This is the Only School District Still Open in California. What Are Officials Thinking?
All but one of California’s 977 public school districts have shut their doors in response to the coronavirus pandemic. The lone holdout is Outside Creek in Tulare County, a K-8 school district consisting of just one campus and about 103 students.
Governor Gavin Newsom’s recent shelter-in-place order does not require schools to close, but it’s obvious that’s what state officials and health experts would like to see.
“The stay-at-home order did not say schools specifically, but it did seem clear to me that every Californian should remain in their homes unless they are conducting business that is essential,” California State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond told EdSource. “The best way we can flatten the curve and reduce exposure and risk is to shut down everything, including our schools.”
Thurmond said he has been unable to reach the district’s superintendent directly, but that he would urge him to reconsider.
Tim Hire, superintendent of the Tulare County Office of Education, agrees. He says he’s told the superintendent and the school board it should close. So why is Outside Creek still open?
Superintendent Derrick Bravo said most of his students lack internet access and other at-home schooling tools. Their parents also lack childcare options. The district is in a rural area and is majority Latino. Over a quarter of the student body are English language learners. Still, county and state experts say the health of Outside Creek families should come first. That’s particularly true given the disadvantages rural areas will face during this pandemic.
Outside Creek is calling the shots for now and remains open for business. But its decision could end up teaching a very harsh lesson about the value of social distancing.