COVID-19 Support Center

CCSA is offering California charter schools guidance and sample resources that help response efforts to COVID-19 (novel coronavirus). This page and corresponding resources will continue to be updated as this public health emergency evolves.

Executive Orders Add Protections and Guidance for Charter Schools
Legal Guidance
Guidance from CDPH and CDE
Frequently Asked Questions

Executive Orders Add Protections and Guidance for Charter Schools

On March 13, Governor Gavin Newsom issued an Executive Order that guarantees continued state funding in the event of school closure due to COVID-19. With CCSA’s consultation, the Executive Order ensures that charter schools are weighed equally with traditional public schools’ needs.

An Executive Order was also issued on March 12 that suspended Brown Act Requirements. The full text of the order can be found here, with the Brown Act waiver further specified in paragraph 11.

Legal Guidance

On March 20, Young Minney & Corr presented a webinar on COVID-19: Legal Guidance for Charter Schools. See YMC's presentation for an overview of the following issues:

  • Stay at Home Orders
  • Funding Issues
  • Board Governance
  • Labor and Employment
  • Educational Opportunities
  • Standardized Testing
  • Special Education
  • Student Records
  • Student Confidentiality
  • Lottery
  • Uniform Complaint Process
  • Student Meals
  • Student Supervision

Guidance from CDPH and CDE

For the latest recommendations and guidance from the California Department of Public Health (CDHP), please visit their COVID-19 webpage that is issuing daily updates. In addition, the California Department of Education (CDE) has been making regular updates on their own COVID-19 webpage.

Frequently Asked Questions

It is unclear how long school closures in response to COVID-19 will last.  The current stay home order of the California State Public Health Officer and Director of the California Department of Public Health is indefinite.  Similar orders from the cities of San Francisco and Los Angeles are in effect until April 7, 2020 and April 19, 2020, respectively, but are subject to extension.  Most county offices of education and school districts have closed schools through the end of March or 1-2 weeks into April.  On March 19, 2020, the San Bernardino County Superintendent of Schools and school district superintendents extended school closures through May 1, 2020.  And, on March 20, 2020, the Los Angeles County Superintendent of Schools recommended extending school closures through May 5, 2020.  Most charter schools have closed their school sites to align with the local areas in their communities. 

The length of school closures will be dependent on the success of the current statewide and local public health orders, which direct all individuals to stay home or in their residences, to reduce the rate of COVID-19 transmission.  Local authorities and public health officials will update orders based on transmission rates in their communities.  Charter schools should monitor their local orders to determine how long their closures should last. 

At his press conference on COVID-19 on March 17, 2020, Governor Gavin Newsom stated that he did not expect schools to re-open before the end of the current school year.  it should become apparent that it is counter-productive and short-sighted to think of this crisis as a sequence of two-week periods where we hope orders will be lifted. This will only cause lurch and frustrated communications with staff and parents. It is better to begin to plan internally and calibrate external messaging under the assumption that on-site operations may not return to normal before the end of the year, and back map a plan accordingly, while reserving the option to return.

No. Pursuant to the Executive Order N-26-20 signed by Governor Newsom on March 13, 2020, a charter school, school district or county office of education temporarily closing in response to COVID-19 will continue to receive full funding to: (1) Continue delivering high-quality educational opportunities to students to the extent feasible through, among other options, distance learning and/or independent study; (2) Provide school meals in non-congregate settings; (3) Arrange for, to the extent practicable, supervision for students during ordinary school hours; and (4) Continue to pay employees.  Even charter schools, such as nonclassroom-based or independent study, that continue to serve students will not lose funding, under SB 117, due to a reduction in students attendance beginning March 1, 2020.  In passing SB 117, the Legislature intended that all local educational agencies, including charter schools, receive a hold harmless apportionment to ensure that the employees and contractors are compensated and paid during the COVID–19 health crisis.  As a result of the Executive Order and SB 117, charter school do not need to take pupil attendance for apportionment purposes, but should continue to do so for compulsory education.

Pursuant to the Executive Order N-26-20 signed by Governor Newsom on March 13, 2020, charter schools, school districts and county offices of education will receive funding to provide school meals for their students in non-congregate settings during a school closure in response to COVID-19.  Despite the order of the California State Public Health Officer and Director of the California Department of Public Health for all individuals living in the State of California to stay home or at their place of residence, school and childcare staff were excepted as needed to maintain continuity of critical government services, including provision of school meals.

Through the National School Lunch Program, administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and California Department of Education (CDE), a charter school or its food service provider currently approved to operate either a Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) or the National School Lunch Program Seamless Summer Option (SSO) can provide school meals to students during a school closure.  An existing charter school or food service provider that typically operates a SFSP or SSO program can be approved by CDE Nutrition Services Division to open a COVID-19 SSO or SFSP site within 24 hours to 36 hours of its request.  Even if a charter school or food service provider does not currently participate in the SFSP or SSO, it is our understanding that either may request and be approved to serve meals during a school closure under either program.  More information about how to and the information required to submit a request to serve meals to students can be found at the CDE COVID-19 Meal Service web page.

