab. to waive statewide testing requirements for the 2019–2020 academic year.

The California Department of Education (CDE) is doing the following:

  1. Suspending all California Assessment for Student Performance and Progress (CAASPP) summative testing, which includes
  • Smarter Balanced for English Language/Literacy Arts (ELA) and mathematics
  • California Science Test
  • California Alternate Assessments for ELA, mathematics, and science
  • California Spanish Assessment
  1. Suspending Summative English Language Proficiency Assessments for California (ELPAC) testing.
  • The Initial ELPAC assessment will be postponed while schools are closed. As a result, schools are not expected to administer the Initial ELPAC during their closure. Once students return to schools, the CDE’s expectation will be that students identified as requiring the Initial ELPAC will be tested. Senate Bill 117 (Chapter 3; March 17, 2020) extended the timeline to conduct the Initial ELPAC by 45 days (75 days total). The expectation is that local educational agencies (LEAs) will continue to assess new students whose primary language is not English when they return this year or next school year.
  1. Placing the Physical Fitness Test on hold until students return to school.
  2. Cancelling the California High School Proficiency Examination test administration for the weekend of March 21.
  • All March test takers were automatically re-registered for the June administration and were also provided information on how to request a refund from the vendor. Additional locations and space within current locations will be increased to accommodate the March cancellations.
  1. Placing high school equivalency testing on hold until testing centers are reopened.

The CDE and the California State Board of Education have officially submitted a request to the U.S. Department of Education to waive certain assessment and accountability requirements. Preliminary approval was received on March 26, 2020, with final approval expected in the coming weeks.

School Funding Secured

Average daily attendance (ADA) funding is no longer a factor as a result of Governor Newsom’s executive order External link opens in new window or tab. on March 13, 2020. School districts will not be penalized for not offering regular school days as result of closure due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) situation. ADA will be based on full school months only from July 1 to February 29 for the 2019–2020 academic year.

  1. Per the executive orderExternal link opens in new window or tab., if an LEA closes its schools to address COVID-19, the LEA will continue to receive state funding to support the following during the closure so that they can:
    Continue delivering high-quality educational opportunities to students to the extent feasible through, among other options, distance learning and/or independent study; and
  2. Provide school meals in non-congregate settings through the Summer Food Service Program and Seamless Summer Option, consistent with the requirements of the CDE and U.S. Department of Agriculture; and
  3. Arrange for, to the extent practicable, supervision for students during ordinary school hours; and
  4. Continue to pay its employees.

New App Locates School Meals

Children can still get meals at school, and a new app shows where those meals are being served.

The California Department of Education’s (CDE) “CA Meals for Kids” mobile app has been updated to help students and families find meals during COVID-19-related emergency school closures.

The CDE has processed requests for more than 4,400 emergency meal sites throughout the state. As school districts continue to update the Child Nutrition Information and Payment System, these sites will be populated into the “Meals for Kids” app. For the most up-to-date information, families should still contact their local school or district for free or reduced-price meal availability in their area.

The “CA Meals for Kids” app was originally released in 2018 to help users to find the locations of California’s Summer and After School Meal Programs, which are spread throughout the state. These programs provide no-cost meals to children aged eighteen and under.

The app is available for free download through Apple’s App Store External link opens in new window or tab., Google’s Play Store External link opens in new window or tab., and Microsoft’s App Store External link opens in new window or tab.web pages.

More information about the app is available on CDE’s CA Meals for Kids Mobile Application support web page.

CDE Guidance Resources for Schools during COVID-19 Pandemic

To say these are unprecedented times is a gross understatement. Coronavirus (COVID-19) has changed our day-to-day lives in fundamental ways since the last issue of CDE Currents one month ago, and thousands of schools and educators statewide have risen to the occasion by doing incredible work to continue educational supports for our children while keeping them fed in the process.

The CDE is committed to supporting these educators—all of you—who are on the front lines in your communities and working overtime to ensure the health and safety of students and staff.

