The new year brings a ray of hope for California parents like Kate Gude, who has watched with mounting worry as her four kids suffer social isolation and reduced instruction time from online learning.
The first COVID-19 vaccines were given to health care workers a month ago, teachers whose safety fears have blunted reopening efforts are next in line, and the governor has a new $2 billion plan aimed at getting kids back into classrooms over the next three months.
“I’m an eternal optimist,” said Gude, of Los Gatos, as she joined a demonstration outside her district’s shuttered high school. “In lots of other districts, kids are going back already. Other schools have proven it’s possible to do this.”
Middle-school history teacher Emily Weisberg talks with students on Jan. 6 via Zoom from her home. (Photo by Sarah Reingewirtz, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)
California’s schools have been among the slowest in the country to reopen, frustrated parents observe. But is it realistic to expect wide-scale reopening this spring — particularly if educators haven’t started getting vaccinated?
Gov. Gavin Newsom’s “Safe Schools For All Plan,” announced Dec. 30, says yes. It’s a package of incentives for districts to throw open classroom doors as early as February, and will be submitted to the Legislature as an adjustment to the state budget. It aims first to bring back students from transitional kindergarten to second grade; those with special needs, such as English learners; and those who are homeless, in foster care or low-income. Other elementary school students would follow shortly thereafter, with a goal to be “back on track across the spectrum by spring 2021.”
The plan addresses many concerns teachers unions have voiced, providing some $450 per student for cleaning, masks and ventilation, as well as regular COVID testing for students and staff.
But while some parents rejoice, Newsom’s plan has received a chilly reception from school districts and teachers unions, who say it leaves far too many questions unanswered.
“COVID-19 in the community is, in effect, at the front door, and the front door’s locked right now because it’s at dangerous levels,” said Austin Beutner, superintendent of Los Angeles Unified School District, recently. “If it’s too dangerous to come in the front door at this time, we can’t have students, and we don’t want our staff, on campuses.”
Fails poor kids?
Beutner and superintendents from six other large school districts registered their objections in a letter to the governor last week. Five of them — Los Angeles, Long Beach, Fresno, San Diego and Sacramento — currently have higher COVID case rates than what Newsom proposes as the upper limit permissible for schools to reopen.
“While pleased that ‘Safe Schools for All’ prioritizes the reopening of public schools with substantial funding, we cannot ignore that the plan fails to address the needs of the urban school districts that serve nearly a quarter of California students, almost all of whom live below the poverty level,” says the letter, also signed by Jill Baker, superintendent of Long Beach Unified.
Mark Keppel High School teacher Brendan …read more
Source:: The Mercury News – Latest News
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