Coronavirus: California superintendent suggests staggered reopening of schools

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Tony Thurmond, superintendent of California public schools, suggested staggering the reopening of schools amid the coronavirus pandemic.

"We are not anticipating a common opening across school districts or a mandate for when school districts open," he said on Wednesday.

VIDEO: State superintendent explains changes coming to schools this fall

Thurmond stressed that local governments and school districts will have the authority to reopen schools.

Students and teachers will likely wear masks when schools do reopen, he added.

Thurmond also said "shift learning" may be the answer to create smaller class sizes for social distancing and that some districts may opt for hybrid in-person and virtual learning.

"Students may come in a morning shift. And then another group of students may come in an afternoon shift. That may be a way to accommodate the need to have much smaller class sizes so that school campuses can be open with social distancing provisions in place."

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He said with smaller classes, he realizes that will likely mean more educators are needed to assist with instruction and, in the coming days, the state may have a better idea of what that might cost.

"We're working through those scenarios, and we hope to have some examples of what cost might look like in the days and weeks to come," he said.

Thurmond also addressed the digital divide and said the state is continuing to work with tech partners to get more laptops to students in need and get free or reduced price internet access to the households of the 1 million California student without adequate access.

He encouraged the tech industry to reach out if they would like to make a donation by e-mail

As parents worry about their student's learning loss, Thurmond suggested some schools may reopen for summer enrichment programs as they traditionally have in the past. But that too would be open to local districts to determine.

"Any learning gaps are not anybody's fault, everyone's working hard to support our students," he said, "But the reality is that even before the pandemic hit. We had an achievement gap in the state. And in this country."

The big takeaway: While the state will be providing guidance of how schools should be reopening, the question of when will be entirely up to local leaders.

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