Per local control, every district is empowered to make the best decisions for the particular population they serve. However, the CDE has released extensive guidance documents for districts that cover multiple topics and is actively assisting districts. Our staff have been hearing a lot from school districts and the areas generating the most interest are distance learning, providing school meals, special education, and child care/student supervision.

Distance Learning

Most districts have been forced to take a crash course in distance learning recently. Schools can still provide high-quality educational activities to students when the school site is physically closed and onsite instruction has been suspended.

To clarify, “distance learning” means instruction in which the student and instructor are in different locations. This may include interacting through the use of computer and communications technology as well as delivering instruction and check-in time with the teacher. Distance learning may include video or audio instruction in which the primary mode of communication between the student and instructor is on-line interaction, instructional television, video, telecourses, or other instruction that relies on computer or communications technology. It may also include the use of print materials incorporating assignments that are the subject of written or oral feedback.

When providing distance learning, it’s critical for schools to ensure opportunities are available to all students to the greatest extent possible, including economically disadvantaged students, students with disabilities, and English learners.

The California Constitution prohibits school districts from requiring students to purchase devices or internet access, to provide their own devices, or otherwise pay a fee as a condition of accessing required course materials under the free schools guarantee. In addition, California law requires that all students have access to standards-aligned textbooks or instructional materials in the core subjects for use in-class and to take home.

However, it's important to note that equitable access does not require that school districts offer the exact same content through the same channel for all students. Instead of abandoning a promising e-learning approach because not all students will have equal access to it from home, the plan should include an analysis of alternate deliveries of comparable educational content.

These alternate deliveries might include providing students access to a device or internet at school or a community site, consistent with social distancing guidelines, or using other media (such as television), paper packets, or onsite meetings for a limited number of students, consistent with social distancing requirements.

More information can be found on the CDE website in the distance learning guidance document. Also, be sure to check out resources that support distance learning, remote learning guidance, designing a high-quality online course and available plans for internet access.

School Meals

Though schools have closed for the most part around the state for the past few weeks, the CDE has still been working hard to support students. We are working in partnership with many school nutrition programs around the state that have been heroically keeping meals going in ways they probably never thought possible—on top of managing their personal lives, which have also been deeply impacted by this.

The response has been a coordinated effort that’s included CDE, leaders at local education agencies, parents, volunteers, and nonprofits stepping up and providing extra funding and emergency help.

It started with the CA COVID19 waiver. As soon as the first districts started announcing closures, on March 10, the CDE secured a federal waiver from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) that enabled sites that had previously been approved to operate summer meal programs to provide meals to students during a coronavirus-related closure.

By March 19, nearly the entire state closed its schools, and the CDE had processed requests for more than 3,100 emergency feeding sites throughout the state. CDE also updated the “CA Meals for Kids” mobile app to help students and families find meals during COVID-19-related emergency school closures.

By the following week, CDE secured a federal waiver allowing schools to give food to families with kids who aren’t present at the pickup site. CDE also extended the federal 2020–21 Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program online request for applications to Tuesday, March 31, 2020, at 4 p.m.

As of March 26, CDE has approved more than 5,026 sites to serve meals during school closure pursuant to the waiver it secured from the USDA, and these sites have made major impacts on their communities. This week CDE has also begun waiver approvals for the child and adult care food operations, and in just a few short days has approved more than 168 child and adult care food program providers.

Longtime partner No Kid Hungry External link opens in new window or tab. has received requests for emergency grants from across the country during the COVID-19 outbreak, including many in California. And it’s meeting a lot of nutrition needs thanks to increased publicity and donors and by partnering with schools and districts.

In San Francisco, donations to No Kid Hungry are helping the school district purchase equipment for 18 sites where they are distributing meals to kids in need. Donors helped Natomas Unified School District purchase a mobile food truck, which they used at the start of the crisis to deliver free hot meals for kids in need throughout their community while schools are closed. Banning Unified School District, near the Morongo Indian Reservation, is using emergency funds to feed children within city limits as well as in the surrounding rural areas, where there are few places to buy food.

