Reflecting on an unprecedented year: 10 notable OCDE Newsroom stories from 2020

It goes without saying that 2020 has been a year like no other. And now, looking back, we can see that the lessons we’ve learned — about health, resilience and flexibility — are lessons that will stick with us for years to come.

Despite the unique challenges that came from an abrupt shutdown of school campuses and a switch to distance learning, our educators, students and community have had many things to celebrate.

So like in years’ past, it’s time to look back on the most notable OCDE Newsroom posts for 2020. These posts highlight the grace, compassion, encouragement, strength and grit of our Orange County community.

Here are the top 10 stories from 2020, selected by our Newsroom staff and in no particular order.

Governor’s new mandate means OC schools start 2020-21 with distance learning

Orange County schools, along with campuses in 32 other counties on California’s COVID-19 watch list, started the 2020-21 school year with distance learning rather than in-person instruction or hybrid models. Speaking during a highly anticipated afternoon briefing, Newsom issued sweeping new directives for public and private schools, spanning distance learning, face coverings and more.

‘Orange County Together’ guide provides recommendations for safely reopening local schools

Representatives from OCDE and school districts across the county joined forces to develop a comprehensive guide with recommendations for reopening more than 600 local schools. While locally elected school boards and superintendents continue to approve and implement plans specific to their districts, “Orange County Together: A guide to safely reopening schools in the COVID-19 era” is an evolving web-based resource with detailed considerations for resuming in-person instruction complemented by online learning.

VIDEO: Surprise! Six exemplary educators learn they’re OC’s Teachers of the Year

2020 Teachers of the Year

This year’s Orange County Teacher of the Year announcements looked a bit different. Conspicuously missing was the big yellow bus, dubbed the “Prize Patrol,” which has traditionally carried the county superintendent, camera crews, reporters, sponsors and OCDE representatives from school to school to share the good news. Instead, six exemplary educators found out they’ve been named the 2021 Orange County Teachers of the Year the same way many of us are now virtually connecting — through video conferencing sessions.

After making a Minecraft version of their school, Trabuco Hills High students are throwing a virtual prom

When their school’s senior prom was canceled because of the pandemic, a pair of brothers from Trabuco Hills High School in Mission Viejo found a workaround. They had already built a digital version of their campus using the popular game Minecraft, and they invited the entire student body to attend a virtual prom.

Meet Orange County’s Classified School Employees of the Year for 2020

2020 Classified employees of the year

OCDE announced Orange County’s top classified school employees for 2020. Six county finalists were selected from a pool of 64 district-level winners based on their work performance, leadership, commitment and involvement with their schools and communities.The Classified School Employees of the Year program was established in 2008 by the California Department of Education to spotlight the contributions of classified workers, whose ranks include instructional assistants, custodians, office clerks, technicians, bus drivers and other non-certificated staff members.

OCDE and City of Westminster host virtual groundbreaking of park honoring historic Mendez v. Westminster case

Mendez park renderingThe Orange County Department of Education partnered with the City of Westminster to present a virtual groundbreaking of a new park and monument to honor the legacy of the historic Mendez v. Westminster case, which famously led to the desegregation of California’s public schools. Produced by OCDE’s Communications and Media Services team, the online event debuted on Tuesday, Oct. 13.

Here are some frequently asked questions on the use of face coverings at school

Face MaskFace masks will likely go down as one of the most enduring visuals of 2020. To provide some clarity on the use of face covering at school, OCDE’s Legal Services division worked with the Orange County Health Care Agency to develop a list of frequently asked questions and answers that continued to be updated as new information emerged from federal, state and local agencies.

OC students embrace an untraditional start to the 2020-21 school year

Back to school inperson learning

Going back to school may look a little untraditional this year, but that has not stopped Orange County students, staff, teachers and families from making the best of these still uncertain times. Although most of Orange County’s nearly 500,000 students did not return to their physical campuses for the start of the 2020-21 school year, families and district staff took to social media like never before to chronicle what the first days of distance learning looked like in their homes and on their campuses.

5 things to know about the state budget and K-12 funding

Governor Gavin Newsom and the Legislature passed the 2020 Budget Act – a $202.1 billion spending plan to promote economic recovery while closing a $54.3 billion budget shortfall caused by the coronavirus pandemic. Here is a list of five important things to know about the 2020-21 budget and what is being done to help mitigate the impacts of the state’s revenue decline on funding for K-12 schools.

Google doodle honors OC civil rights icon who helped end school segregationMendez Google Doodle

An Orange County civil rights pioneer who helped bring an end to forced segregation in California’s education system and paved the way for school integration across the United States became the subject of a Google doodle tribute.