On Friday, California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced that schools can physically open if they are in a county that has been off the monitoring list for 14 consecutive days.
Newsom provided COVID-19 guidelines regarding the reopening of K-12 schools in the upcoming academic year, including a mask mandate for staff and students in the third grade and above, regular testing for staff and physical distancing guidelines. Since Alameda County is on the list and has rising case rates, all schools in the county are prohibited from opening. The Berkeley Unified School District Board of Education already voted July 15 to use distance learning at least until Oct. 9.
“None of us want to see education virtualized — at least I don’t,” Newsom said at the press conference. “I believe profoundly in the power of individuals and the connectedness of being engaged with others and learning to develop yourselves not just intellectually, but emotionally.”
According to the guidelines, students in a classroom would go home if a confirmed case appears. If more than 5% of the school tests positive, the school would close; if 25% of a district’s schools are closed, the entire district would transition to distance learning.
When asked about students with special needs, whose educational experiences have regressed during online learning, Linda Darling-Hammond, president of the California State Board of Education, said there has been a lot of teacher training this summer.
“A lot of the districts and county offices have been developing resources — many of them targeted for students with special education needs — curriculum and plans for how teachers will be able to do one-on-one as well as small group instruction, whether it’s in person or online,” Darling-Hammond said at the press conference.
The governor added that the state has invested $5.3 billion in additional funding to deal with learning loss associated with school closures, to purchase personal protective equipment for schools and to help bridge the digital divide.
The California Teachers Association, or CTA, President E. Toby Boyd released a statement after the conference calling for additional school funding to address health concerns and inequities in remote learning.
“Safe school reopening, quality distance learning and equity for our communities requires funding,” Boyd said in a press release. “Many local districts don’t have the necessary resources or capacity to maintain even the most basic prevention measures … for physical distancing by six feet (and) limiting contact.”
In the statement, the CTA called on Newsom to support Proposition 15, which would give schools funding through taxes on corporations.
Newsom also said the state is working with incoming UC President Michael Drake and added that UC and CSU COVID-19 guidelines will be coming out shortly.