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California governor unveils $2 billion plan to resume in-person classes

Dec. 31, 2020
Funds would go for Covid-19 testing, personal protective equipment and increased classroom ventilation.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom has proposed a plan for schools to resume in-person teaching next spring with the assistance of $2 billion in state aid for coronavirus testing, personal protective equipment and increased classroom ventilation.

The Associated Press reports that the plan calls for in-person classes to resume first for the youngest students and those who have struggled most with distance learning.

The president of California’s largest teachers union says he is glad Newsom is “finally recognizing” the need for tougher safety standards as part of any reopening plan. California Teachers Association president E. Toby Boyd says he hopes the formal guidelines Newsom intends to release next week “will create a coherent statewide plan rather than creating more confusion for parents and school districts.”

The administration’s pledge to provide frequent testing and contact tracing when outbreaks occur will be crucial to making teachers feel comfortable again in the classroom, says state Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious-disease expert, has echoed Newsom’s contention that schools can be opened safely, noting in an online briefing what he called an “almost counter-intuitive” finding that schools “seem to be doing better when it comes to the level of infection” than the community at large.

“If you really want to get society back to some form of normality, one of the first things you have to do is to get the children back in school,” Fauci says.

Newsom say his recommendation is driven by increasing evidence that there are lower risks and increased benefits from in-person instruction particularly for the youngest students. It comes amid increased pressure from parents to reopen campuses.

Though California remains consumed by a growing pandemic crisis, Newsom says it’s realistic to expect many schools to start reopening as early as February or March.

A reopening would focus first on those in transitional kindergarten through second grade, as well as children with disabilities, those who have limited access to technology at home, and kids who have most struggled with distance learning.

Other grades would be phased in during the spring. Remote learning would continue to be allowed if parents and students wish, and for those who have health vulnerabilities that make it risky to return to the classroom.

Among the safety measures in Newsom’s proposal are universal wearing of masks, increased contact tracing during outbreaks, frequent virus testing for all students and staff, and prioritizing educators for vaccinations.

About the Author

Mike Kennedy | Senior Editor

Mike Kennedy, senior editor, has written for AS&U on a wide range of educational issues since 1999.

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