Governor Focuses on Schools During State Update

Today, Friday, August 14, 2020, Governor Newsom provided a live update on the COVID-19 pandemic. The Governor focused on education and preparing schools for distance learning and in-person learning, once it is safe to do so. 

Today, Friday, August 14, 2020, Governor Newsom provided a live update on the COVID-19 pandemic. The Governor focused on education and preparing schools for distance learning and in-person learning, once it is safe to do so. 

The Governor began by reviewing steps taken to help schools prepare to re-open safely, which the Governor noted is priority one. The state has provided a significant amount of PPE to the schools—all at no cost to the schools. 

  • 18 million masks and face shields
  • 58,000 no-touch thermometers 
  • 1.5 million gallons of hand sanitizer

Governor Newsom noted the state issued COVID-19 school guidance with a safety-first approach, but education and state leaders know there is much to do to ensure the safety of all students, educators, and staff. He told the audience much was learned from the Spring term when schools were shut down suddenly and educators and parents all scrambled to figure out how to conduct distance learning for more than six million public school students. He noted the fall school season will likely see 90-95% of public-school students start with distance learning. Schools may be closed, but class will be in session. 

The Governor shared with the audience results of surveys related to the state’s readiness for distance learning:

  • 96.1% of school districts reported they were at least starting to provide technology to students for distance learning.
  • 91% of parents say they have technology needed for distance learning.
  • 71% of school districts are confident students and families will have the technology needed for distance learning.

The focus is now on closing the Digital Divide, as there are still parts of the state where people do not have connectivity or reliable connectivity. The greatest challenge in the Spring, when schools shut down, was securing hardware (tablets and laptops) for students and then making sure they were able to connect online.

The Governor noted that beyond ensuring students have equipment and connectivity, there are other requirements the state is putting forth to ensure students have a robust distance learning experience. He then reviewed the new state requirements:

  • Access to devices and connectivity for all children.
  • Daily live interaction with teachers and other students.
  • Challenging assignments equivalent to in-person classes.
  • Adopted lessons for English-language learners and special education students.

He acknowledged the leadership of the Legislature, Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond, and President of the State Board of Education Linda Darling-Hammond in helping bring together bi-partisan groups to improve the learning environment for students. He stated, “through budget language, we set conditional requirements for distance learning with funding to give local flexibility. At the end of the day, there is real accountability in terms of minimum requirements including, more dynamic and individualized learning experiences, and challenging assignments, especially for those students with special needs.”

The Governor went on to discuss the Digital Divide Task Force, as he noted there is still more work to be done in this area. He acknowledged the philanthropic efforts, which has resulted in donation of 73,000 devices for students and 100,000 hot spots. The Administration worked through the budget and with the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) to make another 87,000 WIFI hot spots available. Additionally, the PUC has set aside tens of millions of dollars for improving technology. 

Governor Newsom shared with the audience some of the other efforts taken to help schools prepare for the new school year and what is likely to be an extended period of distance learning. He noted the Administration set aside $5.3 billion from the CARES Act to support schools during the pandemic. He shared that 100% of eligible schools have applied, before the deadline, and are receiving funds. He offered a few examples, including Los Angeles Unified School District receiving $540 million; Fresno schools receiving $87 million, and Elk Grove schools receiving $44 million, to name a few. He encouraged everyone to go to to see how much funding their school district is receiving.

The Governor went on to state another important focus, which is demonstrated through the focus on improving technology, is equity. He stated 81% of funds prioritize:

  • Low income students
  • Students with disabilities
  • Foster Youth
  • Homeless Students
  • English-language learners 

Governor Newsom thanked corporate leaders, including Apple, T-Mobile, Office Depot, Staples, Edison, and others for helping secure thousands of devices for California schools. He also noted schools may use the state’s purchasing power to purchase more devices through state-negotiated master contracts.  

The Governor introduced Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond to discuss his efforts to get schools ready and secure more resources for them. Superintendent Thurmond, joined by telephone, and spoke to the challenges schools faced during the Spring term when the COVID-19 pandemic led to an unprecedented shut-down of all in-person instruction across the state. He noted how education leaders, teachers, and parents all worked together to meet the needs of California’s student population. He went on to note the focus, as stated by the Governor is equity and making sure all students have access to devices and connectivity to make distance learning a positive experience. He shared with the audience that another area of focus is addressing learning loss for those students who did not have devices, had to share devices among other family members, or had connectivity issues. “These are unprecedented circumstances, but I applaud our teachers and education leaders for stepping up and doing all they can to make sure students succeed in this unusual environment.” He closed by speaking about specific events and actions taken by teachers and other educators to prepare for this school year. He also thanked Governor Newsom and Board of Education President Linda Darling-Hammond for their leadership and dedication to California’s schools, educators, and students. 

