By: Anisa Pillai
On December 30, 2020, Governor Newsom released a framework for bringing students back to school for in-person instruction. According to the Governor, “Developed in partnership with the Legislature, the Administration’s plan focuses on ensuring careful implementation and building confidence by supporting schools to bring back the youngest children (TK-2) and those who are most disproportionately impacted first, then phasing in other grade levels through the spring, as conditions allow.”
Governor Newsom further stated that this plan to resume in-person instruction is based upon growing evidence that the right precautions can prevent the spread of COVID-19 in schools, especially elementary schools. Distance learning will continue to remain an option for parents and students.
California’s Safe Schools for All Plan is built upon four pillars:
(1) Funding: $2 billion will be made available in January for the safe reopening of schools beginning in February, with priority given to TK through 2nd grade students and those who are disproportionately impacted.
(2) Safety & Mitigation: The Administration will focus on safety and mitigation, including the following:
- Testing: The Administration will support frequent COVID-19 testing for all school staff and students, including weekly testing at schools in communities with high rates of transmission.
- PPE: All students and staff are required to wear masks, and surgical masks will be recommended for school staff. The Administration will distribute millions of surgical masks to schools at no cost. The Administration has also enabled schools to leverage state-negotiated master contracts for PPE to reduce costs and streamline supply chains.
- Contract Tracing: Schools will continue to be on-boarded onto the School Portal for Outbreak Tracking (SPOT) and members of the state contact tracing workforce will be deployed to improve communication with schools.
- Vaccinations: School staff will be prioritized in the distribution of vaccines through the spring of 2021.
(3) Oversight & Assistance: The Safe Schools for All Team will be a cross-agency team composed of staff from CDPH, Cal/OSHA, and educational agencies, and will provide hands-on support to schools.
(4) Transparency & Accountability: A state dashboard will enable all Californians to see their school’s reopening status and a web-based hotline will allow parents and school staff to report concerns to the Safe Schools for All Team.
Local educational agencies (LEAs), especially those serving TK-2nd grade, should begin to monitor the development and rollout of the Safe Schools for All Plan once schools resume in 2021 to ensure that in-person instruction resumes pursuant to this new framework. While many questions remained unanswered, the Governor’s plan appears to address some concerns related to reopening.