PALO ALTO, Calif. (KTVU) - California Gov. Gavin Newsom Tuesday visited a Palo Alto elementary school.
Newsom toured Barron Park Elementary and read to children inside classrooms equipped with appropriate COVID safety measures. His appearance was part of an administration push to safely reopen schools.
"Proving that we can our kids back in school, not just here, but all across the state of California. And for that matter, all across this country," the governor said.
Newsom took that message to districts such as the Palo Alto Unified School District. He read to some of the district's students behind closed doors, and while in front of the cameras, local and district officials stood in solidarity with his reopening plan.
"It provides a pathway to get our kids back, and to restore some of their childhood, some of their emotional health," said Sen. Josh Becker, who represents residents in California's 13 Senate District which encompasses parts of San Mateo County and northern Santa Clara County.
The legislature is set to vote as early as Thursday on the governor's $6.6 billion plan. AB 86 would allow in-person learning in areas where the new COVID case count is no higher than 25 per 100,000 people.
The plan provides COVID mitigation resources for districts to help ensure they can reopen safely, initially for kindergarten through second-grade students.
"We believe we’re offering the resources so that districts can and should offer the proper health and safety," said Assemblymember Phil Ting Philip Ting of San Francisco.
Some education experts say returning to in-person learning is paramount to the educational experience, especially for the youngest students.
"The playground games that children play haven’t been played in over a year now. And that causes a level of stress and anxiety that is significantly detrimental to learning," said Dr. Heather Lattimer, dean of the Connie L. Lurie College of Education at San Jose State University.
Newsom said his plan sets aside 10% of the COVID vaccine allotment for educators, starting this week.
"And while not required, it certainly showed that he cared to add another level of support and safety for everyone involved," said Dr. Don Austin, superintendent of the Palo Alto Unified School District (PAUSD).
In a statement to KTVU, the California Teachers Association said it's "encouraged (the) agreement heeds educators’ calls for broad access to vaccinations for all school employees as an essential safety measure."
Officials in districts not as well off as the PAUSD are worried about equitable distribution of resources.
"Not ever part of the state has the same resources as this district. No one is naïve about that," said Newsom.
The governor promised more help for those areas in greater need.
Some administrators say flexibility by everyone will be the best elixir to getting teachers and families protected so that schools can reopen for in-person learning.