California calls for online learning that is 'equivalent' of in-person classes

90% of California students will start the 2020-2021 school year online.
FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- New guidelines for distance learning were revealed by Gov. Gavin Newsom and the California Department of Education in a briefing on Friday as many school districts across the state started their school year this week.

90% of California students will start the 2020-2021 school year online. Newsom and State Superintendent Tony Thurmond said the state's guidelines for helping schools mitigate the digital divide among kids.

The new rules call for California school districts to have access to devices and WiFi connectivity for all students, daily live interaction with teachers online, providing assignments that area "equivalent of in-person classes," as well as adapted lessons for English language learners and Special Education students.

"These circumstances are not ideal, but students will continue to learn, and we have to make sure we bridge any learning gaps," Thurmond said.

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In addition to the guidelines, an additional $5.3 billion in funding has been made available for California schools to help implement this new guidance.

The governor said the school districts that have applied for the financial support so far would receive funding, including Fresno Unified, which will receive $87 million to help with distance learning.

81% of the funding is going to schools with students from low-income households, foster youth, homeless, and students with disabilities.

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Newsom said the districts have flexibility in how they follow the guidelines, but those who do not implement the new rules will not be eligible for funding.

The state is also working to provide guidelines to allow school districts to convene small groups of students who cannot obtain a fruitful education from home on campus, the governor added. He did not elaborate on which students would qualify for these groups.

Distance learning has been met with some resistance in the Central Valley.

While schools on the state's monitoring list, including Fresno, Tulare, Kings, Merced and Madera counties, are required to implement online learning, one Fresno County private school has violated that order.

RELATED: Fresno County orders Immanuel Schools to shut down after it brings kids back to campus
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In response to a question from ABC30, Gov. Newsom said he was "disappointed' by Immanuel Schools for violating Fresno County's health order to close it campus.

Newsom said the state could reopen schools sooner than later if Californians continue wearing masks and physical distancing.

The state reported 7,934 coronavirus cases on Friday, with 4,429 of those cases coming from the backlog of tests. Hospitalizations and ICU rate continued to decrease statewide.

Newsom said the Central Valley has also seen its coronavirus growth rate starting to decline slightly, but warned the number of cases and hospitalizations were still a concern to state health officials.

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