The provision of school meals during a school closure must promote social distancing, including by implementing non-congregate meal systems, for the safety of students and staff.  Non-congregate meal systems can vary based on community need and it is recommended that meals be taken away from the site and consumed elsewhere.  If meals are consumed on site, the distribution and eating areas need to be created with social distancing protocols.  Charter schools or food service providers that are operating SSP or SFSP during COVID-19 can also request approval to offer children shelf-stable meals for multiple days.  More information about non-congregate meal systems or social distancing protocols can be found at the CDE COVID-19 Meal Service web page.

It is critical that charter schools or food service providers take steps to ensure that school meals are available to all students, especially disadvantaged students.  In order to ensure that parents, guardians, and students are aware of the availability of meals, charter schools and foods service providers should communicate in multiple languages the availability of meals as widely as possible.

Pursuant to the Executive Order N-26-20 (Executive Order) signed by Governor Gavin Newsom on March 13, 2020, a charter school, school district or county office of education temporarily closing in response to COVID-19 will continue to receive full funding to continue delivering high-quality educational opportunities to students to the extent feasible through, among other options, distance learning and/or independent study.  Under the Executive Order, the California Department of Education (CDE) and the Health and Human Services Agency were directed to issue guidance “[e]nsuring students with disabilities receive a free and appropriate public education consistent with their individualized education program and meeting other procedural requirements under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act [IDEA] and California law.”  On March 17, 2020, CDE issued initial guidance on considerations for serving students with disabilities through distance learning strategies.  On March 20, 2020, CDE issued Special Education Guidance for COVID-19.

Based on the March 20th guidance, CDE recommended that local education agencies (LEAs), including charter schools, “should do their best in adhering to IDEA requirements, including federally mandated timelines, to the maximum extent possible. LEAs are encouraged to consider ways to use distance technology to meet these obligations. However, the CDE acknowledges the complex, unprecedented challenges LEAs are experiencing from the threat of COVID-19. As such, the CDE is committed to a reasonable approach to compliance monitoring that accounts for the exceptional circumstances facing the state.”  At of this writing, the federal government has not waived the requirements under IDEA. Based on the complexities of special education laws and obligations, CCSA encourages charter schools to encourage their special education staffs and providers to review the CDE guidance, and engage with their school districts, Special Education Local Plan Areas, and legal counsel to identify best practices and procedures for serving their special education students during this uncertain period.

There are many questions facing nonclassroom-based (NCB) charter schools as they consider how they may continue to operate. Since many NCB charter schools have significant site-based components, their programs may be significantly impacted. For those charter schools, “closing” may be a way to access the emergency flexibilities enacted in SB 117 while still retaining a high level of service to your students.

SB 117 hold schools harmless for most funding losses and other compliance requirements if they close due to COVID-19. But many NCB charter schools may choose to stay open if they can do it safely. Schools should be coordinating with their local health officials and authorizers on this decision based on their unique circumstances.

It is unclear if SB 117 provides the same waivers and extensions concerning Uniform Complaint Procedure and special education assessments for schools that choose to stay open

The governor has encouraged closed schools to continue to engage students through independent study, online learning and other distance learning modalities.  NCB charter schools are uniquely positioned to provide support and assistance to site-based schools to support their transition to temporary virtual learning.

However, the hold harmless funding provisions of SB 117 appear to limit the potential for schools that stay open to generate funding for new students that enroll mid-year, so the opportunity to significantly increase enrollment is limited.

We recommend that schools continue to pay all your employees and contractors throughout the normal school year.  Executive Order N-26-20 states that emergency funding is contingent upon schools continuing to pay their employees.  SB 117 states that the hold harmless apportionment is intended to ensure that employees and contractors get paid as if the school had not been closed due to COVID-19. 

On March 18, 2020 Governor Newsom issued Executive Order N-30-20 which waives state testing for the 2019-20 school year, based on approval of a federal waiver. Based on statements from the U.S. Department of Education, the waiver is expected to be granted. Any significant gap in instruction will skew the state testing results and have an impact on the state and federal accountability for years. We have been in contact with the Governor’s Office specifically about the potential impact of a state testing suspension on charter renewal decisions beginning July 1, 2020.

While schools should continue to address the immediate needs of students and families with a variety of short-term solutions, school leaders should also be working with their teams to create long-term plans for distance learning

There is no perfect answer or model. Each school is differently situated and getting remote instruction and resources to students will look different for each school. On March 17, 2020, the CDE guidance shared a continuum of options and we recommend leaders collaborate with others rather than create resources from scratch. CCSA has provided guiding questions for planning and sample distance learning plans on our Distance Learning web page.

Proposition 39 (2000) regulations provide that district allocated space must be available for the charter school’s entire school year regardless of the district’s schedule.  We advise you to review your school’s Facilities Use Agreement to determine whether your sharing arrangements specify something different.  If your district is prohibiting access, we suggest you let your CCSA Local Advocate know and also consult your attorney for specific advice.

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