CA Gov. Gavin Newsom suggests schools open in summer

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California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced a four-stage plan for reopening the state Tuesday, which includes the possibility of opening schools during the summer as well as nonessential businesses.

Intended to lift the current shelter-in-place orders and resume normal activity, Newsom’s plan emphasizes the importance of social distancing and staying home for the time being. It also stresses that it is the government’s responsibility to provide guidance on reducing the risk and spread of COVID-19.

“We must look to the data and science in making important decisions about how to revise the Shelter in Place Order and develop a plan to return,” said Mayor Jesse Arreguín in an email. “I support the actions of the State, which has been using facts to guide its policies.”

Titled “Safety and Preparedness,” the plan’s first stage includes making personal protective equipment, or PPE, more readily available and building up hospital surge and testing capacity.

The second stage includes allowing lower risk workplaces —  including those that provide retail and manufacturing services — to open with adaptations such as curbside pickup. The focus of this stage will be a modification to the statewide shelter-in-place order

The second stage also includes the possibility of schools being opened as early as July to address learning gaps.

In response to Newsom’s proposal to open schools during the summer, California Teachers Association President E. Toby Boyd said in a press release he appreciated Newsom’s leadership, but also worried that state schools would need additional funding from the federal government. 

“California educators can be proud of the tremendous work in advocating for and successfully reaching their students wherever they have been,” Boyd said in the press release. “We are also facing a lot of uncertainty in the state budget and funding for our local public schools.”

California State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond said in a statement that maintaining social distancing in classrooms will require smaller class sizes and teachers may need PPE, creating additional financial burdens. 

Thurmond added that the safety of teachers and students must be prioritized.

“We also recognize the importance of schools reopening to help parents and caregivers in their much-needed return to work,” Thurmond said in the statement.

Berkeley Unified School District Superintendent Brent Stephens echoed these sentiments in a statement regarding Newsom’s plan and said there should be special consideration of school districts’ budgets.

He also outlined possible actions the school district could take.

“As Governor Newsom has said, we will have to envisage some very different ways to bring our students back to school,” Stephens said in the statement. “In particular, I note the possibilities of delayed, or phased reopening, and a variety of strategies to reduce the number of students on campus, including hybrid classroom and online options.”

The third and fourth stages will include opening higher risk workplaces such as salons or movie theaters and the end of the stay-at-home order.

Newsom’s plan has also garnered support from local officials, including Arreguín and City Councilmember Sophie Hahn.

Hahn said in an email that she trusts that Newsom’s plan is based on science and data. She added that in order to successfully open up the state, there needs to be reliable testing and tracing of the disease.

Hahn said in the email that the shelter-in-place order has helped limit the health impacts of COVID-19 in Berkeley, but it also adds pressure to reopen the state.

“Because the strict shelter in place orders hurt the economy, there is pressure to reopen as quickly as possible while still maximizing protection to health,” Hahn said in the email.

Contact Robson Swift at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @swift_robson.