California state superintendent outlines priorities to address pandemic’s impact on students

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond last week outlined priorities and investments needed to address the ongoing impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on students.

During a virtual media briefing, Thurmond laid out critical next steps and discussed the many ways the California Department of Education is working with top officials and school district leaders across the state to support student success.

Superintendent Toy Thurmond
State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond

“Our educators, parents, and communities have never worked harder to support students during this crisis, and we all are deeply concerned by the ways the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated impacts on our highest-need students,” said Thurmond.

“The priorities we choose in the weeks and months ahead will not only help our schools accelerate a return to safe in-person learning but also address and prevent ongoing impacts of this global crisis on students.”

Below is a list of the state’s top priorities and actions, as outlined by Thurmond, designed to close equity gaps and jump start a recovery process for educators and students.

  • Develop strategies to accelerate academic growth
  • Prioritize vaccine for teachers and school employees
  • Expand frequent and rapid COVID-19 testing
  • Utilize CARES Act funds to address mental health and close equity gaps
  • Partner with equity leaders and organizations to address learning gaps
  • Pass a universal broadband for all measure

According to the CDE, these actions build on the state’s ongoing commitment and support to schools during the pandemic, including helping secure months’ worth of personal protective equipment and working with the governor and the state legislature to allocate $5.3 billion in learning loss mitigation funds.

Mini grant opportunity to address learning loss

Speaking of learning loss mitigation funds, Thurmond also announced that California school districts and charter schools can now begin applying for mini grants to address equity and opportunity gaps in student learning.

According to the CDE, grants of up to $20,000 each will be awarded to schools, districts and charter schools that can demonstrate how they will address equity and opportunity gaps by utilizing the funds to target educators’ or students’ needs in distance learning, in-person instruction or hybrid models.

The application process and criteria were emailed to all county and district superintendents and charter school administrators in California, and the deadline to apply is 5 p.m. Friday, Jan. 8.

Additional information can be found on the CDE website.