School Reopening Principles and Waiver Application Guidance

School Reopening Principles

Schools should not open in person unless it is safe for students and staff. School districts should adhere to the requirements set forth by the California Department of Public Health and county health departments regarding the reopening of schools. Protecting the health and well-being of students, staff and families must come first.

  • School districts must provide a variety of opportunities for robust input and feedback from parents who are representative of the demographics of the school community.  Communication with families and students should be early and often. Two-way communication before and during school reopening planning and implementation is critical for the health and safety of all students, staff and families.
  • Parents and families should be able to ask questions and receive responses about the school’s plans before a physical return to school.  Plans should include information about physical safety, distancing practices, health screenings and testing, and ventilation systems.  Parents should be informed of the district’s plan of action in the event of an outbreak, detailing the possibility of reclosure or quarantine of some students and staff.  A helpful guide including questions to ask was developed by PACE in conjunction with California State PTA; Navigating the Uncertainty of Reopening Schools: A Guide for Parents, Families and the Public” is available on our website at
  • Parents and families should be provided with choice in determining whether their child returns to the classroom full or part-time or participates in distance learning or a hybrid model.
  • Some children are disproportionately impacted by distance learning. The needs of children living in poverty, English language learners, children with disabilities and special needs, and other vulnerable students must be effectively addressed. It is not acceptable for any child to miss out on crucial learning opportunities.
  • In order for distance and hybrid models of teaching and learning to be successful for all children and youth, all students must have access to the internet and compatible computers or tablets.
  • There needs to be flexibility in timing that works for families with multiple children, working families, and families with other hurdles. For middle and high school students, schools should not start before 8:30 am to protect student health and well-being. Getting input ahead of time from local families about these issues is imperative.
  • Schools are encouraged to limit the number and types of platforms that students and families must navigate in order to participate successfully in distance or hybrid learning.
  • Distance and hybrid models of teaching and learning should include the same instructional supports and high quality of learning and instruction as traditional on-site instruction, addressing equity and incorporating age and developmentally appropriate instructional best practices.
  • Afterschool and childcare programs need to be available and coordinated with the school day for working families.

Information and Guidance for PTAs Requested to Support Waiver Applications for
Elementary School In-Person Instruction

The application for an elementary school (grades transitional kindergarten (TK) to sixth grade) re-opening waiver requires school districts to indicate: “The extent to which the school, school district, or system of private schools has consulted with relevant labor, community, and parent organizations, as applicable.”

  • PTAs may participate in providing input to school districts regarding a waiver application that reflects the variety of views of the parent community.
  • A PTA should not sign a letter of support for a TK-6 waiver due to potential liability.


Excerpt from California Department of Public Health’s COVID restrictions on school opening and process to apply for a waiver: (bold emphasis added)

The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) developed the COVID-19 and Reopening In-Person Learning Framework (PDF) to support school communities as they decide when and how to implement in-person instruction for the 2020-21 school year.

This framework permitted schools and school districts to reopen for in-person instruction at any time if they are located in a local health jurisdiction (LHJ) that has not been on the county monitoring list within the prior 14 days. If the LHJ has been on the monitoring list within the last 14 days, the school must conduct distance learning only, until their LHJ has been off the monitoring list for at least 14 days.

The framework authorized local health officers (LHO) to grant a waiver of this criteria, in order for elementary schools to open for in-person instruction under specified conditions. Applicants must satisfy all waiver requirements in order to be granted a waiver. Waivers should be granted or denied pursuant to the process outlined below.

This elementary school waiver is applicable only for grades TK-6, even if the grade configuration at the school includes additional grades.

A district superintendent, private school principal/head of school, or executive director of a charter school (hereinafter applicant) can apply for a waiver from the LHO to open an elementary school for in-person instruction.

Applications and all supporting documents must be submitted to the LHO at least 14 days prior to the desired reopening date.

Prior to applying for the waiver, the applicant (or his/her staff) must (1) consult with labor, parent, and community organizations, and (2) publish elementary school reopening plans on the website of the local educational agency (or equivalent). Examples of community organizations include school-based non-profit organizations and local organizations that support student enrichment, recreation, after-school programs, health services, early childhood services or provide family support.

Full details:

To view or download a PDF version of this document, click here.

CHHSA Releases Master Plan for Early Learning and Care: California For All Kids

The California Health and Human Services Agency has released the Master Plan for Early Learning and Care: California For All Kids.

