COVID - Distance Learning

10 Key Steps to Establish Distance Learning Amid COVID-19

March 19, 2020

The March 17, 2020 CDE guidance appeared to be a call to action to California school districts to develop a plan for distance learning.  CDE emphasized that such plans would need to be flexible, varied for both short and long term goals, and factor in delivery of services to economically disadvantaged students, students with disabilities, and English language learners to ensure equitable access.

Each school district will have its own unique system already in place, but key steps in developing distance learning include:

  • Assess what hardware and software resources the district has and what resources are needed to deliver online instruction.
  • Inquire about accessibility at home to devices, Internet, and wifi.
  • The California Constitution prohibits school districts from requiring students to purchase devices or internet access, provide their own devices, or pay a fee to access these resources.
  • The California Constitution and Williams Act requires that all students have access to instructional materials. However, CDE stated that equitable access does not require exact same content must be delivered through the same channel for all students.
  • Procure needed hardware and software.
  • Emergency Resolution is required to procure on an emergency basis. (Public Contract Code section 20133)
  • Contract Review for data privacy, term length, termination, insurance, etc.
  • At this time, we are unaware of any additional flexibility of eRate funding from the FCC, but this may change as there is pressure to provide more financial resources to acquire devices and include wifi hotspots to be covered.
  • Develop an Educational Program that accounts for a spectrum of delivery methods and is flexible. Options include, but are not limited to:
  • Online instruction
  • Online resources and enrichment
  • Televised instruction
  • In-person distribution of learning packets, U.S. mail, or email
  • In-person locations with wifi hot spots, with small numbers and social distancing measures
  • Opportunities for teachers to engage with one another
  • Identify Curriculum. Many school districts have online resources already, but CDE has also provided a wealth of resources in its March 17, 2020 Guidance and intends to continue to update the resources.
  • Review contracts to ensure content meets standards, data privacy, etc.
  • We recommend establishing a record keeping protocol and tracking of materials and instructional time
  • Consider how the proposed education program can be modified to ensure access to economically disadvantaged students, English language learners, and special education student. (See additional F3 COVID-19 resources specific to special education.) 
  • Provide Training to staff, parents, and students to navigate online learning tools.  (Consider potential collective bargaining implications on online education.)
  • Communicate plan and expectations to school community.
  • Deploy Resources.
  • Establish a process and protocol for deploying devices, i.e. record condition, serial numbers.
  • Require Agreement or Policy (for staff and students) governing topics such as expectations of use, consent to recording, and FERPA compliance .
  • Evaluate insurance coverage for damaged or missing devices.
  • Maintain IT Support for staff and students. Caution regarding increased cyberattack activity.
NOTE: This is a summary only and not legal advice.We advise you to consult with legal counsel to determine how this information may apply to your specific facts and circumstances.
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