By Miriam Raftery
July 17, 2020 (Sacramento) -- Today, Governor Gavin Newsom announced a five-point plan for reopening public and private schools. But 30 counties currently on the state’s COVID-19 are prohibited from reopening schools this fall – including San Diego County, unless major changes happen fast to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
A five-point plan issued by the state’s Department of Public Health will allow a district to reopen for live classes only after its county has a two week decline in COVID-19 cases.
The news deals a blow to districts such as Cajon Valley Union School District, which just resumed some summer school classes and had announced a blended learning model that gave parents options for in school, online, or a combination of learning options for students. Some other districts, however, such as San Diego Unified had already rolled back reopening plans due to high numbers of COVID-19 outbreaks locally.
But the Governor warned that districts must fulfill their obligation to teach students despite the challenges of distance learning. ““Schools must, and I underscore must, provide meaningful instruction during this pandemic, whether they are physically open or not,” the Governor said during a press conference today. That means daily live teaching and rigorous curriculum requirements.
Schools that reopen must require masks for children in third grade or higher and for staff, The state has purchased 18 million child-sized masks. Only children with certain medical conditions will be exempted from wearing masks, but a child without a medical exemption will be sent home if they refuse to wear one.
Everyone entering a school must have a screening for temperature and symptoms.
Teachers and staff will be regularly tested for the virus. If a teacher or student tests positive, the classroom would be shut down and quarantined for two weeks. If 5% of students and/or staff become infected, the entire school would be closed, and there is a widespread outbreak, an entire district could be shut down.
The Governor’s budget allocates $5.3 billlion in education funds to provide distance learning when needed, including buying laptops and academic intervention help for families lacking resources.
The action comes after teachers’ unions and other educators groups lobbied the Governor to block school reopenings due to the skyrocketing rates of COVID across California.
Kevin Gordon, a lobbyist who represents California school districts, praised the Governor for putting the health of kids first.
But June Duenas, executive director of the nonprofit Support for Families of Children with Disabilities, says keeping schools closed will increase hardship of families of special needs children.
“We have single parents living with two kids with disabilities in a small apartment and they can’t go out, and obviously it’s really, really stressful,” Duenas says, the Sacramento Bee reports.“A family who has a kid with autism that used to have school all day for their kid and an afternoon program and they were able to work, and now they’re taking care of this kid 24/7.”
Miriam Raftery, editor and founder of East County Magazine, has over 35 years of journalism experience. She has won more than 350 journalism awards from the Society of Professional Journalists, San Diego Press Club, and the American Society of Journalists & Authors. Her honors include the Sol Price Award for responsible journalism and three James Julian awards for public interest reporting from SPJ’s San Diego chapter. She has received top honors for investigative journalism, multicultural reporting, coverage of immigrant and refugee issues, politics, breaking news and more. Thousands of her articles have appeared in national and regional publications.
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