The Plan will help the state better understand the crisis families, children and early learning and care providers are facing amid the COVID-19 pandemic and identifies key policy goals to ensure that all California children can thrive physically, emotionally and educationally in their early years through access to high-quality early learning and care programs.

These goals include universal preschool, enhanced workforce development and equitable career pathways for educators and caregivers, and funding reforms to promote equitable access to high-quality early learning and care.

You can find get a quick overview of the plan and download the full report at

You can read the official press release here.

State Board of Education Approves Shorter Standardized Tests to Give Schools Flexibility Amidst COVID-19 Uncertainties

The following November 6 press release is from the California Department of Education:

SACRAMENTO — The State Board of Education on Thursday unanimously approved the use of shorter standardized tests in English language arts and math this spring, creating a path for collecting critical student data amidst COVID-19 uncertainties.

The Board’s action also recognizes the need for innovative solutions to support students, schools and districts as they confront myriad challenges associated with the pandemic.

“Our schools and educators need flexibility, options, and ongoing support as they continue to navigate tremendous challenges and collect data across multiple measures to fully understand student learning,” said State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond.

Like other states, California is required by the federal Every Student Succeeds Act to assess student learning as a condition of receiving certain federal funds. In a letter to state education chiefs, the U.S. Department of Education indicated they would not currently consider a waiver and that states should prepare to administer tests in the spring.

The State Board’s approval of shorter Smarter Balanced assessments in English language arts and math for grades 3–8 and 11 reflects California’s commitment to supporting schools by providing testing options.

The shorter assessments will reduce student testing time, which now takes from seven to eight hours in total. Guidance regarding test administration will include flexible options to meet the unique contexts of each district or school.

The tests will cover all academic standards, which describe what students should know and be able to do at each grade level. Spring testing will provide the first statewide snapshot of the impact of COVID-19 on student learning.

“Because we have been supporting and encouraging districts to use formative and diagnostic assessments this fall, schools will have data to guide individual student learning. Meanwhile, a shorter summative test can provide a more manageable way to offer district and state-level information in these unpredictable times,” said State Board President Linda Darling-Hammond.

Now that the shorter tests are approved, CDE will work closely with districts and charter schools to strategize test administration, ensure student participation, and communicate with families.

Click here to read this press release on the CDE website.

Guidance Document for School Reopening

PTA recently created a document that provides helpful guidance on an issue that many of you may be facing right now: school re-opening. To read the document in its entirety, click here.

California State PTA’s “School Reopening Principles” are based on our organizational goals and purposes, input from our local leaders and from our parent listening sessions last summer, our longstanding educational and legislative stances, and the most current information from reliable educational and health agencies. We encourage local PTAs and school districts to adhere to these principles during important conversations regarding school reopening.

The decisions facing schools, PTAs, and families on important issues of educational opportunity and health are complex, and we hope that California State PTA’s Principles for School Reopening will assist you with these crucial conversations.

Read the PACE Policy Brief on School Reopening

Policy Analysis for California Education (PACE), in cooperation with California State PTA, produced “Navigating the Uncertainty of Reopening Schools: A Guide for Parents, Families and the Public.” This report summarizes the current state of knowledge about key issues, and suggests a set of questions that parents and educators should ask when considering plans for reopening during the pandemic. This summary infographic serves as a valuable handout for community discussions.

“This report informs parents and helps raise important questions about health, equity, social-emotional issues, and effective teaching and learning,” said Celia Jaffe, President of California State PTA. “We hope that it will prompt discussions among all concerned as to when and how to conduct schooling during the pandemic.”

Final Report on PTA-CCEE Distance Learning “Listening Sessions”

In May 2020 California State PTA partnered with the California Collaborative for Educational Excellence (CCEE) to provide professional learning network services by offering three listening sessions to our primary stakeholders: parents/guardians, PTA leaders and educators.

Engagement of our stakeholders throughout each listening session was very high and the conversations were intense. Parents especially had a lot to say. They clearly needed an outlet where they could share their worries, ask questions, and find compassion. While distance learning and school reopening were the topics of greatest concern, common themes emerged through each session: communication and family engagement; social emotional health and well-being; and care for our most vulnerable children. Our stakeholders’ voices make clear how difficult the last few months have been for families and how vital it is that families are included in decisions about their children’s education.

California State PTA and CCEE compiled a report that analyzes the lessons learned from the listening sessions. The report details what we heard from families regarding their experiences during the first months of the pandemic and their concerns going forward. It also identifies available resources that address the needs and concerns of parents, and offers recommendations on how to support parents and families as schools navigate decision-making during this challenging time.

