LOS ANGELES – Insisting that safety is “non-negotiable,” Gov. Gavin Newsom unveiled a $2 billion plan Wednesday to get young students back to in-person learning as early as spring, although it was unclear how quickly such a move would occur in Los Angeles County, which is being particularly hard hit by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The proposal calls for a “phased-in, in-person learning strategy that would focus disproportionately on those youngest cohorts and those that are most in need — our high-risk children, special education, those populations — foster care, homeless children — and others that need that extra amount of support,” Newsom said.
The plan would include $2 billion to bankroll safety measures at schools that return to in-person instruction, including COVID-19 testing and protective equipment. It calls for frequent testing of students and staff, masks for everyone on campus and prioritizing school staff for vaccinations.
Newsom’s proposal would begin with students in pre-kindergarten through second grade. And while the push is to resume in-person learning as much as possible, distance learning will still be available.
“Distance learning will still remain an option for parents and students,” Newsom said. “There’s a lot of trepidation, we recognize that, a lot of anxiety, about going back into the classroom, which one has to clearly acknowledge. Not just for our teachers but also for our parents, particularly with kids who may have unique conditions.”
Despite the governor’s aggressive timeline, it was unclear how quickly students in the Los Angeles County might be in a position to return to classes on a widespread basis. This week, the county Department of Public Health updated its reopening protocols for K-12 schools. View the document at: http://publichealth.lacounty.gov/media/Coronavirus/docs/protocols/reopening_K12schools.pdf
Debra Duardo, Los Angeles County’s superintendent of schools, applauded the governor for providing guidance for the eventual reopening of campuses, and said she would be “engaging our 80 district superintendents in conversations” in January, and would work in conjunction with county health officials to discuss a path forward.
“Furthermore, I continue to urge the state to prioritize the vaccination of K-12 and early education teachers, administrators and staff as an essential step in getting our public schools and early learning and care centers fully reopened,” Duardo said. “Right now, L.A. County is facing a horrific surge of COVID cases. The absolute best thing we all can do to reopen our schools is to strictly follow public health guidelines. Please help by avoiding gatherings, staying at home as much as possible, wearing your masks and maintaining a six-foot distance from others when you do need to leave home.”
For more information about Newsom’s $2 billion plan, visit: https://www.gov.ca.gov/2020/12/30/governor-newsom-unveils-californias-safe-schools-for-all-plan/