July 23, 2021
Dear Superintendents,

I am writing with several updates since my last message.

Independent Study Options, Survey, and Templates
Assembly Bill 130 requires local educational agencies (LEAs) to offer in 2021-22 an independent study option to students and families whose health would be put at risk by in-person instruction, as determined by the parent or guardian. LEAs have three options for how to meet this requirement:

  1. Provide their own independent study program to their students
  2. Enter into an interdistrict transfer agreement with another district to provide the independent study program
  3. Contract with the San Diego County Office of Education (SDCOE) to provide the independent study program (As of now, SDCOE is situated to take on students in our high school independent study program and is currently working on the viability of a K-8 program.)

It is essential that independent study programs are implemented through current best practices and ensure ongoing progress monitoring. Maintaining high academic integrity in the programs implemented across our county is critical to the success and overall well-being of our students.

As SDCOE plans how to support all of the LEAs in the county, we need your help to collect information about your independent study plans for the 2021-22 school year. Please take a few moments to fill out this survey to share your plans.

To support you in implementing the new requirements, SDCOE’s legal team in consultation with outside counsel, has prepared a draft administrative regulation and board policy to be customized by each district, as well as a template board resolution. The materials should be consistent with any that CSBA may distribute and display with red-line edits to show where existing CSBA policies around independent study have been updated. Counsel advises that AB 130 is both complicated and a new law that has not been fully explored. Districts need to be aware that the law is subject to clarification, change, and revision as greater clarity is provided by the California Department of Education. It is recommended that districts proceed cautiously as they revise their board policies and consult with their counsel.

Possible Consequences Associated with Failing or Refusing to Implement Required CDPH Face Covering Guidance
Despite the fact that the California Department of Public Health’s (CDPH) requirements for schools explicitly states that “all K-12 students are required to mask indoors” and that “schools must develop and implement local protocols to enforce the mask requirements” there is a growing belief that schools have the discretion to make mask usage optional in indoor settings. Failing or refusing to follow the state’s requirement on masking may involve significant risks and expose districts to liability.
We have been advised of the following risks and liabilities a district may find itself exposed to should it fail to or refuse to follow state and local face covering requirements:

  • The San Diego County Risk Management Joint Powers Authority has stated that failing or refusing to implement and enforce state guidance could result in a loss of coverage for liability claims related to COVID-19.
  • SDCOE’s legal services department warns that willfully refusing to implement mandated COVID-19 prevention measures could negate the immunity that may be granted to a public entity, and increase liability for damages.
  • Cal/OSHA has provided that local educational agencies that fail to or refuse to enact requirements issued by the CDPH can also be cited for violations related to employee safety.
  • The current San Diego County public health order states: “Pursuant to Health and Safety Code section 120175.5 (b), all governmental entities in the county shall continue to take necessary measures within the governmental entity’s control to ensure compliance with State and local laws, regulations, and orders related to the control of COVID-19.” Therefore, school leaders should be mindful of the provisions outlined in Health and Safety Code Section 120295, which provides that anyone who fails to comply with local health orders may be subject to a misdemeanor, fines, and/or imprisonment.

School leaders should consult with their legal counsel before considering any departure from state or local requirements. Included here is a presentation outlining this guidance.

FAQ on Face Coverings Available
The SDCOE Communications team has compiled a list of frequently asked questions about face covering requirements for the 2021-22 school year to support you as you share information with your community. You can link directly to the webpage or use the text as you think will best serve your community.

Statewide Instructional Modes Survey Collection Starts July 26
Starting Monday, July 26, the statewide Instructional Modes Survey will collect information from all local educational agencies (counties, school districts, and charter schools and private schools) about their plans for the 2021-22 school year. The submission portal will be open from Monday, July 26 through Friday, July 30 at 5 p.m. The survey will include questions related to plans for providing academic intervention programs, after school services, and other supplemental supports to students during the next school year. You can prepare with this comprehensive overview of the survey questions.

If you need assistance, please contact the CA Safe Schools Support Desk or check the FAQ sheet for responses to commonly asked questions.

Local Control and Accountability Plan Update
As you are aware, we’re in the first year of the three-year Local Control and Accountability Plan (LCAP), which means there are new templates and requirements. As such, SDCOE is finding some elements that may need to be clarified or modified by LEAs. This document illustrates the LCAP clarification and approval process. SDCOE’s Assessment, Accountability, and Evaluation and Business Services staff will be in communication with you and will continue to support you throughout the entire LCAP process. If you have any questions, please contact Deputy Superintendent Dr. Jeanette Chien at jeanette.chien@sdcoe.net.

Creating Opportunities in Prevention and Eliminating Suicide (COPES) Initiative
SDCOE has received a grant in collaboration with San Diego County Behavioral Health to create school communities that champion mental wellness by targeting efforts in suicide prevention, intervention, and reducing stigma related to mental health issues. Participating districts will have professional development opportunities for educators, staff, parents and students. Districts will receive an annual stipend to fund a COPES Initiative liaison who will facilitate the rollout of the important work of the initiative throughout the district. Superintendents will receive an email with more information about the initiative and should respond to mara.madrigal@sdcoe.net to secure participation.

Thank you for all that you do. As always, please reach out if you have any questions.

Sincerely,
Paul

Dr. Paul Gothold
San Diego County Superintendent of Schools
phone: 858-295-6641