Safety concerns from teachers over incentivizing rush to reopen schools
CAMPBELL, Calif. - California's school reopening plan was approved by the state legislature Thursday, allocating $6.6 billion to help kids get back in class.
But some educators worry it prioritizes speed over safety.
In the push to reopen schools, teachers say they've felt both political and parental pressure. Now they're worried about what comes next.
Nick Cortez teaches at Branham High School in the Campbell High School District.
"Once they're vaccinated, they're fine going back to the classroom. But still what's that going to look like?" Cortez says.
Answers are hard to come by. But the California State Legislature wants to incentivize districts to figure things out.
They passed a $6.6 billion plan, $2-billion of which would be allocated to elementary schools able to reopen T-K-2nd grade before March 31st.
And in red tier counties, elementary reopening would be a requirement, along with at least one grade of middle or high school.
Still the California Teachers Association has concerns.
About safety, about a lack of mandatory testing, and about offering incentives for speed. They say quote, "The incentive plan penalizes schools in communities with higher transmission rates that can’t open immediately."
The Santa Clara County Office of Education says caution will be key.
"We cannot force and rush the reopening of schools because that could potentially harm the students that we have been entrusted to support," says Peter Ortiz, a trustee with the Santa Clara County Office of Education.
Cortez says there's a lot to address in his district, like how to deal with large class sizes and small rooms with poor ventilation.
He says, "You know let's be honest about this and conscious about what we're doing and make sure we're doing the right thing and keeping everyone safe: students, community and teachers."
How exactly to do that will be up to each district.
The governor is set to sign this bill in a virtual ceremony on Friday.