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Core Elements

The California Department of Education, in collaboration with the statewide Community Day School Field Colleague Network, has outlined core elements and questions to guide you in describing your community day schools.

Core Elements for Describing a Community Day School (CDS)

Contact Person(s)

  • Identify the district superintendent. Include name, title, address, telephone number, fax number, and email address.
  • Identify the district contact person for the CDS. Include name, title, address, telephone number, fax number, and email address.
  • Identify the site administrator for the CDS. Include name, title, address, telephone number, fax number, and email address.

Mission Statement

  • Provide the mission statement for the CDS.


  • Outline how the district ensures that an education program is provided to each student who is subject to an expulsion order during the period of the expulsion (include students not served at the CDS).
  • Describe how the district will comply with the priorities for assignment outlined in California Education Code (EC) Section 48662(b). If there is an agreement that the County Superintendent of Schools will serve any of the students described in EC Section 48662(b), attach a copy of the agreement.
  • EC Section 48662(b) provides that a pupil may be assigned to a CDS only if he or she meets one or more of the following conditions:
    • Expulsion for any reason.
    • Probation referred pursuant to Section 300 or 602 of the Welfare and Institutions Code.
    • The pupil is referred to a CDS by a school attendance review board (SARB) or other district level referral process.
    • First priority for assignment to a CDS shall be given to a pupil expelled pursuant to subdivision (d) of EC Section 48915, second priority shall be given to pupils expelled for any other reasons, and third priority shall be given for placement to all other pupils pursuant to this section, unless there is an agreement that the county superintendent of schools shall serve any of these pupil.
  • Describe the characteristics of the students the district serves in the CDS and why they are best served in the CDS program.
    • Include an Unduplicated Cumulative Annual Enrollment Table (PDF) that shows, by grade level and category, how students are assigned to the CDS for the prior school year and for the current school year to date. If this is a new program that has not begun operation, provide the anticipated enrollment for the first year of operation under “Current" Year.
    • Indicate the highest, lowest, and average daily enrollment (combined for all grade levels and categories of students) for the prior school year and the current school year to date. If this is a new program that has not begun operation, provide the anticipated enrollment for the first year of operation under "Current Year."

Referral and Placement

  • Summarize other educational placement options for the at-risk students in your district. The following are among the more common educational placement options:
    • Schools
      • Traditional school
      • Other community day school
      • School-within-a-school
      • Opportunity school
      • Continuation school
      • Alternative (non-traditional) school
      • Community school (county)
      • Charter school
    • Programs
      • Opportunity program
      • Student pregnancy/parenting program
    • Instructional techniques/strategies
      • Learning center
      • Home/hospital study
      • Independent study
      • Home schooling
  • List any other placement options not operated by the district to which you refer students.
  • Describe how the district achieves coordination and articulation between the alternative education schools and programs and with the comprehensive schools. Discuss how this is achieved at the district, school, and student level.
  • Describe the efforts of the district to increase the capacity of traditional schools to support and serve at-risk students before assignment to a CDS may be needed, and for students after they leave the CDS, so that they may return earlier.
  • Describe how information about a student referred from another school to the CDS is shared between the two schools while the student is enrolled in the CDS.
  • Outline the conditions and processes the district uses in assigning students to alternative education programs, and to the CDS, in particular.
  • Outline the intervention process that the district uses prior to such an assignment. Include a discussion of other means of correction and Multi-Tiered Systems of Support, which may include a student success team or student assistance program, directed interventions, referral to a SARB for students with behavior and/or attendance challenges instead of expulsion considerations, and alternative placements.
  • Describe how consideration is given in identifying and appropriately responding to trauma or other mental health challenges.
  • Describe the referral process for assigning students to the CDS. Describe how the educational assets and level of development of the students will be identified regarding strengths as well as challenges in academics, behavior and social-emotional development, and attendance, and where improvement is needed. Discuss individualized assessment, individualized learning plan (ILP), who is responsible for providing support for each item of the ILP, guidance, follow-up, and review of student progress. Include a copy of referral forms.
  • If the district uses a district level referral/transfer process for assigning students to the CDS (other than referrals by expulsion, probation, or the SARB) describe the voluntary and involuntary procedures used and the students who might be referred through those processes.
  • Describe the coordination of services with probation for students enrolled in the CDS.
  • Describe the process to support the successful transfer of students from the CDS returning to the home school or another alternative school setting. Discuss the planning process (e.g. student success team or district transfer team) and how information learned about the student while in the CDS is conveyed to the educators in the next setting including ongoing communication. Discuss preparation of the student to be successful in the new setting, (e.g. teach the student how a middle or high school operates - understanding the culture of the school, subtle rules, etc.), and systems to support the student in the receiving school.

