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Frequently Asked Questions


  1. What is distance learning?

Distance learning is defined in Education Code Section 43500(a).

Distance learning means instruction in which the pupil and instructor are in different locations and pupils are under the general supervision of a certified employee of the local educational agency (LEA). Distance learning may include, but is not limited to, all of the following:

  • Interaction, instructions, and check-ins between teachers and pupils through the use of a computer or other communications technology.
  • Video or audio instruction in which the primary mode of communication between the pupil and certified employee is online interaction, instructional television, video, telecourses, or other instruction that relies on computer or communications technology.
  • The use of print, video, and audio materials incorporating assignments that are the subject of written or oral feedback.
  1. What is considered an LEA for these purposes?

An LEA for purpose of these provisions means a school district, county office of education (COE), or a charter school, excluding a charter school classified as a non-classroom-based charter as of the 2019–20 fiscal year.

  1. Is an LEA required to offer distance learning?

An LEA must offer instruction through distance learning if it is unable to offer in-person instruction in part or fully pursuant to a state or public health order.

  1. Does an LEA need to get approval from a public health official for its planned model of distance learning?

An LEA does not need to seek out or receive approval from a state or local public health officer prior for its planned model of distance learning model. However, LEAs are required to following public health orders and guidance, as applicable, in determining safe in-person instruction, and when distance learning may be necessary. Parents should be informed of how instruction will occur, in a language understandable to the parent, pursuant to Education Code Section 48985.

  1. Is distance learning available to individual students who are at-risk or whose parents have a concern about their student participating in in-person learning?

Yes, distance learning must be offered for students who are medically fragile, would be put at risk by in person instruction, or who are self-quarantining because of concerns of exposure to COVID-19.

  1. Do schools need to confirm there is a valid reason that a student “would be put at risk by in-person instruction,” or is the student’s risk required to meet a specific standard?

No. There is not a definition of students who “would be put at risk by in-person instruction,” as there are many circumstances when distance learning may be more appropriate. For example, a student may have a health condition, family members with health condition, live or regularly interact with high-risk individuals, or otherwise be identified as “at-risk” by a parent or guardian. There is no requirement for an LEA to verify or make a determination that a request to utilize distance learning meets a specific standard or require documentation.

  1. What is considered “live interaction?”

Education Code Section 43503 requires that distance learning include “daily live interaction.” Daily live interaction is two-way communication between a certificated employee and student each instructional day, at the actual time of occurrence. Daily live interaction is required for every student with both a certificated employee and their student peers. In particular English learners, and students with special needs benefit from daily oral language development opportunities.

Examples of daily live interaction include in-person and virtual communication or interactions, including but not limited to synchronous online instruction (per statute) and phone calls where both parties communicate at the time of occurrence. One-way communication, including voicemails, emails, or print materials, is not considered a live interaction.

Pursuant to Education Code Section 43503(b)(6), if daily live interaction is not feasible as part of regular instruction, the governing board or body of the LEA shall develop, with parent and stakeholder input, an alternative plan for frequent live interaction that provides a comparable level of service and school connectedness.

  1. What is the difference between daily live interaction and daily participation?

The purpose of daily live interaction, which occurs with teachers and students, is to provide instruction, monitor progress, and maintain school/social connectedness. The intent of daily live interaction is to ensure each student has live contact at least once each instructional day with a certificated employee, and ideally live contact with peers, even if live contact is not possible as part of daily instruction.

Daily participation is used to track attendance and ensure daily engagement by all students in learning activities. However, documenting daily participation may be met through daily live interaction with a teacher or virtual assignments. Daily participation may also be documented through participation in online activities, completion of regular assignments, and contacts between employees of the LEA, including those other than teachers, and pupils or parents or guardians.

  1. Is the requirement for daily live interaction met if the interaction is only between an individual student and a teacher?

No. All students are required to receive daily live interaction with both a certificated employee and their peers for the purpose of instruction, progress monitoring and school connectedness. Teachers may meet individually with students, but this alone does not meet the requirements for daily live interaction. The minimum standard should be the same for all students regardless of which school or program the student participates in within the LEA. Every effort should be taken to determine the amount of interaction that is needed for students to progress academically and remain engaged in learning and connected to the school community.

Attendance and Absences

  1. What is required if students are not participating regularly in instruction?

Education Code Section 43504(f) requires each LEA to develop written procedures for tiered reengagement strategies for all pupils who are absent from distance learning for more than three schooldays or 60 percent of the instructional days in a school week. These procedures shall include, but are not limited, to verification of current contact information for each enrolled pupil, daily notification to parents or guardians of absences, a plan for outreach from the school to determine pupil needs including connection line with health and social services as necessary and, when feasible, line transitioning the pupil to full-time in-person instruction.

  1. Are LEAs required to collect information on absences during distance learning? (new 7/31/20)

Yes, pursuant to Education Code Section 52066(d)(5)(a) and (b), LEAs are required to collect information on absences and report absenteeism through the California Longitudinal Pupil Achievement Data (CALPADS) system.

  1. Are LEAs required to record whether an absence from Distance Learning is excused or unexcused?(new 8/17/20)

For the 2020–21 school year, LEAs are still required to submit chronic absenteeism data to CALPADS. Whether the instruction is provided in-person or virtually, the collected data should continue to include aggregate counts of excused and unexcused  absences from instruction.

LEAs should develop a local policy as to what constitutes an excused absence in a distance learning context. The policy should be consistent with Education Code sections 48205 and 48225.5, which specify what constitutes an excused absence. The policy should also be consistent with Education Code Section 48260(c) which states that an excused absence from school may include reasons that are deemed by the school administrator, based on the student’s circumstances, as constituting a valid excuse. Then, in reporting the absences to CALPADS, LEAs would map the absence reasons into the excused and unexcused absence fields based on their local policy as to what constitutes an excused and unexcused absence in the Distance Learning context.


  1. Will students who are participating in distance learning be provided meals?

Yes. LEAs are required to provide nutritionally adequate meals for pupils who are eligible for Free and Reduced-Price meals whether engaged in in-person instruction or distance learning. Information regarding meals should be communicated in the language and format the parent understands. Grab-and-Go meal locations are found on our school’s website.

English Learners

  1. How are the needs of English learners being met through distance learning?

English learners must receive designated and integrated English Language Development (ELD), including assessment of English language proficiency, support to access curriculum, the ability to reclassify as fully English proficient, and support for dual language learning.

The LEAs are to incorporate designated and integrated ELD as part of the core instruction during distance learning model. Students are to continue to be assessed via distance learning to informally assess the progress in ELD pursuant to Section 11300 of Title 5 of the California Code of Regulations for English learners. LEAs are to continue to offer dual language support and language acquisition programs via distance learning.

Individualized Education Programs

  1. Are there new requirements related to Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) and distance learning? (new 8/4/20)

Yes. Education Code Section 56345 was amended by SB 98 (Chapter 24, Statutes of 2020) to require that IEPs include a description of the means by which the IEP will be provided under emergency conditions, in which instruction or services, or both, cannot be provided to the pupil either at the school or in person for more than 10 school days. This description must be included in the development of each initial IEP or addressed during the regularly scheduled revision of an IEP, and must take public health orders into account.