Meanwhile, American Red Cross Los Angeles Region announced on March 19 External link opens in new window or tab. that it partnered with World Central Kitchen, a nonprofit founded in 2010 by celebrity chef José Andrés that’s devoted to providing meals in the wake of natural disasters and emergencies. The nonprofit joined the already-existing partnership with the Red Cross, Los Angeles County Office of Emergency Management, and Los Angeles Unified School District to distribute meals to children and families.

Special Education

When schools began rapidly closing throughout the state due to the COVID-19 pandemic, families of students receiving special education services were left like many others: having to figure out how to continue their child’s education outside of the classroom setting.

Unlike students in a general education environment, the school closures impacted students with disabilities (SWD) on a different level. In addition to the disruption to their child’s academic routine, parents/caregivers of SWDs also experienced a disruption to the support services their student receives, including speech therapy, occupational therapy, and academic and behavior intervention.

SWDs also have an IEP (Individual Education Plan) that outlines education goals, support services, and behavior objectives for that student. This plan is like a contract between parents and the school and is used to ensure that a SWD’s academic needs are being met.

With schools closed for weeks and some districts announcing that schools will remain closed through the end of the academic year, parents and caregivers were left wondering how to make sure their student’s goals were being met per their IEP, what supports districts were obligated to provide, and would an online learning solution be the best way to meet their student’s unique learning ability?

The natural place that a parent or caregiver would turn to for answers is their local educational agencies (LEAs); however, this was new terrain for LEAs. On March 20, the CDE created special education guidelines to assist LEAs with navigating this new normal

The guidelines have a Frequently Asked Questions section that include questions regarding equitable access, IEP implementation under online versus classroom instruction, and where to find additional resources. There is also a link to special guidelines from the United States Department of Education (USDOE) titled “Questions and Answers on Providing Services to Children with Disabilities During the Coronavirus Disease 2019 Outbreak External link opens in new window or tab..”

At this time, the federal government has not waived the federal requirements under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. The CDE and the California State Board of Education are working with the United States Department of Education (USDOE) to determine what flexibility or waivers may be issued considering the extraordinary circumstances.

On March 21, the USDOE Office for Civil Rights and Office for Special Education and Rehabilitative Services released a supplemental fact sheet on addressing the risk of COVID-19 in preschool, elementary, and secondary schools while serving students with disabilities. The supplemental fact sheet can be accessed on the USDOE website External link opens in new window or tab..

LEAs are encouraged to review CDE’s guidelines and the information provided by the USDOE. In the supplemental fact sheet, the USDOE acknowledges that seeking to comply with relevant federal disability laws presents distinct challenges during this unprecedented time. However, the USDOE notes the following:

“To be clear: ensuring compliance with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act (Section 504), and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act should not prevent any school from offering educational programs through distance instruction.”

The Special Education Guidelines document is available on the CDE website. Be sure to continue to check the website for additional COVID-19 state and federal special education information.

Child Care/Student Supervision

Many children need a place to go as their parents work. Per Executive Order External link opens in new window or tab., school districts or LEAs will continue to receive funding during a physical closure due to COVID-19. As a result, school districts should, to the extent practicable, arrange for supervision for students during ordinary school hours.

LEAs should collaborate with local partners and other entities to ensure that students are supervised during school hours. The CDE is providing the following guidance to all LEAs that have closed:

  • Consider allowing their school sites for use as critical pop-up childcare programs for working families in need of care for their children.
  • Partner with their local resource and referral agency to connect families in need of care. The resource and referral agency can help link them to available care facilities in their area.
  • Inform families that they can call the statewide consumer education hotline at 1-800-KIDS-793 or go to the website California Child Care Resource and Referral External link opens in new window or tab. and Find Child care External link opens in new window or tab. for additional information.
  • Provide families with a list of known local programs that remain open for services.
  • Collaborate with their Local Planning Council and other local childcare entities to ensure continuity of services to families in need of childcare.
  • Work with the regional child care licensing office, which may have a list of facilities that are open, to identify providers that can serve children at this time

On March 16th, the Legislature passed SB 117, which included provisions to ensure continuity of payments to state-subsidized child care and development programs, subject to guidance from the Superintendent of Public Instruction.

