As the excitement of the 2021-2022 school year fast-approaches, some uncertainty still lingers as teachers and administrators continue to navigate educating students in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic and ever-changing rules and regulations. Here are our top six tips for a great start to the 2021-2022 school year:
- Local educational agencies (“LEAs”) must make sure staff members are informed and have a clear understanding of your District’s COVID-19 guidelines. Each local educational agency may have different protocols and procedures put in place depending upon local public health guidelines, and the landscape is constantly changing and evolving as new information becomes available. As such, it is critical that staff members have the most up-to-date information and are properly trained on COVID-19 safety protocols when the school year starts.
- For the 2021-2022 school year only, school districts and county offices of education (“COEs”) must ensure that independent study is offered as an educational option, which replaces distance learning. Districts may contract with a COE or establish an interdistrict transfer agreement to meet the requirements of offering independent study, or seek a waiver from the California Department of Education (“CDE”), under certain circumstances. School districts and COEs must also notify parents of the option to enroll their child in independent study, which includes information posted on the district’s or COE’s website regarding a parent’s right to request a meeting prior to enrollment, a pupil’s rights regarding enrollment and disenrollment in independent study, and requirements regarding synchronous and asynchronous instructional time, among other things. Clear communication with families is important in order to ensure that everyone is confident and prepared at the start of the school year.
- All LEAs must develop a plan for offering independent study to pupils impacted by school closures due to emergency conditions beginning on September 1, 2021.
- All LEAs must ensure that all IEPs are in place and being implemented with fidelity at the start of the school year. As discussed above, with the potential for changing protocols and guidelines, local educational agencies must ensure that a child’s entire IEP is accessible to all staff or service providers who are responsible for its implementation and that each IEP will be materially implemented.
- All LEAs must make sure that students and families feel supported and validated. The 2020-2021 school year and accompanying social isolation has likely been extremely stressful for students and parents alike. It’s important to ensure open lines of communication with parents who may be anxious about the changes to their child’s educational environment, and to support and validate students who may have anxieties about the changes in their lives as they return to school. For example, having a clear communication protocol and expressing empathy and understanding to parents and students will be important for creating a safe start to the school year.
- All LEAs should consider providing training to staff to strengthen their communication skills, including offering conflict resolution strategies and emphasizing the importance of presenting information clearly, tactfully, and with empathy when working with parents and students during the uncertainties of the continuing COVID-19 pandemic.
We recommend consulting an attorney if you would like additional details about any of the above tips.
Best wishes for a successful 2021-2022 school year!