Gov. Gavin Newsom and legislative leaders announced a multibillion-dollar deal Monday aimed at enticing schools to resume in-person instruction for young students by April 1.
The deal — which still needs formal legislative approval — would create a $2 billion incentive pool, with money doled out to schools that reopen campuses for students in pre-kindergarten through second grade, as well as high-need students of all ages. The money will go toward safety improvements, such as ventilation systems and protective equipment.
The proposal does not order schools to reopen, but schools that fail to do so by April 1 will lose a percentage of their funds for every day they miss the deadline. The money would be available to schools in counties that have an average daily new COVID case rate of less than 25 per 100,000 residents, which covers the vast majority of the state. Los Angeles County meets that goal, although it remains in the most restrictive “purple tier” of the state’s COVID reopening roadmap.
Under existing state guidelines, schools in counties that meet the 25 cases per 100,000 residents threshold are authorized — but not required — to resume in-person classes for students in pre-kindergarten through sixth grade.
Under the proposed legislative incentive package being announced Monday, schools in counties that advance out of the state’s “purple” tier and into the less-restrictive “red” tier — with a new COVID case rate of 7 per 100,000 residents and positivity rate less than 8 % — would be required to open all elementary grades and at least one middle or high school grade to qualify for the incentive funds.
The legislative package also includes another $4.6 billion in general funding for all schools to help districts make up for learning time lost during the pandemic, possibly by extending the school year into the summer.
Los Angeles County’s COVID case rates have been dropping dramatically following a winter surge, but it was unclear when it might be able to advance to the “red” tier. As of Monday, the county’s adjusted rate of daily new cases was 12.3 per 100,000 residents, still above the 7-per-100,000 level needed to move to the “red” tier. The case rate is updated weekly, with the next update scheduled for Tuesday. Newsom said Tuesday’s update will likely move seven counties across the state from the “purple” tier to the “red” tier, but he did not specify which counties would be advancing.
Newsom reiterated Monday that vaccinations should not be considered a pre-requisite for schools to reopen. But he has ordered that a minimum of 10% of all vaccinations received by the state, a minimum of 75,000 doses per week, be set aside for teachers and school staff. He also said the two vaccination sites in the state operated by the Federal Emergency Management Agency — including one at Cal State Los Angeles — will be reserved this Thursday and Friday for school staff and teachers only.
Doses administered at the FEMA sites are in addition to the state’s allocation of doses.