California districts in no rush to introduce COVID vaccine mandates
Last week, Los Angeles USD became the first major school district in the nation to require vaccines for students; however, it does not appear at present that California's districts will follow en masse in issuing similar mandates. “Some districts may hesitate because they feel it’s intrusive,” said Troy Flint, spokesperson for the California School Boards Association. “Some may feel that it’s too politically charged. Others may feel they’ve been able to mitigate the spread of COVID-19." Even at neighboring districts like Newport-Mesa USD in Orange County and Duarte USD 20 miles east of Los Angeles, school leaders have not started considering a vaccine requirement for students. At San Diego USD, the state’s second-largest district with close to 100,000 students, Board President Richard Barrera said the district is “not quite ready to discuss vaccine mandates for students.” But Zachary Patterson, a student board member and a senior in the district, said he believes the science is clear behind vaccines. “I would support any resolution brought forth,” he said. “As we see LAUSD moving in this direction, it definitely paves the way for smaller school districts to consider things like that.”
The Desert Sun
FDA vaccine chief hopeful younger kids can get shots this year
The Food and Drug Administration’s vaccine chief said Friday the agency will rapidly evaluate COVID-19 vaccinations for younger children as soon as it gets the needed data. Dr. Peter Marks said he is “very, very hopeful” that vaccinations for five- to 11-year-olds will be underway by year’s end, and possibly sooner, with Pfizer expected to release study results at the end of the month. Moderna, which makes a second U.S. vaccine, told investors this week to expect its data on that age group by year’s end. Both companies also are testing their vaccines down to age six months, but those results will come later. Dr. Marks also urged parents and carers not to seek adult vaccines for their children, and to wait for studies recommending correct dosage sizes.
Pleasanton USD extends timeline for switching to district-based elections
Pleasanton USD is slowing down plans to switch school board elections from at-large to by-area after the Board of Trustees asked for more time to engage with community members and to amend language in a resolution originally headed for formal adoption at its regular meeting on Thursday. Though pulled at the request of several board members for further amendment, the resolution brought to the board at their Sept. 9 meeting stated the district's intention to start the process to transition from at-large to by-trustee area elections, including a general outline of the development process for the trustee area boundary map. Pre-map hearings will take place beginning next month, according to staff, and starting in the November 2022 general election, the map would be used in PUSD trustee elections. PUSD hopes to receive data from the U.S. census by Sept. 14 "so we'll be able to start providing more pre-map meeting information, taking feedback from the board and community," and look at map options during subsequent meetings over the next few months.
Torrance USD to implement State Seal of Civic Engagement award
Torrance USD students will be eligible to receive the recently adopted State Seal of Civic Engagement next summer - an award adopted by the State Board of Education in September 2020 to recognize students who demonstrate excellence in civics education and participation, and an understanding of the United States Constitution, the California Constitution and the democratic system of government. Students from grades nine to 12 can qualify for the award, though they can only obtain it by grade 11 or 12. Students can receive the seal individually, or through a youth-based organization, youth government programs, SCCE partnerships, or school and community service clubs. Students must also maintain a minimum 2.0 GPA, enroll in specific world and U.S. history courses, participate in civic engagement projects, write a reflection and give an in-person presentation to a site committee.
California man gets prison for A3 Education charter scam
The co-owner of a network of online charter schools who was accused of stealing tens of millions of dollars in California education funds was sentenced Friday to four years in state prison. Jason Schrock, 46, of Southern California and his business partner, Sean McManus, 48, of Australia, also were ordered to pay $37.5m in fines, according to the San Diego County district attorney's office. The two ran A3 Education, which operated 19 online-only charter schools across California. Prosecutors said the company used a variety of schemes to inflate the schools' enrollment in order to obtain state education funds, including getting small school districts to authorize online charter schools; paying sports leagues, camps and other youth programs to collect student information and distorting school year calendars and moving children between the online campuses to earn maximum funding. The schools earned as much as $4,000 per student in state funding while providing "little to no education to most of the children enrolled," and some parents weren't even aware that their children were enrolled, the District Attorney's office said.
