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Governor Newsom unveils plan for schools to reopen in February

Governor Newsom today outlined the framework to continue and expand safe in-person instruction in early spring, including a $2 billion early action proposal to support school safety measures. Distance learning will remain an option for parents and students who choose it and for those whose health status does not allow them to return to school in the near term.

Developed in partnership with the Legislature, the plan focuses on 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.

“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,” Newsom said.

“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.”

Newsom’s plan is built on 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.

  1. Funding to Support Safe Reopening: The budget will propose for immediate action in January, $2 billion to support safety measures – including testing, ventilation, and PPE – for schools that have resumed in-person instruction or phasing in of in-person instruction by early spring.
  2. Safety & Mitigation Measures for Classrooms: To further ensure health and safety in the classroom, the administration will support the implementation of key health measures. This will include frequent testing for all students and staff, including weekly testing for communities with high rates of transmission; masks for all students and staff, including distribution of millions of surgical masks for school staff; improved coordination between school and health officials for contact tracing; and prioritization of school staff for vaccinations.
  3. Hands-on Oversight & Assistance for Schools: Dr. Naomi Bardach, a UCSF pediatrician and expert on school safety, will lead the Safe Schools for All Team, a cross-agency team composed of dedicated staff from CDPH, Cal/OSHA, and educational agencies. The team will provide hands-on support to help schools develop and implement their COVID-19 Safety Plans. These supports include school visits and walk-throughs as needed, webinars and training materials, and ongoing technical assistance.
  4. Transparency & Accountability for Families and Staff: A state dashboard will enable all Californians to see their school’s reopening status, level of available funding, and data on school outbreaks. Additionally, a web-based hotline will empower school staff and parents to report concerns to the Safe Schools for All Team, which will lead to escalating levels of intervention beginning with technical assistance and ending with legal enforcement.

“These four pillars will serve as tools to safely guide our state’s return to in-person instruction and protect the health of students, educators and all school staff,” California Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly said. “As a pediatrician and father, I know schools are the best place our kids can be and the positive impact in-person learning has on their overall health and well-being.”

“A safe return of kids to the classroom is on the wish list of countless California families, and Governor Newsom’s Safe Schools for All Plan paves the way. The plan is rooted in science, health and safety – all key tenets to any conversation about returning to in-person instruction,” California State PTA President Celia Jaffe said.

For more information about the components of the plan, please click here. For more information about the rationale behind the plan, please click here. For more information about the science underpinning the plan, please click here.

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