The Governor returned to the podium and went on to note they are working diligently to bring solutions to closing the digital divide. He thanked Internet Service Providers for their contributions to solving the problems of connectivity in education and stated, “what we need now is even greater participation. Internet Service Providers should and must increase outreach regarding their affordable plans; help deploy near-term connectivity solutions; and ensure financially insecure families stay connected.” He also noted one of the great needs is technical support and said the state is looking at a variety of options to provide that, include community-based organizations and volunteers. He stated, “now is the time to put partisanship aside and work together to build a plan that works.” 

He told the audience California should lead the nation in efforts to close the digital divide. To meet this need, he told the audience he signed a new Executive Order that does the following:

  • Prioritizes actions to bridge the digital divide throughout state government.
  • Directs state agencies to pursue 100 mbps download speed.
  • Outlines actions to accelerate mapping, data collection, funding, deployment and adoption.
  • Request the Broadband Council to create a new State Broadband Action.

Governor Newsom then went on to share with the audience how the state is Organizing for Online Learning:

  • Counties are supporting districts with online platforms, curriculum, and training.
  • Districts from Los Angeles and San Diego to Elk Hills and San Lucas now have connectivity for every student.
  • Online instruction will be offered in core subjects and in arts, PE, and social-emotional learning.
  • Large group, small group and one-on-one supports and teacher office hours are planned. 

The Governor Introduced State Board of Education President Linda Darling-Hammond who described parent focus groups conducted throughout the state to learn what parents need in the way of support to help make distance-learning successful. She spoke of wrap-around services developed to help support students with special needs. Ms. Darling-Hammond then provided a list of school districts and specific actions taken in each district to ensure a successful school year.

Governor Newsom returned to the podium and concluded his remarks by noting it was a lengthy presentation, but he believed it necessary to detail some of the efforts being taken to make sure students, educators, staff, and parents have the resources they need to succeed. He reminded the audience that in-person learning is the goal, but the health and safety of students and educators is the first priority. With that, he began the media question and answer session.


A reporter asked if small group cohorts of students with special needs will be allowed to meet even if their county is on the Monitoring List. The Governor invited Linda Darling-Hammond to address the question. Ms. Darling-Hammond stated the focus is delivering the most robust learning situation for students, and small group cohorts will meet one-on-one even if the county is on the Monitoring List, because they are charged with meeting the needs of special needs students, and as long as it can be done safely, it will be done.

The next reporter asked the Governor if he supports the idea of a “wealth tax” to close the state’s budget gap. The Governor stated there is an initiative on the ballot. He noted the state faces another budget gap next year and he will continue to work with Legislative leaders for find creative solutions to close the gap.

The final reporter asked about a religious education program in Fresno County that was ordered closed by the Fresno County Department of Public Health and then in defiance the program reopened the next day. The reporter asked how the Governor thought this should be handled. The Governor stated he hoped everyone acts with the safety of others in mind, and that includes following state and local orders to protect public health. He noted it’s unfortunate some are not following the guidance and steps required to keep people safe and he supports local authorities in the steps taken to ensure public health safety.

The Governor closed the presentation by reminding everyone to be safe and follow the recommendations to avoid the spread of the virus. He promised to return next week with additional announcements. 

School Reopening – Guidance for Schools

The Governor noted schools are reopening and that his administration has put forward guidance for schools and now also for youth sports to help parents and authorities be safe during school and sports. The Guide for Schools is published on the Department of Public Health website (read more here). Updated guidance was released for childcare, day camps, and schools (read more here). Guidance is also provided for youth sports (read more here).

Guidance for higher education, (read more here).

Key milestones and trends – COVID-19 numbers – as of today (8/14/20)

The Governor noted the most important measures of the trajectory of the virus are the positivity rate and the 7-day average; in some cases, only the 14-day average is available.

The Governor noted the backlog of 295,000 cases is being addressed, as the cases have been logged, but now must be sorted and applied to the appropriate dates on which they belong, which will be done over the coming days. 

  • 10,996 deaths, up by 188 overnight or +1.7%; 7-day avg 985 or 9.8%; 14-day average 1,991 or 22.1%. 
  • 601,075 positive cases – up by 7,934 or +1.3%, this includes 4,429 backlog cases, which means the new cases are 3,505; 7-day avg. 8,951; 14-day total 7,678. The 7-day positivity rate is 6.5%; the 14-day positivity rate is 6.2%.
  • 9,556,598 tests conducted; 1-day total 111,105 up by 1.2%; 14-day up 1,745,557 or 22.3%.
  • Latinos continue to have the highest percentage of positive cases at 59%; Caucasians 17%; Asians 5%, and Blacks 4%.
  • Hospitalizations for COVID positive is 5,189 down by 47 or 0.9%; 14-day rolling average is 5,866.
  • The majority of hospitalizations are in LA County 1,393, followed by San Bernardino 481; Orange County 436; Riverside 314; Fresno 250; 
    San Diego 244; Sacramento 240; Stanislaus 197; Kern 172; Santa Clara 171; Alameda 165; San Joaquin 145.
  • ICU – COVID positive patients in ICU is 1,684 up by 12 or 0.7%; the 14-day rolling average is 1,805.


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