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Standing Up For Students: The Need for Executive Action to Pause Permanent School Closures During the COVID-19 Pandemic

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As the most unprecedented public health, economic, and educational crisis of the last century, COVID-19 is requiring disruptions in almost every aspect of our lives. For the students, parents, and teachers of California’s public education system, the level of disruption and trauma is immeasurable.

At least 16 schools in 6 school districts statewide are slated to be closed or merged, and dozens more schools in at least 10 school districts are slated to be co-located with charter schools, all as of this month—May 2020. Permanent school closures, mergers, and co-locations would decrease the number of public school facilities available to the public school system and increase student density in available school facilities at the very same moment that the Governor, based on public health guidance, has called for greater physical distancing in the fall. The schools slated to be closed, merged, and co-located are almost all majority Black and Brown schools, further exposing communities of color to greater risk of exposure to the pandemic at a time when these communities are already experiencing higher rates of infection and mortality.

Furthermore, the level of trauma to students in schools about to be closed, merged, or co-located is unacceptably high: while most students statewide might be going into a new grade, they will be surrounded by peers and teachers they know, while students in schools being closed, merged, and co-located will never be able to see their peers and teachers again, and instead will be placed into an entirely new environment with hardly anyone they know.

This paper outlines the major arguments and evidence for an Executive Action pausing all planned school closures, mergers, and co-locations in the State of California during the COVID-19 pandemic.