New CSBA guidance for reopening schools addresses challenges faced by governance teams

As new information about COVID-19 and guidance for the reopening of schools in the 2020–21 academic year is released at a breakneck pace, CSBA has released a document that speaks directly to the needs of its members during this time. The Uncertain Road Ahead: Reopening Schools in the Time of COVID-19 presents a robust examination of what it will take to reopen schools safely and effectively.

While the California Department of Public Health and the California Department of Education have recently issued reports on reopening schools, more attention is needed on the challenges faced by local school districts and county offices of education and the considerable barriers to properly implementing the guidance. The fact remains that, under current conditions, many schools lack the resources and support needed to reopen schools in a safe and effective manner.

Largely unaddressed in both the CDE and CDPH guidance is the acknowledgement that many districts do not have the funding, support, resources, time and capacity to implement the recommended practices in a way that allows for the safe and effective reopening of school sites. It is important that leaders take a realistic look at what California schools can do given the current level of support and funding which, as has been noted previously, is inadequate in the best of times and woefully insufficient to deal with the avalanche of existing COVID-19-related costs and new expenses suggested by the recent guidance.

CSBA’s new report provides important, in-depth resources related to the health and safety of students and faculty, equity, funding and flexibility, and adaptable high-quality teaching and learning. The guidance can be used as a framework in which district and county office boards make decisions based on their local circumstances.

“When classes resume, COVID-19 will still be here, and Californians will continue to rely on their local schools for safety and support, with the expectation of a high-quality education for every student. Meeting those expectations is a daunting prospect for which no road map exists,” said CSBA CEO & Executive Director Vernon M. Billy. “Where there are no clear solutions, we present options for schools to consider on behalf of students, staff, families and their communities. I have been amazed by the ingenuity schools have displayed in responding to COVID-19. Our hope is that this report makes this arduous task a bit easier and provides knowledge and inspiration as you move through the planning process.”

The Uncertain Road Ahead complements the suite of COVID-19-related materials that CSBA has developed, including a newly released comprehensive pandemic sample policy for reopening schools, a funding advocacy toolkit and a COVID-19 webinar series. Many of these resources are available on CSBA’s dedicated COVID-19 webpage.