Year in Review Pandemic Response

  • Introduction

    Much of the work at the Lake County Office of Education (LCOE) during the 2020-21 school year has been pandemic-related, with a keen focus on safely returning students to the classroom. LCOE team members worked long and difficult days to fulfill their responsibilities during a time of enormous uncertainty.

    Public Health Partnership

    Superintendent Falkenberg and Dr. Pace, Lake County’s Health Officer, maintained a very strong working relationship throughout the pandemic. This was key to LCOE’s ability to provide tremendous leadership in education.

    The strength of this relationship led to:

    • Weekly COVID-19 situational meetings for the local school districts’ key education leaders, allowing them to hear COVID-19 updates firsthand from Dr. Pace.
    • Rapid vaccination of Lake County teachers and education staff, to open schools to in-person instruction quicker.
    • Swift collaboration to coordinate vaccine clinics on the school campuses for students 12 years and older, as well as their families, in preparation for the 2021-22 school year.

    LCOE Administrative Services Supporting Districts

    Although the administrative services departments at LCOE usually work quietly behind the scenes, this year those departments were tasked with a much more visible role in the pandemic response.

    LCOE’s emergency services program, led by Rob Young, was involved in coordinating weekly situational meetings, educator vaccinations, and student pop-up vaccine clinics. Rob provided tremendous leadership in the preparation of the Lake County school districts’ safety plans for reopening, required by the state of California.

    In Rob’s role of Director of Facilities, he and LCOE’s Information Technology (IT) department worked quickly to upgrade LCOE’s conference rooms with reliable video conferencing equipment that could withstand heavy use. Hundreds of hours of Zoom meetings were held in LCOE conference rooms. Most other maintenance and operation projects took a back seat as the maintenance staff focused on disinfecting facilities, maintaining HVAC systems, and adding HEPA filters.

    When people think of COVID-19, education, and technology, they tend to think “Digital Divide.” LCOE’s IT department worked extensively with each Lake County school district supporting remote learning and providing digital access to students and staff members. Because LCOE IT is responsible for maintaining the computer network that supports ALL Lake County schools, consistent connectivity was more important than ever this year.

    Melissa Reese and her Human Resources team jumped in feet first and stayed up to date on all the changes from state and federal agencies. They worked tirelessly to implement ever-changing executive orders, laws, and mandates as quickly as possible. LCOE’s HR department became the go-to experts for all the school districts regarding new COVID-19 related legislation and related leaves.

    The Communications department prepared a variety of communication pieces that were utilized by all local school districts including press releases, social media posts, and graphics. This allowed Lake County school districts to communicate difficult information more effectively with staff and parents with county-wide consistency, in a time of great uncertainty.

    In-person Instruction

    The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) states, “Everything possible must be done to keep students in schools in-person.”

    At LCOE our number one priority is getting students safely back into the classroom. In August 2020, a decision was made based on all the factual evidence at that time to open our LCOE facilities to in-person instruction. Our preschools and Clearlake Creativity School provided both in-person and distance learning options, followed safety protocols to the letter, and put systems in place for contact tracing if an outbreak were to occur. No COVID-19 outbreaks were traced back to any of the LCOE school sites or office facilities.


    LCOE’s Early Start Preschools provide state-funded preschool services to children and families who are income eligible. The programs are located on 8 different elementary school campuses all around the county. On a typical, non-COVID year LCOE Preschools serve up to 300+ students and families, however the program was only able to serve roughly 150 students during the 2020-21 school year.

    Even though they served less children this year (due to safety protocols), the Preschool program successfully provided in-person and distance learning services to all students and families. Preschool teachers and staff showed up during a chaotic time in history and did everything they could to provide as "normal" of a classroom environment for their preschool students, as possible.

    Clearlake Creativity School

    LCOE’s Clearlake Creativity School (CCS) is a regionalized K-12 program to support students with emotional disturbance. During the past school year, CCS provided a distance or in-person learning option for its students. CCS was the first school in Lake County to open to in-person instruction for the 2020-21 school year, by establishing and implementing intentional and purposeful safety protocols as they continued to address the learning outcomes of their students every day.

    Educational Services

    This year, Educational Services went virtual – like most everyone! They continued to work productively with local districts via Zoom and other technologies, and they continued to actively attend state level meetings remotely.

    The department delivered COVID-relevant professional development for nearly 200 teachers, administrators, and classified staff across Lake County during the 2020-21 school year.

    AmeriCorps Tutoring

    Lake County AmeriCorps provides team members to serve as coaches for students PreK-12 who need extra help with behavior, throughout Lake County. As a response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Lake County AmeriCorps rolled out online tutoring, managed community learning hubs, and helped districts achieve educational equity by supporting all students in need.

    Healthy Start

    Healthy Start offers a menu of services to students and their families that help fill basic health and welfare needs to support student success in school. They also work with foster youth and homeless youth.

    This year, home visits became porch visits, support became virtual, scheduling at medical clinics expanded (Healthy Start could only transport children from the same family to appointments), and partnerships grew even bigger as more community partners joined together to support the basic needs of Lake County students.

    Early Childhood Education

    Early childhood education includes age-appropriate learning opportunities for children between the ages of 0–5.

    The Lake County Quality Counts (LCQC) program supports the Early Education providers in Lake County with coaching, supplies, and materials to improve quality in childcare and preschools. This supports kindergarten readiness for Lake County “littles.”

    LCQC was able to support the family childcares and centers that remained open with stipends to support their efforts in maintaining a safe, clean, and healthy environment, as well as additional supplies to send home to distance-learners.

    Adult Education

    The Lake County Office of Education offers adult Career Technical Education (CTE) Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) and Medical Assistant (MA) programs. These programs offer theoretical and clinical training to prepare students for high-demand careers in the health care industry.

    The MA instructors developed robust distance learning academic practices, and LCOE outfitted the students with needed educational technology, as appropriate, to promote high-quality distance learning.

    The Fall 2020 CNA Program was paused due to COVID-19, although it completed successfully in early February 2021.

    Fiscal Services

    The Fiscal Services department at LCOE has several large tasks to complete each month. This department processes payroll for every public-school educator and staff in Lake County – approximately 1,300 paychecks per month! It is also responsible for processing all accounts payables for each lake County school districts.

    If folks in LCOE’s fiscal department were to become sick with COVID-19 and/or were quarantined for an extended period, it could have a negative impact on Lake County’s economy.

    To counteract this risk, the team was split into an A group and a B group, with each team having the ability to perform all fiscal duties. Each group worked in a different location to minimize exposure and prevent cross-contagion.

    LCOE’s fiscal services department also worked closely with the Chief Business Officers (CBO) of each school district to assist them in navigating the ever-changing landscape of school business, including staying up to date on the constraints of federal and state funding requirements in pandemic-related legislation.


    The LCOE Team works together towards student success. This year the work was much, much harder. However, the LCOE Team is proud of the support and leadership they were able to provide during this historic moment in time, while always putting students first.