SAN JOSE, Calif. - For months, the sight of students receiving instruction in classrooms was a question with no definitive answer. Now, Gov. Gavin Newsom is introducing a plan to resume in-person learning.
"Phased in, in person learning strategy focused disproportionally on those youngest cohorts and those that are most in need, our high risk children," he said.
Newsom’s $2 billion "Safe Schools for All" plan incentivizes schools to return to in-person learning as early as February. The plan brings grades K-6 back into classrooms first, but distance learning remains an option.
"We’re excited, but we’re cautious because we need to look at the details and make sure this is what we’re going to see happen," said Toby Boyd, president of the California Teachers Assoc.
Many parents, who’ve been clamoring for children to go back to class, applaud the proposal.
"The biggest thing is there’s no outlet for the kids, besides sitting in front of a screen. And I feel the kids in California, and the United States are falling behind," said parent Wilson Buckley.
Experts say in-person learning provides more than just book knowledge for children.
"The key is that schools provide the bio-social development that’s necessary. In addition to the educational experiences that children need to be successful. And that has to occur in the classroom," said Dr. Karl Minges, director of the Public Health Program at the Univ. of New Haven.
Elementary schools can reopen if they submit a COVID-19 safety plan to local and state leaders. A county must have a seven-day average case rate of less than 28 cases per 100,000.
The State of California will work toward testing staff and students, with frequency depending on a county’s tier. The $2B price tag will cover costs associated with masks, sanitizing, and testing, which will be required for everyone, and be provided by the state. And, there will be a focus on contact tracing.
"There’s no question the vaccine, when it’s available is a game changer. You reference educators being at the front of the line, and that is so important," said Tony Thurmond, Calif. Superintendent of Public Instruction.
It’s important enough for the governor to say teachers will be prioritized in the next vaccine group.