SACRAMENTO, Calif. — On Wednesday, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced schools could begin to safely reopen even if teachers have not yet received the COVID-19 vaccine. 

What You Need To Know

  • Gov. Gavin Newsom announced schools can begin to reopen safely in California

  • A statewide parents group called Open Schools California is pushing for in-person learning

  • Many teachers' unions throughout the state say it’s still too unsafe to return to schools

  • The CDC recommended students return to schools with the right safety precautions in place

Parent groups across California have been fighting for months to get their kids back into the classroom, but many teachers' unions said it is still too unsafe to return.

One parent, Robert Van Ostrand, has been protesting for weeks with his two kids to convince his community that in-person education is essential for children.

"Our kids should be in school. It is plain and simple. Parents know it. Those of us who can't afford tutors see our kids struggling with this at-home learning," Van Ostrand explained.

He noted distance learning is an inadequate substitute to learning in-person, especially since he's experienced it first-hand as a fifth-year chemistry doctorate student and teacher's assistant at the University of California, Davis.

"I am not a teacher for kids, and I don't have the resources at home to teach them like they learn at school. I teach at the college level, and even I run out of ideas, and I run out of material that varies to give my kids," Van Ostrand said.

After having tech issues repeatedly, his two daughters had to pivot from Zoom classes to homeschooling. Now Van Ostrand is juggling teaching his kids and his students from home.

"I'm stretched thin, and every day is becoming more and more of a struggle," Van Ostrand added.

The UC Davis parent is part of a statewide group called Open Schools California. The project started as a Facebook page and has now grown to include more than 500 parents pushing for in-person learning.

"The kids get tired of being at home, they get tired of not seeing their friends, and they get tired of not seeing their teachers," Van Ostrand said.

When the pandemic first hit, he understood why distance learning was necessary, but recently, the CDC announced students should return to schools with the right safety precautions in place. Van Ostrand said he could not agree more.

"If our medical experts are recommending it is safe, I feel they've considered the safety of the teachers in that assessment," Van Ostrand said.

The President of the California Teachers Association, Toby Boyd, agrees that in-person learning is the best way for students to be educated but fears more people will catch COVID-19 if schools are back in session.

"The virus itself, if it's out in the community, it's not going to stop in a doorway of the schools nor the classroom," Boyd explained.

He added that without the right resources, schools would remain unsafe for teachers and children. 

"We need to make sure that we have the items that we've been talking about, the contact tracing, the testing, the PPE, which includes the masks," Boyd said.

However, Van Ostrand said he believes it is already safe to return, and it is time for teachers to get on board.

"If my kids could go back to school tomorrow, I would send them back tomorrow. Absolutely," he said.

In the meantime, Van Ostrand will continue to balance teaching, parenting, and protesting to ensure his kids get the best education they can during the pandemic.