Program Elements

  • Specify the CDS name, site address, and grade levels served. Describe how classes are organized and staffed.
  • Explain how the academic programs in the CDS are comparable to those available to pupils of similar age in the traditional schools in the district.
  • List supplemental resources provided to students in the classroom (i.e., computers, distance learning, management system, curricular support teachers).
  • Describe how students use technology in their class work.
  • Describe how the educational needs and progress of the students will be identified and supported within the CDS. Include academics, behavior and social-emotional development, resiliency, and attendance.
  • Describe the pro-social skills and resiliency component of the CDS program. How are these elements integrated into the total school program?
  • Describe the school-to-career component and activities of the CDS.
  • Outline the learning support services students and their families will receive and identify who will provide the services. Include coordination with other agencies and community partnerships.
  • Describe the community resources (e.g., business members and associations, senior citizens, etc.) that participate in and support the CDS.
  • Describe the special education component at the CDS.
  • Describe how the efficacy of the CDS program will be evaluated, both on an ongoing basis and as measured over time.


  • Describe where the CDS will be located. Provide a site map indicating the location of the CDS classroom(s), physical education, and bathroom facilities. Please state whether or not the CDS location is district owned or a leased property.
  • If the district intends to locate a CDS on the same site as an elementary, middle, junior high, comprehensive high, opportunity, or continuation school through certification by a two-thirds vote of the district’s governing board (EC Section 48661), provide a copy of the board certification, including a statement of the basis for the finding that no satisfactory alternative facilities are available for a CDS in those grades. Describe the measures to provide separation of the CDS students from other students at that site. Clearly mark entrance/exit points for each school on the map, as well as barriers. Also identify which restrooms serve which school.


  • Describe the local board of education and district administration-level structure and support for alternative education and specifically for the CDS. Describe the site level administration for the CDS.

Community Day School Consortia

  • Describe the district’s participation in efforts to develop a CDS consortium with neighboring districts.


  • Attach a copy of the annual budget for the CDS and include full-time employees for personnel.
  • List all funding sources for the CDS.


  • What were the goals last year for the CDS? Did you meet those goals?
  • What are the goals for the CDS this year? Please be specific, especially with regard to new goals.
  • For CDS that are already in operation, outline what makes the CDS successful and provide examples of program successes.
  • For CDS that are already in operation, what improvements in the CDS have occurred during the past year?
  • What improvements in the CDS do you anticipate in the next year?
  • What are the greatest challenges for the CDS?
  • What are the greatest needs of the CDS?


  • Describe your ongoing data analysis for continuous improvement to identify needs, inform ongoing practices to reduce chronic absenteeism, suspension and expulsions and dropout rates, and your documentation of success and value added.
  • Include the most recent School Accountability Report Card for the CDS issued by the governing board of the district as required by EC sections 35256, 33126, and 41409.3.

Other Information

  • Districts should provide any other information that they believe is important to provide a clear understanding of the CDS.
  • Districts should provide an electronic copy of the Core Elements to:

Dan Sackheim, Education Programs Consultant
Educational Options Office

Questions: Dan Sackheim | | 916-445-5595 
Last Reviewed: Friday, February 16, 2024