On Wednesday, Dec. 30, Governor Gavin Newsom’s office released the “Safe Schools for All” plan. A proposal that outlines the framework to continue and expand safe in-person instruction in early spring.
According to the Governor’s office, the plan is constructed around four pillars: Funding to Support Safe Reopening; Safety & Mitigation Measures for Classrooms; Hands-On Oversight & Assistance for Schools; and Transparency & Accountability for Families & School Staff.
The plan aims to continue supporting schools that have already started in-person instruction, and to expand the number of schools safely resuming in-person instruction.
In cooperation with the state Legislator, the Governor commenced the plan on developing evidence by the California Department of Public Health, that suggests through scientific studies conducted globally and nationally, that children seem to get COVID-19 less frequently than adults. To this end, the Governor has weighed the decreased risks with the increased benefits of in-person instruction.
“As a father of four, I know firsthand what parents, educators and pediatricians continue to say: in-person is the best setting to meet not only the learning needs, but the mental health and social-emotional needs of our kids,” said Governor Newsom. “In the midst of this pandemic, my Administration is focused on getting students back into the classroom in a way that leads with student and teacher health. By focusing on a phased approach with virus mitigation and prevention at the center, we can begin to return our kids to school to support learning needs and restore the benefits of in-person instruction. It’s especially important for our youngest kids, those with disabilities, those with limited access to technology at home and those who have struggled more than most with distance learning.”
The news of Governor Newsom’s latest proposal has generated hopeful yet uncertain expectations around the state, as educators and school employees tentatively await the details.
“We appreciate the Governor finally recognizing what [The California Teachers Association] for months has been advocating for in order to safely reopen schools for in-person instruction,” said CTA President, E. Toby Boyd. “In all our conversations and letters sent, we have been calling for tougher safety standards, rigorous and consistent testing, data collection and transparency. While these tenets are addressed in the proposal released Wednesday, there are many unanswered questions and the devil is always in the details, particularly as it relates to implementation and execution. We look forward to hearing more information and hope the new guidelines that the Governor said would be released next week will create a coherent statewide plan rather than creating more confusion for parents and school districts. As California remains the nation’s COVID hotspot and amidst an ICU crisis, CTA continues to support distance learning for schools that are in the highest Purple Tier of transmission rates. We will continue our conversations with lawmakers and the governor. This must be a joint effort to ensure a safe return to our classrooms where we know our students learn best and thrive.”
As for the Patterson Unified School District, an all staff meeting is planned for Mid-January, after the governor’s budget has officially been released.
“Since all of these proposals are wrapped up in the governor’s 2021 budget proposal, I don’t know how quickly they will be implemented. Some of these proposals clearly need legislative approval. It also remains to be seen how much of the oversight will continue to be delegated to local county public health officials or whether or not an independent state agency will be created,” said PJUSD Superintendent, Phil Alfano, in a school operations update sent to the School Board of Trustees.
Alfano also met with Congressman Harder and his staff over winter break to discuss options for faster and more efficient COVID-19 testing, as the tests they received for the first round of staff testing arrived late and took longer than expected.
“We piloted our first round of COVID-19 testing for staff prior to winter break. We were not happy with the turnaround time. Kits were delivered a week late, and results were not provided for another two weeks. This is not acceptable and we have shared our concerns with the vendor providing this service.”
Although the testing hasn’t gone exactly as expected, the governor’s current reopening plan bears resemblance to the model that was approved for the Patterson Unified School District back in November. Patterson’s proactive approach of hiring a COVID-19 Coordinator and inviting public health officials to visit campuses, among other health and safety protocols, is setting the tone for what is sure to be expected of all other districts moving forward.