Weekly roundup: COVID surge alters reopening plans, new report examines learning loss, and more

The surge in Covid-19 cases has posed additional challenges for schools and districts in California that were making plans to resume on-site instruction in January. And with many counties firmly lodged in the state’s most restrictive purple tier — Orange County is among them — it remains uncertain when those campuses will have the green light to reopen.

News printTrustees for the Anaheim Union High School District decided this week that their campuses won’t resume on-site instruction in January as initially planned. In light of the recent spike, AUHSD is now targeting the start of the fourth quarter in March.

District officials in the Brea Olinda Unified School District announced that students will temporarily transition to full-time distance learning effective Monday, Dec. 7 through Jan. 29.

The La Habra City School District made the decision to return to distance learning starting Thursday, Dec. 3 and continuing through winter break.

Meanwhile, officials in the Centralia Elementary School District have announced a scheduling change for January. Centralia students who are currently receiving on-site instruction will pivot to distance learning with their current teachers for a two week window, from Jan. 4 to Jan. 15.

As we’ve previously reported, the governor’s latest stay-at-home plans, which are contingent on regional hospital capacities, do not apply to schools and districts that are already open for in-person learning.

Moreover, schools that have fully reopened for in-person instruction may temporarily switch to distance learning and resume in-person instruction at any time, regardless of the county’s tier status, according to guidance from the OC Health Care Agency.

And here are some of the stories we’ve been following this week:

  • Driven by aggressive winds, a fire that started in Silverado Canyon consumed thousands of acres and destroyed structures, prompting mandatory evacuations and campus closures.
  • Rancho Soñado, the picturesque headquarters for OCDE’s Inside the Outdoors environmental education program, was overtaken by the fast-moving Bond Fire. Fortunately no OCDE staff members were injured, but two structures were lost and a number of animals that were housed on site did not survive.
  • Citing a surge in COVID-19 infections, CIF officials announced that all full practice and competition start dates for fall high school sports are on hold until after Jan. 1. Additionally, CIF also announced the cancellation of all regional and state playoffs for this year’s fall sports.
  • The Orange County Health Care Agency has launched a new online dashboard that breaks down confirmed coronavirus cases at the elementary, middle and high school levels. The numbers remain relatively low, with experts crediting smaller cohorts, social distancing, face coverings and other mitigation measures.
  • A Newport Beach teen who’s persuaded more than 120 schools across Orange County to remove plastic straws from their campuses has earned a nomination for the first-ever Nickelodeon and TIME magazine Kid of the Year award.
  • News stories have touted early success rates for COVID-19 vaccines, which are expected to hit the market soon. But don’t expect them to be available to kids, reports NPR, which notes that children have generally not been a part of the clinical trials.
  • California’s Health and Human Services Agency has released a master plan for early childhood care and education, reflecting one of Gov. Newsom’s top priorities. Advocates say a coordinated approach is needed to provide a foundation for success, particularly for students in marginalized communities.
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