Update: 99.9% of California Passes Newsom’s K-6 Reopening Threshold; School Districts Set Tentative Reopening Dates With Teachers Unions in the Way
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On February 23, the California Department of Public Health’s released their updated Blueprint for a Safer Economy. With this new update, fifty-five out of fifty-eight counties, which covers 99.9% of the Californian population, have reached Newsom’s K-6 school reopening threshold. Five new counties have moved to the red tier, including San Mateo County.
But with continued restrictions and political gridlock, California has the second lowest in-person index score for any state, according to Burbio, when it comes to reopening K-12 public schools, just ahead of Maryland (as of February 21). According to CalMatters, among elementary school students, approximately 74% are distance learning only, 20% are under a hybrid model, and only 7% currently have an in-person option.
With this new update, it is possible for eight counties to move down a tier as early as next week, including Santa Clara and San Francisco to the red tier. Entering the red tier would also allow middle and high schools to reopen. Also, Sierra County may become the first county since the most recent COVID wave to enter the yellow tier next week.
With teacher vaccinations expected to roll out soon, some school districts have put a tentative early April date for K-6 school reopenings including Sacramento City Unified, Los Angeles Unified, and San Diego Unified, but there is still a message from the teachers unions that they want the vaccines before they can get back to the classroom. For example, LAUSD Superintendent Austin Beutner said while he hopes for an April 9 reopening of K-6 schools, he agreed with UTLA official that teachers should be vaccinated before reopening.
This idea contradicts the CDC Director Rochelle Walensky, who has said teachers do not need to be vaccinated in order for them to return back to the classroom.
There are also still debates between full day education and hybrid education. In San Francisco, while there has been a health and safety agreement, there are still debates between the teachers union and the school district for how many hours children are allowed to be back in school and whether there should there should be a full in-person option or just a hybrid option.
There is a huge discrepancy in the reopening benchmarks and the number of schools currently reopened. Parents of students who want to go back to school should be disappointed in this long delay for school reopenings.
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Brandon Ristoff is a policy analyst for the California Policy Center.