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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Mandatory Testing Could Be Implemented as Soon as 2018

School and County Boards Encouraged to Submit Requests for Free Water Supply Lead Sampling

August 21, 2017

The State Water Resources Control Board and the California Department of Education are partnering on a new program that provides schools with free testing of their on-campus drinking water. The initiative comes as lead-contaminated water receives increasing attention as a serious public health concern and as the Legislature considers bills that would make lead testing mandatory for all California schools. Additionally, $9.5 million in grant funding is currently available for lead mediation projects in schools serving disadvantaged communities that lack access to clean drinking water.

According to numbers reported by the SWRCB, as of July 21, just over 11 percent (1,201) of California schools have sent in letters of request for free testing, with 9 percent of California schools (981) having submitted testing results to the board...

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Schools, Parents Urged to Make Food Safety a Priority This Fall

August 21, 2017

During the busy fall season, whether you’re working in a school district kitchen, or cooking at home preparing a packed lunch for your child, a weeknight dinner for the family, or a tailgate feast for the whole crew, make sure you prevent foodborne illness by following USDA’s four steps to food safety: Clean, Separate, Cook and Chill.

Clean: Wash your hands and cooking surfaces before and after handling food. Wash fruits and vegetables before eating, cutting, or cooking. Make sure lunch boxes and coolers are clean before packing.

Separate: Avoid cross contamination. Don’t let raw meat, poultry, or egg products come in contact with fruits, vegetables, or prepared foods. Never put cooked food on a plate or tray that held raw meat or poultry...

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Some Districts, Charter Schools Try Electric School Buses

August 21, 2017

GreenPower Motor Company and School Bus Sales of California announced last week they had secured commitments for the purchase of electric school buses from six different school districts and charter schools in the South Coast and North Coast districts.

GreenPower just rolled out its new school bus – the Synapse 72 all-electric Type D school bus – to go along with its transit buses and double-decker buses.

The company, now headquartered in Porterville (Tulare County), is hoping to begin construction of its assembly plant at the Porterville Airport within a few days. It has submitted building plans and is awaiting approval from the City of Porterville. Construction is expected to take six to nine months...

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USDA Allows More Flexibility in School Meal Requirements

August 21, 2017

Schools now have more flexibility in meeting US Dept. of Agriculture nutrition standards due to changes made earlier this year and in time for the 2017-18 school year.

The USDA will allow states to grant exemptions to schools experiencing hardship in serving 100 percent of grain products as whole grain-rich for the 2017-18 school year. Schools also no longer will have to meet Sodium Target 2 for the school years 2017-2018 through 2020. Sodium Target 1 will stay in place. Finally, schools will be able to serve 1 percent flavored milk through the school meals programs.

“This announcement is the result of years of feedback from students, schools and food service experts about the challenges they are facing in meeting the final regulations for school meals,” said Secretary of Agriculture George E. (Sonny) Perdue when the change was announced in May...

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Student Vaccination Rate Reaches All-Time High

By Christina Cox, Santa Clarita Valley Signal - Rep: August 7, 2017

A record number of students in seventh grade and kindergarten were vaccinated during the 2016-17 school year, according to two executive summary reports from the California Department of Public Health.

According to the reports, immunizations increased to 98.4 percent for seventh grade students and increased to 95.6 percent for kindergarten students in 2016-17.

The increase in immunizations could be attributed to the state’s stricter vaccination law that went into effect July 1, 2016.

Senate Bill 277 ended the exemption of vaccinations based on personal beliefs. Under the law, only students enrolled in independent study programs or homeschooled programs are not required to be vaccinated. Students can also still receive exemptions due to medical reasons...

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Study Examines Broadband Access in PreK-12 Schools, Finds Many Districts Lack Measurement Skills

By Chris Ritzo - Rep: June 19, 2017

In schools across the United States, IT departments are routinely tasked with supporting teachers as they move toward more technology-centric instructional environments. It may seem obvious that this can only be done with a foundation of robust broadband infrastructure. In practice, however, schools don’t always know the state of their infrastructure, or how to best improve it. The challenges that school administrators face when budgeting for and deploying technology vary widely, as do their approaches to supporting its use within their schools. Measuring and assessing network health is a critical challenge facing public schools as they plan for both today’s and tomorrow’s broadband needs.

During the 2015-16 school year, New America’s Open Technology Institute (OTI) and Education Policy program partnered with the IT staff at Alexandria City Public Schools (ACPS) in Virginia to conduct a pilot study as a first step toward addressing this challenge...

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