Imperial Valley News
New $82bn funding proposal for school buildings may not be sufficient
A new report argues that the $82bn in federal grant funding proposed this week by House Democrats to improve the nation's school buildings, along with a requirement for states to provide 10% in matching funds, will not be enough to fully address worsening facilities conditions. The latest plan in Congress to fund school facilities comes as federal Democratic lawmakers are moving forward with a broad package of nationwide infrastructure investments. In a statement Thursday, a collection of K-12 advocates known as the BASIC Coalition praised the plan, calling it “a momentous milestone for equitable advancements in education for our nation’s traditionally underserved communities.” In the meantime, the needs are ever-growing, according to the new “State of Our Schools” report from a coalition of organizations including the National Council on School Facilities, the 21st Century School Fund, and the International Well Building Institute. U.S. schools currently spend roughly $110bn per year on facilities. The report, following up on a similar 2016 study, asserts that schools are collectively investing $85bn less per year in building construction and improvements than would be needed to achieve full modernization. That number reflects a $25m increase, adjusted for inflation, over the dollar gap identified in the 2016 report.
Napa school board advisers recommend selling former Carneros campus
Advisers to Napa Valley ISD are recommending the sale of a Carneros campus that closed this summer after more than 70 years, and the district board is expected to discuss later this month whether to put the campus on the block. The former home of the Carneros Elementary School and Stone Bridge charter school would become the first of as many as three campuses whose future sale or reuse may be reviewed in the coming years by the district, which last year shuttered two elementary schools and is preparing to close Harvest Middle School in 2022 amid a fall-off in student enrollment.
Napa Valley Register
San Leandro elementary school to get a new name
San Leandro USD trustees have put forward their desire to change the name of Woodrow Wilson Elementary School, due to the 28th U.S. president's support for segregation and excuses for slavery. In July, teachers and other school staff members asked the district to rename the school, which has about 760 students from kindergarten through fifth grade. “A school’s name is its identity: it symbolizes who we are and who we represent,” they said in a letter to the district. “By turning a blind eye to Wilson’s racist legacy, we are complicit in supporting what he symbolizes.” More than 30 teachers and others who work at the school signed the letter. More details about selecting a new school name, which will include community engagement and feedback, will be available over the next several months, according to the district.
East Bay Times
HEALTH & WELLBEING
Monterey County schools secure mental health services grant
The Monterey County Department of Education (MCOE) and the Monterey County Department of Behavioral Health announced that they have been awarded a grant of approximately $4m for mental health services. The funds available through this grant will provide resources for further growth and scale-up of the Interconnection Systems Framework (ISF), improve efforts within relevant districts, and expand the learning community. Scale-up enables a complete ISF approach to a systematic and collaborative approach across the district to meet the mental health needs of children, adolescents and families. It provides community-based mental health services and promotes collaborative efforts between schools and service providers for students and their families. The seven school districts currently engaged in these efforts included in this grant project are Arisal, Gonzales, King City, Salinas City Elementary, Salinas Union High School District, San Antonio Union Elementary School District, and Soledad.
California News Times
Schools look to rebound after pandemic drives down test scores
Schools across the country are looking to bounce back from declines in recently released standardized test scores that underscored the challenges of remote learning during the first full school year of the pandemic. The size of the decreases varied across states, but in general included big drops in math compared to language arts. In states like Michigan and Tennessee, some of the sharpest declines were among minorities, students with disabilities and economically disadvantaged students. Experts are also sounding the alarm over plunging participation rates, saying that with many statewide tests canceled in 2020 and fewer students taking the annual exams last spring, educators might not know until around this time next year just how much progress was lost after the coronavirus disrupted in-school learning 18 months ago. “Non-participants tend to be more of the at-risk groups,” said Marianne Perie, an independent consultant who advises states on student assessments. “We're seeing minority, low-income and students with disabilities to be less likely to come into school and take the test, particularly in states where they weren't already in school.” Even as test scores have slipped, advocates and experts say educators’ efforts to adapt to remote learning helped mitigate the declines. “It wasn't a completely lost year,” said Abby Javurek, the vice president of future impact and growth at NWEA, a not-for-profit assessment creator formerly known as the Northwest Evaluation Association. “Our students did grow. They didn't grow as much as we would hope and we would expect in a normal year without all these crazy circumstances, but they did grow, and there is hope in that.” But she added that the scoring disparities underscore longstanding educational inequities among at-risk groups.