California schools could reopen this summer, Newsom says

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California public school students could return to classrooms this summer, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Tuesday, while laying out other measures the state may take to relax the stay-at-home order.

Teachers could be leading intruction in actual classrooms in late July or August rather than through distance learning that has been the norm for six weeks, Newsom said. 

Resuming school in the summer could make up for what Newsom said is "learning loss" experienced by 6 million school children in California who have been connected to teachers and classmates through Zoom and computers. 

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Schools would need to prepare their campuses to make them safe, Newsom said. He had previously talked about staggering school start times when students return. However, no formal decision has been made and no date was given as to when class bells would ring again. 

Many school districts in the Bay Area already start in early to mid-August anyway. And the reaction about his plan on social media was swift, and mostly harsh.

Though there was a smattering of approving messages, most comments were like the ones Tara Acuna made. 

"The kids already start in early August," she wrote on Facebook. "No need to make it earlier. The kids have been locked down. Let them have a summer." 

The timeline for reopening some businesses and manufacturing could be even shorter, said Newsom. He said he was meeting with members of the small-retail sector on Tuesday, adding that under certain restrictions, they could open "in the next few weeks." 

Gyms, hair salons, movie theaters and venues for sporting events and concerts won't be considered until handling schools and businesses, Newsom said. These areas of the economy won't be addressed for months, he said. 

Business practices will have to look different when California the stay-at-home order is lifted or modified. 

For example, “businesses will need to think more about wage replacement so workers can stay home when sick,” California Dept. of Public Health Director Sonia Angell said. 

Re-opening the economy can't come a moment too soon, according to the 178 companies surveyed by the Bay Area Council. In results released Tuesday, 71 percent of the businesses questioned think shelter-in-place orders should be lifted in the next 30 days, including 26 percent who want to see an end to the orders in the next two weeks.

"Many lives have been saved. But, employers are reaching a tipping point in their ability to withstand the severe economic effects of the shutdown,” said Jim Wunderman, president and CEO of the Bay Area Council. 

There are several factors that will determine when officials change the restrictions on public life, Angell said. They are:

  • Hospital and ICU trends need to remain stable and can maintain surge capacity 
  • There needs to be enough protective gear to meet demands now and in future
  • There needs to be ample testing capacity statewide 

Newsom warned that "if we pull back and modify too early," the state will have to "toggle back and adjust" to deliver on the promise of re-opening. 

As of Tuesday, there were 45,000 positive coronavirus cases in California with 1,809 deaths. 

"Dates don't matter," he said. "But data does." 

IF YOU'RE INTERESTED: The governor said he is building a roadmap for modifying the stay-at-home order and invited the public to fill out this survey. 

This story was reported from Oakland, Calif.