News Briefs | FYI
August 9, 2021
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CDC mask guidance now matches California’s
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has updated its guidance to recommend universal masking in schools based on new scientific evidence about the Delta variant of COVID-19.
Just two months earlier, the CDC had advised that vaccinated individuals could go maskless in most indoor settings, including schools. However on July 27, the CDC recommended vaccinated and unvaccinated people wear masks indoors in communities with growing coronavirus caseloads. The CDC also recommended universal masking for teachers, staff and students, regardless of vaccination status and community transmission of the virus.
The update was based on emerging information about the highly-transmissible Delta variant, which is now the dominant strain in the country and has prompted counties like Los Angeles, Sacramento and Yolo to return to an indoor masking requirement.
“The Delta variant is showing every day its willingness to outsmart us,” said CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky during a news briefing. “This is not a decision we at CDC have made lightly.”
The CDC guidance now matches guidance issued July 12 from the California Department of Public Health, which also requires masking in schools, even for vaccinated individuals.
Meanwhile, two parent groups – Let Them Breathe and Reopen California Schools — have filed a joint lawsuit against the State of California challenging the state’s facial covering, asymptomatic testing and close contact quarantine guidance for K-12 schools.
The complaint announced July 22 alleges that the state’s mask mandate for all students is arbitrary, not based on scientific evidence, harmful to students and impedes effective education. It further alleges that asymptomatic testing doesn’t provide assurance of reducing school or community spread of COVID-19.
“It’s clear that CDPH has chosen to ignore the overwhelming evidence that show children are at a very low risk from being infected with COVID-19, transmitting it to others, or becoming seriously ill from COVID-19,” said Jonathan Zachreson, founder of Reopen California Schools. “A return to a normal school year is crucial to the mental and physical health recovery for students across California who have endured months of isolation and a majority of who spent last school year entirely in distance learning.”
CDE webinar highlighted ways to support in-person learning
State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond hosted a webinar in July for local educational agencies and education partners to lead a discussion on how schools can use new state and federal funding to invest in strategies that will facilitate a safe and impactful return to in-person learning. Over 700 individuals registered for the event to get up-to-date guidance from experts in public health and school districts.
“The Delta variant is more common now and more transmissible, and case numbers are again rising in many areas. Masking, vaccinations, and rapid COVID testing are absolutely essential to move forward,” said Thurmond, in a news release. “With that as our context, we are uplifting the important efforts underway at our schools and how they are using the funds flowing from this historic education budget to get open, stay open, and meet the needs of their students in this moment.”
California Department of Education Chief Deputy Superintendent of Public Instruction Stephanie Gregson facilitated the event, and panelists included Dr. Naomi Bardach, State Lead of the Safe Schools for All Team, and educators from throughout the state.
Superintendent Francisco Escobedo from Chula Vista Elementary School District and his team highlighted the district’s rapid COVID testing program as well as the commitment to using both state and federal funding toward improving mental health services such as increased psychologist time, additional counselors and social workers, implementing a virtual academy, and overhauling ventilation at each of the district’s 46 school sites.
Andra Yeghoian, environmental literacy and sustainability coordinator from the San Mateo County Office of Education, spoke to ways outdoor learning programs are being utilized to reduce transmission of the virus, increase space for learning and play, and boost academic and mental health outcomes. She provided concrete steps for districts to consider as they implement outdoor learning strategies. Alison Yoshimoto-Towery, chief academic officer from Los Angeles Unified School District, described L.A. Unified’s Primary Promise, a program to accelerate literacy and math, language, and critical thinking skills. She walked through a systemic approach that focused on explicit teaching and modeling, emphasis on language, vocabulary development, and targeted individual and small group instruction.
CDE Deputy Superintendent of Public Instruction Lisa Constancio rounded out the panel with a presentation on how LEAs can use COVID relief funds. Constancio explained: “This funding has been used for everything from purchasing of devices and connectivity that make the shift to remote learning possible, for academic supports to make up for lost instructional time, and supporting our students as they deal with mental and emotional tolls of the pandemic.”
A recording of the webinar is available on the CDE Facebook page,
School districts warned about ‘piggyback contracting’
School districts have been warned about using “piggyback contracting” for modular buildings and may want to confer with legal counsel when considering contract options, according to a recent client news brief from Lozano Smith.
On July 7, the Office of Public School Construction issued a mass email to all California school districts and county offices of education reiterating that the Public Contract Code does not allow a school district “to acquire factory-built modular building components via piggyback contracting.”
Piggyback contracting is a procurement method for “personal property” that allows a school district to avoid competitive bidding when another public agency has an existing contract with a vendor, in which case the district can purchase the property either through that public agency or directly from that vendor.
According to the news brief, when considering contract options for portable buildings on either permanent or temporary foundations, LEAs should “confer with your legal counsel ... so that you do not jeopardize State funding.”
Read the full client news brief at
Help ACSA members who are impacted by wildfires
Can you provide temporary housing or donate personal necessity items to educators who may be impacted by wildfires? Join ACSA’s Crisis Support Network and help affected ACSA members — fill out the form at
Submit articles on leading through change
School administrators have done tremendous work this year “Leading Through Change.” Share your experiences on this topic by submitting an article to ACSA’s Leadership Magazine. Find submission details at Deadline has been extended to Aug. 23.
List of colleges accepting pass/no pass released
The state has released the list of postsecondary institutions that will accept pass/no pass grades for admission purposes as a result of AB 104, which lets high school students request changing a letter grade from the 2020-21 school year to a pass/no pass grade. Find the list at
CDE releases updated Starting Smarter website
The California Department of Education has released an updated version of the Starting Smarter website,, available in both English and Spanish. This website helps parents and guardians of children in grades 3-8 and high school use CAASPP and ELPAC score reports in combination with grades, class tests, and their own observations to get a more complete picture of their child’s learning. That way, parents and guardians can prepare to partner with their child’s teacher in the fall to co-create learning goals.
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