Is LA Going Back to School in July? Is that What Governor Newsom Just Said?
This post has been updated to reflect new information from LAUSD on May 4, 2020.
Governor Gavin Newsom turns out not to be a fan of the anthem School's Out for Summer. He may have won kids' hearts when he announced his support for ending the school year back on April 1, but he lost them again today, when he took to the podium in support of going back to school in July. Is this for real? Will we be jumping right back into a new school year only a few weeks after breaking for summer? What would that look like? And who decides? We've collected some key answers to the questions lots of students and parents are asking.
What did the governor actually say about schools reopening?
The California governor spoke about reopening schools in the context of his goals for reopening the state, including "non-essential" businesses, parks, beaches, etc. The good news is that he said we are talking weeks, not months, for many of these goals. He then went on to spell out what would need to happen to move ahead with reopening. And in that context, he shared his thoughts about how and when our kids should return to real, live, in-person school.
We recognize there’s been a learning loss because of this disruption. We’re concerned about that learning loss even into the summer. So we are considering the prospect of an even earlier school year into the fall, as early as late July, early August. So we are beginning to socialize that. We have made no decisions definitively in that space... As a parent myself and having talked to many other parents and educators, even the kids, I think we might want to consider getting that school year moved up a little bit.
So that is the governor's actual statement. In spite of a few sensational headlines, Newsom did not announce that school starts in July this year. He did say that he would like to have some "robust conversations" on the topic.
(Personally, I know a few kids who would love to have those robust conversations with him.)
Who makes the decision about school start dates?
As a parent in the LA area, you're no doubt aware that school start dates can vary from neighborhood to neighborhood. We have dozens of school districts in Los Angeles county, and they all set their own calendars; beyond LAUSD we have school districts in Beverly Hills, Santa Monica, Burbank, Culver City, and dozens more. We can tell you all of these start and finish dates for the 2019-2020 school year, as well as the planned dates for the 2020-21 school year.
While Governor Newsom makes recommendations for the state of California, the actual decision about school calendars rests in the hands of the local school boards. Several local school departments have hurried to issue statements today reiterating that the matter will be considered and decided on the local level. And according to ABC News, some teachers' unions have pointed out that changing the academic year so dramatically would require renegotiating teachers' contracts.
In short, the proposed early opening would not be a simple one to implement.
Will Los Angeles area schools open in July?
LAUSD schools will not begin in July but will stick with the planned August 18 start date, in whatever form is deemed safe, according to Superintendent Austin Beutner's statement to Fox 11 News on May 4. As far as other SoCal districts, obviously only time will tell, but so far there are no indications that any Southland schools are planning a July start. Presumably all would need to consider input from teachers and their unions before undertaking such a major step.
In Santa Monica, SMMUSD spokeswoman Gail Pinsker told parents, "SMMUSD has not discussed starting the next school year early at all." SMMUSD school board members have responded similarly.
Statements along these lines have been echoed by school officials in other parts of the state as well. Governor Newsom may like the idea of opening early to get California students back on track, but so far he seems to be alone.
The good news is that the decision is designed to be made locally, and the governor reiterated today that he supports a local approach. That means that if you have strong feelings either way about the idea of restarting your local school in July, you have time to contact your local school board, your superintendent, and your PTSA to make your voice heard.
Until then, it's back to homeschooling for a few more weeks. See you at recess!
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