Parents Scramble for Alternatives

Lucia Soares helps her two younger children, Emily, 9, and Daniel, 16, with schoolwork in their Modesto home. Photo by Anne Wernikoff for CalMatters

BY EMILY HOEVEN | Calmatters

It’s official: At least 90% of California students will begin the school year with online learning.

The order, which Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Friday, marks an unprecedented level of state intervention into the operations of more than 1,000 local districts. It also carries massive implications for working parents, the battered economy, and learning gaps already exacerbated by distance learning in the spring. 

  • Newsom: “Our students, our teachers, staff, and certainly parents, we all prefer in-classroom instruction for all the obvious reasons — social and emotional, foundationally — but only, only if it can be done safely.”
  • Assemblymember Kevin Kiley, a Rocklin Republican: “(Friday’s) decision elevates the appearance of safety over actual safety. … The impacts of school closures will be devastating for working parents, academic equity, and mental health.”

Under the new mandate — which applies to both public and private schools — campuses in the 33 counties being monitored by the state for virus spread are prohibited from reopening until they spend 14 consecutive days off the watch list. 

In schools allowed to reopen, staff and students in third grade and above are required to wear face masks. Staff must keep six feet apart from students and each other and will be tested regularly. If more than 5% of staff and students test positive, the school must close. If more than 25% of schools in a district close, the district must close. 

Faced with another Zoom-only semester, an increasing number of California parents are moving to formally homeschool their children or form “learning pods,” small groups of children taught by a private tutor — options largely unavailable to low-income, working-class families that could further widen the state’s achievement gap. is a nonprofit, nonpartisan media venture explaining California policies and politics.


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