To read or download the complete report, click here.

To listen to recordings of the listening sessions, click here.


Help Your Child Succeed in Math with “Discover Math Together”

You don’t have to be a “math person” to help your child be successful at mathematics!

During our “Discover Math Together” virtual learning series this summer, Alex Kajitani, California Teacher of the Year and “The Rappin’ Mathematician,” will lead three sessions that will give parents the confidence, knowledge, and strategies to help their children succeed in math!

Here are the remaining dates, times, and registration details:

  • Session II – Engaging & Amazing Resources for Learning Math Online: Wednesday, July 29, 2020, 4:30-5:30 pm
    This fun-filled session gives parents tips and resources that they can use with their children to learn math, remotely, or any way. Explore and play with some great resources that you can use immediately with your own kids, from virtual manipulatives to engaging websites and videos.
  • Session III – Ten Ways Parents Can Help Their Kids Succeed in Math (Even If They Don’t Consider Themselves a “Math Person”): Wednesday, August 5, 2020, 4:30-5:30 pm
    In this session Alex offers a fun and engaging look at how we can help our kids get excited about math, and see the value of it in their own lives.

Click the following Zoom link to register for any or all of the sessions:

About Alex Kajitani: Alex is the 2009 California Teacher of the Year, and a Top-4 Finalist for National Teacher of the Year. He is known around the world as “The Rappin’ Mathematician,” and was featured on The CBS Evening News, where Katie Couric exclaimed, “I LOVE that guy!” Alex is also on a mission to get every kid in America to learn their times tables, and to make this happen, he created the wildly popular online program


California State PTA is developing a training program to help districts, schools, and families learn more about the Local Control Accountability Plan (LCAP) process and to strengthen home-school partnerships to support student success and school improvement.

To ensure that the content of our program meets the needs of a school community, we want to hear from families, educators and community leaders as key stakeholders across California.

That’s where you come in – your voice is important and makes a difference! Please complete this brief survey (no more than 10 minutes) to share your thoughts and experiences with California State PTA. You can either click here,, or scan the QR code to the right.

Please know that this survey is anonymous, so no personal information will be collected. It is available in nine languages. You do not need to be a PTA member to participate.

Thank you for sharing your perspective and feedback so students can thrive in school and beyond!

Hear recordings of our online “Listening Sessions” from June 17 and June 25

California State PTA recently held several interactive online networking sessions, hosted by President-Elect Carol Green, where we discussed distance learning and the challenges of parenting during the pandemic. We shared resources and best practices, and learned from parents and guardians what works for you, and what has proved the most challenging.

June 17 – “Connecting with PTA Leaders”

If you’d like to watch a recording of this session, click here.

GUEST PANELISTS: Michael Morgan, Vice President for Membership Services; Mariaelena Huizar, Vice President for Health and Community Concerns; and Otis Cross, Chair of District Presidents and California Principals who work with PTAs.

June 25 – “Family Engagement — Supporting families and schools during challenging times”

If you’d like to watch a recording of this session, click here.

GUEST PANELISTS: Lisa Borrego, Director of Family Engagement and Partnership Development for San Juan Unified School District, and Marín Trujillo, Coordinator of Community Engagement for West Contra Costa Unified School District.

Find Low-Cost (or Free) Internet and Computers Through CETF

CETF logoThe coronavirus epidemic has left many families struggling to pay bills while simultaneously trying to help their children learn at home. That’s why access to low-cost or free internet and affordable computers is now more essential to more people than ever before.

California State PTA has partnered with the California Emerging Technology Fund (CETF) to help those in need access the technology that can help their children succeed during this difficult time — or anytime.

CETF is a non-profit organization that can connect you with a wide range of Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and device providers that feature affordable computers and internet solutions, and now, they can even help connect you with internet providers offering free service (for a limited time).

Click here to read CETF’s flier in English or Spanish to get more information about how to qualify, and who to contact. Click here to visit CETF’s website to find providers in your area.


On June 17, 2021, we held an important and informative webinar about bridging the digital divide, where we discussed the impact of integrating technology into learning, and revealed highlights from the CETF-USC statewide survey on distance learning.

Featured speakers included former California State PTA President Celia Jaffe, representatives from the California Emerging Technology Fund (CETF) and Dr. Pedro Noguera, Dean of the Rossier School of Education at USC.

Click here to watch a recording of the webinar.