California weighs in on Biden's reopening school plan

President Joe Biden signed an executive order Thursday, making the reopening of schools a top priority. 

First Lady Jill Biden, who holds a Doctor of Education, spoke to fellow educators Thursday about the plan.

"We can meet the goal of safely reopening a majority of our K-8 schools in the first 100 days of this administration," said the First Lady.

The president is calling on Congress for $130 billion in additional aid for K-12 schools, and another $350 billion in state and local relief to help school districts reopen.

His executive order directs federal officials to provide additional resources to schools and childcare sites for COVID-19 testing materials. It also directs resources for expanding contact tracing programs and orders the FCC to help increase internet access for students.

"I'm encouraged by the billions he's proposed to help cover things like COVID testing and personal protective equipment," said California Department of Education Superintendent Tony Thurmond.

Thurmond says vaccinating the state's 700,000 teachers and staff is also important.

"The top of the wish list would be enough doses of the vaccine for all educators so we can open schools right away," said Thurmond.

Some local school boards also worry about enough COVID testing for the state's 6 million students, especially for parts of the state with widespread COVID cases putting them in the state's highest purple tier category.

"The state guidelines say if we're in purple, we should test the students once a week, but how do we do that?" said Kalimah Salahuddin, a member of the Jefferson Union High School District Board, which has 4,500 students.

There is a COVID testing site at one district high school in Daly City, but Salahuddin says covering the costs of each $140 test would break the budget.

"We have funding for teachers and staff to be tested but we do not have funding to pay for our students," said Salahuddin.

The California Teachers Association says their union members want to return to school.

"We will happily go back to school. But we need everything that's going to make sure it's safe. Not just part of it. Not just the vaccine, but we need the ventilation, the distancing, the tracing all of those things in place," said the CTA President E. Toby Boyd, "The virus is not going to stop at the door of the schools."

Biden also is directing federal officials to create a Safer Schools and Campuses Best Practices Clearinghouse to help schools and universities share lessons learned about reopening safely. 

This story was reported from Oakland, Calif. 

Jana Katsuyama is a reporter for KTVU.  Email Jana at and follow her on Twitter @JanaKTVU or Facebook @NewsJana or