Gov. Newsom to update school reopening Friday as more Bay Area districts drop in-class plans

Gov. Gavin Newsom plans to update guidance for reopening schools Friday as the coronavirus pandemic surges throughout much of the state and more and more districts drop plans to welcome kids back to the classroom in the fall and begin the year instead with online-only instruction.

Though the governor’s office would not comment on details, he is under increasing pressure to call for districts at least in areas where the virus is spreading significantly to forego in-class instruction for the beginning of the year until conditions improve.

That would be welcome news to many teachers whose unions have become more vocal about concerns over returning to the classroom.

Click here to see our list of what every Bay Area school district plans to do this fall — teach in person, online or both?

“We are deeply concerned about the safety of our students and educators,” Ann Katzburg, president of the San Ramon Valley Education Association, said Thursday as the San Ramon Valley Unified School District reconsidered plans to welcome students back to class in the fall. “Any type of direction would be greatly appreciated.”

The influential California Teachers Association last week wrote Newsom, state Superintendent Tony Thurmond and legislative leaders telling them “it It is clear that communities and school districts have not come close to meeting the threshold for a safe return to in-person learning.

“From a public health perspective, the best course of action would be to focus on improving our ability to provide robust, quality distance learning until the virus is marginalized and safety measures are addressed,” added the CTA, a major ally of the Democratic governor.

The letter came a day after President Donald Trump urged schools to reopen classrooms, pointing to other countries that have done so without much problem.

After encouraging schools to continue designing plans for in-person instruction this fall, Thurmond on Thursday said “conditions have changed significantly” and urged caution.

Newsom’s anticipated update will come after a week that saw waves of school districts across the state put off plans to reopen classrooms to students, including the state’s two largest districts, Los Angeles and San Diego, in the Bay Area San Francisco, Oakland and Santa Clara.

In Marin County, where the San Rafael and Miller districts Thursday joined the list of those starting the fall online, the health department and office of education shortly afterward urged districts put off in-class instruction at least until after Labor Day.

“We recognize the concerns and anxiety surrounding the return to the classroom and believe that a transitional approach will allow staff and students to feel more comfortable in this new environment,” they said in a joint statement.

Those decisions however come amid other concerns about continuing the online-only learning experiment that went poorly for many students in the spring after the surging pandemic led to a statewide stay-home order. Many districts weren’t prepared to teach kids online, many teachers struggled with the technology and many students and their families lacked computers and home internet.

A study this month by Los Angeles Unified School District found that during the spring, the district’s most disadvantaged students — including ones who are Black, Latino and English learners — participated in online learning at lower rates than their peers and lost learning that could take them years to recoup.

Newsom — a father of four school-aged children himself — is well aware of those problems, and in April as the statewide lockdown slowed infections, the governor even suggested bringing kids back to class in July to make up for the learning loss.

Others also note that because children are the least likely to suffer severe illness from COVID-19 — none in California have died from it — and tend not to spread the disease, the harm of lost learning outweighs the health risks of kids returning to the classroom.

In fact, the Orange County Board of Education this week voted to recommend the county’s 27 districts reopen to students in the fall without requirements for masks and social distancing.

But California’s worsening outbreaks with just weeks to go before schools are scheduled to start have raised alarms. Newsom this week tightened restrictions on indoor activities as the number of counties on a state watch list for concerning coronavirus cases and hospitalizations reached 32, including most of the Bay Area.

As the California Teachers Association noted in its letter, “we are going backwards.”

Source: mercurynews
Gov. Newsom to update school reopening Friday as more Bay Area districts drop in-class plans