Q&A: How does a school closure work?


With school districts across California making the call to temporarily shutter campuses on Friday, parents, educators and community members may be wondering how school closures work — and how educators will continue to support teaching and learning.

Here are a few questions and answers based on information from the state Department of Education and other agencies.

Who is responsible for closing a school?

According to the state Department of Education, any decision to close a school as a result of the coronavirus should be made by its local education agency — typically districts, LEAs would be the agencies with direct oversight — in consultation with their respective county health agencies.

If a school closes or students are unable to attend classes, how can schools and districts support teaching and learning?

kids getting on a school bus

Local districts are encouraged to develop emergency plans and protocols for communicating with families in the event of an outbreak or pandemic. Districts have also been asked to consider how best to support teaching and learning if students are under self-quarantine or a school is closed.

In recent weeks, OCDE has been stepping up its efforts to produce content and materials to help districts support learning at home. “While it is not possible to replace an instructional day or provide comprehensive course content with online resources or take-home packets, we can develop resources and strategies to provide a continuity of learning,” County Superintendent Al Mijares said.

The U.S. Department of Education recommends a number of options to ensure students can continue learning while at home, including online resources, video conferencing and hard-copy packets that don’t require an internet connection.

Will districts lose funding because of excessive student absences?

LEAs — again, this means districts or other oversight agencies — that dismiss all students or have a material decrease in attendance due to pandemics are eligible to seek emergency relief through the California Department of Education’s J-13A waiver process.

Will the state credit districts for lost instructional time if they close a school?

In addition to providing ADA relief through the J-13A waiver process, California law authorizes the state superintendent to provide credit for instructional time if there’s a schoolwide closure based on a declaration of an epidemic made by a local public health officer. OCDE will ask California leaders to provide credit for lost instructional time.

In the event of an outbreak, schools and districts are also strongly urged to consider the effects of significant absences on student achievement and establish plans to maintain a continuity of learning. (See the section above about distance learning.) Those efforts are independent of the J-13A waiver process.

Can students still receive free and reduced meals if a school is closed?

Yes. Orange County school districts are making plans to offer grab-and-go meals to students impacted by school closures. Start dates, sites and service hours will vary, so be sure to check your local district’s website.