The state's top education official is working to help every school district in California transition to distance learning for the rest of the school year.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond said in a statement Tuesday that students likely will not be allowed to return to school campuses before summer because of ongoing efforts to slow the spread of COVID-19 through physical distancing and shelter-in-place orders. 

“This is in no way to suggest that school is over for the year, but rather we should put all efforts into strengthening our delivery of education through distance learning,” he said. 

He said that his department would work with school districts that need help providing technology to allow all students to participate in distance learning.

Some local school districts and schools have already begun online classes, including Lammersville Unified School District, which transitioned to distance learning March 18, five days after the governor ordered all California residents to stay at home except for essential activities.

The K-8 schools in Jefferson Elementary School District are scheduled to begin distance learning on Monday. Many students will participate in lessons using their families' computers, tablets or smartphones, and the district will check out Chromebooks to families that need them starting April 1.

So far, Tracy Unified School District has distributed ungraded educational materials for students to work on if they choose. Student services director Rob Pecot has said that the district will work out a plan for all students to resume lessons from home if school closures last beyond April 20, as now seems likely.

“We are in unprecedented times, and it’s hard to tell what the future holds as we are all doing our best to flatten the curve,” Thurmond said in his statement Tuesday. “From what we know right now, our schools will be closed longer than we originally thought, and it will be best if our schools are prepared for that extension, by having their distance learning models prepared to go until the end of the school year.”

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