Specifically, the bill allows the State Superintendent to issue guidance to waive certain attendance and reporting requirements imposed on child care and development programs in light of the fact that programs are being impacted by COVID-19. These waivers would apply to fiscal year 2019–2020 and would apply to the Alternative Payment; Migrant Child Care; California State Preschool Program; General Child Care; Family Child Care Home Education Networks; Care for Children with Severe Disabilities; and the CalWORKs Stage 1, 2, and 3 programs.

In Conclusion

Educate yourself about available resources. For more information and recommendations related to distance learning, school meals, special education and child care/student supervision, go to the CDE COVID-19 guidance site, which is updated every Friday. A variety of other guidance resources for school districts can also be found on the Coronavirus (COVID-19) information and resources page located on the CDE site.

In addition, anyone can sign up for weekly email updates from the CDE by sending a message to

A Model for Distance Learning: Deer Creek Elementary School, Nevada City

kid with a  laptop next to a window at home.

If you’re looking for an excellent example of distance learning practices, look no further than Deer Creek Elementary School in Nevada City.

A school with just over 400 students, Deer Creek Elementary, along with other schools in their small rural county, took a proactive approach to the challenges of distance learning that nearly every school is dealing with from the COVID-19 situation.

Parents receive lessons every week from the teachers either by email, Google Classroom, or in packets to be picked up. Many teachers are setting up digital learning spaces by using mediums such as Google Hangouts and Zoom. Virtual office hours are being established, creating a place for not only academic learning, but socio and emotional support for many students.

The school is committed to ensuring that no student falls behind. Teachers are available to students and parents daily by email or phone to answer questions. The teachers also check in with families at least once a week to answer questions, address concerns and provide feedback and monitor student and their progress.

If a parent sends an email, the expectation is they will get a response within 24 hours. Parents with special education students are contacted by the child’s case manager about supports and services available during the distance learning period.

Check out the Deer Creek Elementary website External link opens in new window or tab. for more information.

Staying home and need something to do? Take the Census.

California Census 2020

If you’ve been at home for the past week or two with copious free time, here’s something you can do: You may have noticed a letter from the U.S. Census Bureau in your pile of mail. Open it. It will provide a unique user code and instructions on how to fill out the 2020 Census online, by phone, or via mail. It just takes a few minutes.

Why is it important? By providing accurate information to the federal government, all California students and families will benefit. Federal funding supports programs like special education, before- and after-school programs, and school nutrition programs. California receives more than $7 billion in federal aid to support our schools, and this is especially important for closing opportunity gaps at schools with a high percentage of low-income children and schools with special education programs.

But it’s not just schools that benefit. It’s all local governments and all the services they provide communities large and small, nationwide: parks, police, fire, roads, libraries, and more.

The challenge of an accurate count is amplified in California. As the most populous and diverse state in the nation, California is in major jeopardy of an undercount. Historically, children are “hard-to-count” populations, as are racial and ethnic minorities; people living close to or below the poverty line; and immigrant, foster, and homeless youth. So, whether you’re a parent, educator, state worker, administrator, you should be counted, and make sure that all the students in your lives are counted as well.

Find regional outreach efforts at the California Census External link opens in new window or tab. 2020 website.

The California Census Communication Toolkit for Schools (K–12), available on the California Census 2020 Education (K–16) External link opens in new window or tab. web page, includes a sample parent letter, social media posts, and talking points to engage your school community in Census 2020 participation.

The census is safe, secure, and confidential. And now’s the time to complete it, and encourage others to do so. 


CDE Currents is the monthly newsletter from the California Department of Education. It is written and produced by CDE employees.

Editor: Scott Roark
Co-Editors: Jonathan Mendick, Katina Oliphant, Dina Fong
Writers: Cynthia Butler, Jonathan Mendick, Dina Fong, Scott Roark

Design and Layout: Scott Roark
Illustration: Jesse Nix
Web Production: CDE Web Services Office

Would you like to contribute? Do you have story ideas to pass along? Send your ideas and inquiries to We welcome your participation.

Questions:   Communication |
Last Reviewed: Monday, March 30, 2020
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