On Wednesday, Gov. Gavin Newson proposed a plan to safely reopen elementary schools in the state. The focus will be among young students from kindergarten to second grade and those who have been impacted the most due to Covid-19. This includes low-income students, English language learners, foster care and homeless students and those who have troubles with distance learning.
Distance learning will still be an option if parents don’t feel comfortable sending their kids to school.
The $2 billion plan will be sent to the legislature to be included in next year’s budget plan. Under the proposal, schools will get at least $450 per in-person pupil; it could be up to $750 per pupil at schools with vulnerable students.
In orden to safely reopen elementary schools, Newson said students and staff have to follow safety and mitigations measures—such as keeping physical distance, wearing masks and washing hands, having small groups of students—to lower the risk of transmitting Covid-19.
“Safety is key; just reopening schools for in-person instruction on its own is not going to address the issue of safety,” Newson said on Dec. 30 when he announced this plan during a regular state Covid-19 briefing.
Under current guidelines, elementary schools that want to reopen have had to submit a Covid-19 safety plan and request a waiver from county and state health officials. The state and the county monitor, provide support and enforce guidelines on schools that have reopened.
Schools can reopen if the case rate is less than 28 new cases per 100,000 people a day. Newsom’s plan doesn’t include a time frame for middle schools and high schools to reopen.
Until vaccines are available for teachers, “There is nothing more important than robust Covid testing and contact tracing,” California State Superintendent Tony Thurmond said.
Teachers are in Tier 1b to get the Covid-19 vaccine as far as the California Department of Public Health’s rollout plan.
The new state plan calls for more Covid-19 testing, and providing free personal protective equipment for teachers and staff.
In Monterey County, 18 schools have received waivers to reopen for in-person learning.Carmel Unified School District obtained four waivers back on Nov.17, before the current surge in cases (their board has since elected to proceed with reopening, starting in February.)
On Dec. 7 the Los Angeles Unified School District, California’s largest, suspended in-person instruction for the remainder of the fall semester after Los Angeles recorded a record number of 10,528 new Covid-19 cases on Sunday, Dec. 6.
Some of the reasons Newson has proposed school reopening in February or early March are because of the emotional toll students are experiencing with distance learning and because children have a low risk of transmitting the virus.