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COVID-19 : School Closures & Protections offered by order of California Gov. Gavin Newsom

The Coronavirus has impacted so many lives across the world, and as the number of cases increase in our local communities, “social distancing” and “isolation” have started to drive closures of several community gathering places and most importantly, our Bay Area schools. Most impacted are our Special Needs students, who will get further isolated during this period, due to lack of the ability to collaborate with their otherwise tech-savvy neuro-typical student peers. The “Special Day Class” for many of our children are "segregated" in nature which limits their access to general student community. With school closures being announced, many in the student and parent community are unclear and unsure of what these closures actually mean.

Does it mean your children are having an earlier Spring break ?

Does it mean your children have time off during this difficult period to “just chill” ?

Does this mean “no homework” “no learning“ for the next few weeks ? The answer to all of the above questions is a BIG FAT NO ! At least, according to California Governor Gavin Newsom’s executive order signed on March 13, 2020. The order signed today ensures California public school districts retain state funding even in the event of physical closure. The order directs school districts to use those state dollars to fund distance learning and high quality educational opportunities, provide school meals and, as practicable, arrange for the supervision for students during school hours and extend all services and supports in accordance with IDEA and FAPE for students with Disabilities.

Closing schools has a massive, cascading effect for our kids and their families – especially those least equipped financially to deal with them. The needs of California kids must be met regardless of whether their school is open or closed. School districts that choose to close must use state educational dollars to quickly meet the needs of children and families. The State of California is working around the clock to help those districts and provide best practices to ensure no kid is left behind,” said Governor Newsom.

The Order provides that even if the schools close due to the COVID-19 fears, school districts must:

- Continue delivering high-quality educational opportunities to students through other options, distance learning and independent study;

- Safely provide school meals through the Summer Food Service Program and Seamless Summer Option, consistent with the requirements of the California Department of Education and U.S. Department of Agriculture;

- To the extent practicable, arrange for supervision for students during ordinary school hours

- Ensure Students with Disabilities receive a free and appropriate public education in accordance with their Individualized Education Programs and meet other procedural requirements in keeping with Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and California Law

- Continue to pay employees.

PRAGNYA welcomes and lauds Governor Newsom’s directives through this order for ensuring that ”ALL“ Students receive equitable access to their learning during this rather trying time. School districts are now required to come up with comprehensive learning alternatives for students with developmental, learning and intellectual differences.

What does this mean for you as the parent of a special needs child and what do you need to do in the event of the school closure ? - Get a copy of your most recent IEP and all the services covered therein for your child. - Get Copies of the most recent assessments including Psycho-EducationalEvaluations, Progress notes etc., if you have not already done so by contacting your child’s case manager immediately.

- If your child is receiving supplemental school-based services, for example Speech and Language, Counseling or Occupational Therapy, obtain a copy of those assessments as well. Your child’s IEP is the blueprint for his/her education. Without it, they cannot obtain the type and level of education that they need.

- Develop an emergency Child care plan. Due to the nature of the emergency, Aunts, Uncles, Grandparents may not be available for childcare. The Executive order calls for schools to provide for supervision of the students even during the closures. - Prepare your employers that you may need to work from home or take time off to attend to your child

- School districts and charter schools may use some form of distance learning in the event of extended closures. Make sure that you have the hardware and software that your child needs in order to “virtually” communicate with their teacher. If this does not work for your child, work with your case managers and school district to see how IEP services such as Resource, Speech or Counseling can be provided in person via skeletal or homebound services. - Reach out and build your Ally network. Reach out to other parents and students, support organizations like PRAGNYA to help support you and your family during this time.

- Do Not Panic, Freak Out or Isolate yourself all the way. Stay connected with the world to the safest extent possible via regular zoom meetings, video calls, engage in smaller, safer outdoor activities like trekking, Jogging, outdoor play, Dance, Music - Sing out loud, sing your heart out etc. Most importantly, Stay Happy and ensure your child stays Happy !

Governor Newsom’s Executive order for the schools, specifically protects the learning experience for all of our children and ensures that Together - We Got This !

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