SACRAMENTO, Calif. — California Gov. Gavin Newsom has introduced a plan for gradually expanding in-person education at schools statewide that includes a $2 billion early action proposal to support school safety measures.
"We’re proposing an early action legislative plan to provide an additional $2 billion of support to the schools, particularly those schools that wish to open as early as February," said Newsom. "It works out to about $455 per student."
Known as the "Safe Schools for All Plan," the strategy focuses on ensuring implementation and building confidence by prioritizing bringing back the youngest children and those who are most vulnerable to missing out by being denied in-person learning, then phasing in other grade levels through the spring.
This phased-in approach takes into account that younger children are at a lower risk of contracting and transmitting COVID-19.
"Transmission among or from younger students is not common," Newsom said.
Four pillars underpin the initiative as laid out by Gov. Newsom:
- Funding to support safe reopening
- Safety and mitigation measures for classrooms
- Hands-on oversight & assistance for schools
- Transparency & accountability for families & school staff
"Extensive evidence shows safety and mitigation measures now put in place," said Newsom. "When schools are open in-person, they are focused on mask wearing, they are focused on physical distancing."
The timeline for the plan could see some schools reopen for in-person learning as early as February. However, Newsom said that distance learning would remain an option.
Newsom stressed the importance of returning to in-person learning citing factors that included:
- Decreased anxiety and depression
- Lower rates of undetected child abuse and neglect
- Higher rates of immunizations
- Other positive indicators of public health and wellbeing
The governor also emphasized that while distance learning was working on a certain level, it was not working equally well for everyone, citing his own household as an example.
"Kids are learning, they’re just not all learning equally, particularly our youngest children," said Newsom. "The experience we’re having in our own household is very very telling as it relates to different ages, different cohorts, different learning differences that my children might have."
Newsom also reiterated the ongoing need to implement safety protocols in relation to schools reopening, including hand washing, social distancing, and mask wearing.
"When they are put into place we now know that transmission will be reduced," he said. "When they are not put into place we have seen based on the studies we’ve seen that more outbreaks do occur."
Under the new plan, teachers and students would both be required to wear masks. While teachers would be required to wear surgical level masks, students could simply wear cloth face masks.
The governor highlighted the success of the waiver program that has allowed some schools to remain open while others have been shut down.
"The guidelines that are in place allow for schools to operate in person with waivers in particular for elementary grades," he said. "Over 1700 schools have applied for and received waivers based on the guidelines we issued in May."
Relying on a phased-in approach to in-person learning, the plans calls for the state's youngest and most disproportionately impacted students to be prioritized.
"We also want to improve our efforts to get everybody moving in a similar direction to be back on track across the spectrum by early spring of 2021," said Newsom.
There are also provisions in the plan to allow elementary schools to reopen if they submit a COVID-19 safety plan to both local and state officials and operate in a county where the 7-day average of cases is less than 28 per 100,000 people per day.
Newsom said the state would work with federal partners to cover costs associated with testing for students and teachers.
The state is currently in the 1A phase of vaccinations. Teachers are among those who will be covered when we enter into the 1B phase.
Gov. Newsom said more details on the plan would be released on Friday.