Digital Divide Closing at Schools, but Gaps Remain in Homes

April 4, 2019

California has closed the digital divide at its K-12 schools, but internet access at home remains a persistent problem, a new report finds.

Analysis by the Public Policy Institute of California shows that 90 percent of the state’s schools met the Federal Communication Commission’s minimum threshold (100 kbps connectivity per student) for digital learning in 2018, and 59 percent of schools met the FCC’s long-term target (1,000 kbps per student). In contrast, as highlighted in the summer 2017 edition of California Schools magazine, the institute’s 2016 report found that one-third of schools failed to provide adequate access to the internet...

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Cleaning Up Wildfire Ash Safely

CDPH Recommends Ways to Avoid Potential Health Hazards

November 30, 2018

On November 15, California Department of Public Health (CDPH) Director and State Public Health Officer Dr. Karen Smith today advised residents of recent burn areas to use caution in cleaning up ash from wildfires. The ash from trees burned in forest fires is relatively nontoxic and similar to ash that might be found in your fireplace. However, ash from burned buildings, vehicles, and similar items may contain many toxic substances, including arsenic, asbestos, lead, and fine particles that can aggravate asthma and other respiratory problems.

"As evacuation orders begin to be lifted, residents should be aware of potential health hazards during the clean-up and rebuilding process," said Dr. Smith. "It is important to limit the amount of ash that gets airborne. Leaf blowers and sweeping may seem like the smart way to clean it up, but this actually stirs the ash up so people may breathe it in, which is dangerous. It's also important to avoid skin contact with ash...

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New Technology Services Division Director at CDE

November 15, 2018

On November 1, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson announced that he has appointed Rodney Okamoto as Director of the Technology Services Division. His division provides the California Department of Education with Information Technology (IT) leadership, technical services, and a state-of-the-art infrastructure that enables it to deliver effective education services in California.

Okamoto most recently served as IT Manager II, overseeing the Information Systems and Services Office in the Technology Services Division. During his more than 20 years at the California Department of Education, he has chaired the multi-state Smarter Balanced Technology Workgroup and served as California’s IT Readiness Coordinator. His efforts were a major reason California was recognized for the most successful implementation of computer-based assessments in the country...

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NSBA Launches Initiative to Help Schools Mitigate Cyber-threats

August 7, 2018

In July, the National School Boards Association (NSBA) launched a Cyber Secure Schools initiative, a key source of information, tools, and resources, to help districts and schools enhance the security of their networks and data systems, and reduce cyber-vulnerabilities.

“Technology continues to change rapidly and with those changes comes emerging and significant cyber-threats,” said Thomas J. Gentzel, NSBA’s Executive Director and CEO. “Today’s school leaders must be able to familiarize themselves with the ever-evolving cyber threat landscape and take proactive steps to secure sensitive student and staff data and district operations...

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New CDE Mobile App Helps Families Find Summer and Afterschool Meal Program Locations

April 21, 2018

On April 17, the California Department of Education (CDE) released the CA Meals for Kids mobile app. The app allows users to find the locations of California’s Summer and Afterschool Meal Programs, which are spread throughout the state. These programs provide no-cost meals to children aged eighteen and under.

The CA Meals for Kids App draws upon information submitted to the CDE Nutrition Services Division by local program sponsors and provides the most up-to-date information about meal services available in the community. Children and families can use location-based searches to find meal sites, dates, and times. The app also allows for searches by site name, ZIP code, and city...

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Attorney General Becerra Issues Guidance to K-12 Schools on Privacy Rights of All Students, Documented or Undocumented

April 7, 2018

On March 30, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra issued new guidance to help California’s public K-12 schools and other local educational agencies develop policies to protect the rights of undocumented students and their families. The guide is designed to help schools better understand protections that safeguard the privacy of undocumented students and their families, and to serve as a model for local school districts.

“Every student, regardless of immigration status, is entitled to feel safe and secure at school,” said Attorney General Becerra. “In California, nearly half of all children have at least one immigrant parent. It’s our duty as public officials and school administrators to uphold the rights of these students so that their education is not disrupted.”...

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Many Families with Young Children Still Have Slower Connections, Limited Online Access… Even in Silicon Valley

March 23, 2018

By Lisa Guernsey

Even in Silicon Valley, the epicenter of online innovation, families with young children are experiencing a digital divide. Hispanic families in particular saying that they experience slower connections, more data limits, and more broken computers and devices than their white and Asian-Pacific Islander counterparts. More than 80 percent of educators in the area’s high-need schools say that they are not assigning homework that uses digital media because they worry that families do not have access at home.

And mixed feelings about the benefits and harm of technology and digital media permeate the community...

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Torlakson Announces New Drinking Water Testing for Schools

February 10, 2018

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson announced on February 1 that California public schools built before 2010 must test for lead in drinking water.

Last year, Governor Brown signed Assembly Bill 746, which requires community water systems statewide to complete lead testing in these older schools by July 1, 2019.

Even at low levels, lead may cause a range of health effects including behavioral problems and learning disabilities. Children six years old and younger are most at risk because the brain is still developing. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates that 10% to 20% of total lead exposure for young children comes from drinking water...

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Influenza Cases Increasing in California, Health Officials Encourage Californians to Get Vaccinated

January 29, 2018

The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) announced on January 9 that flu activity in California is widespread and at levels usually seen at the peak of the influenza season. Health officials encourage Californians to get vaccinated.

“With the increase in influenza impacting many communities across the entire state, it is important to get a flu shot now if you have not done so already,” said CDPH Director and State Public Health Officer Dr. Karen Smith. “Although influenza season usually peaks between December and February, flu activity can occur as late as May, which means it is not too late to get vaccinated.”

It takes about two weeks after vaccination for the body to respond fully. Vaccine effectiveness does vary for the different strains and year by year. Data will be available from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in February about vaccine effectiveness...

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New State Rules Announced to Protect Students from Unintended Pesticide Exposure

December 4, 2017

On November 13, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson praised the California Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) for adopting new rules to further protect students and school communities from pesticide exposure. These rules will take effect on January 1, 2018 and regulate agricultural pesticide use near schools and licensed child-care facilities.

“Children, teachers, school staff, parents, and school communities need safe healthy school environments to learn and succeed, and that includes protection from unintended, unhealthy pesticide exposure,” said Torlakson. “I thank Director Brian Leahy and the Department of Pesticide Regulation for their work in adopting stricter regulations with particular attention to avoiding chemical drift onto school sites. I am pleased we will have an additional layer of protection.”...

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New Laws Update Nutrition Program Purchasing Rules

October 30, 2017

Governor Jerry Brown has signed four bills that update purchasing rules related to school food and nutrition programs and improve access to healthy food. Each of these bills will take effect January 1, 2018.

Senate Bill 544: Bill Offers Clarity on Food Contract Award Rules

Senate Bill (SB) 544 resolves an inconsistency between state and federal law regarding the award of contracts in support of child nutrition programs by clarifying that school districts can consider factors other than price in awarding these contracts. This new law provides school districts with flexibility in purchasing items and services for their child nutrition programs.

Existing state law requires school districts to award any contract involving an expenditure that is over the bid limit (currently $88,300) for the purchase of equipment, materials, supplies or services, other than construction services, to the lowest responsible bidder...

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