'A decade behind': CA official explains what state can do to keep schools open amid omicron surge

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- There is growing concern that more schools could return to remote learning as omicron cases rise.

More than 700 teachers and aids called in sick in San Francisco last week. In Oakland, 12 schools closed Friday due to staffing shortages. On Monday, Contra Costa County is planning to close 54 schools to deep clean classrooms.

"The biggest issue here is whether staff are going to be well enough to be at school. This is an ongoing issue, our educators and our students are sick right now," said Cassondra Curiel, president of the United Educators of San Francisco.

San Francisco's teacher's Union president is asking for an increase in protection to keep schools open.

RELATED: SF Unified classes not interrupted despite 874 sick calls in 1 day from teachers, paraeducators

"High quality masks, N95s, KN95, or 94s for all students and staff. Weekly testing and pick up at every single school site accessible. An extension to COVID sick leave for 10 days for any employee that has to quarantine," said Curiel.

Stanford's infectious disease doctor Hector Bonilla says vaccines and testing will keep schools safe.

"If you are vaccinated and you get this infection you are going to have very mild symptoms. We are going to live with that," said Dr. Bonilla.

As several Bay Area school districts are considering remote learning we asked California's state assembly vice chair of the education committee what the state can do to increase protection in schools like more testing.

RELATED: Bay Area school districts ramp up COVID testing as sites get overwhelmed before classes resume

"The governor can do that right away. He has the ability to make that happen right now from the top down," said Assembly member Megan Dahle.

Another factor is schools getting less funding as attendance declines.

Luz Pena: "You believe the funding law regarding schools will need to be modified?"

Assemblymember Dahle: "It will need to be modified. We are going to have to have some really deep thoughtful discussion on how to fund our schools in the future."

RELATED: CDC: Testing students who were exposed to COVID an option over home quarantine

Luz Pena: "What do you think that's going to look like?"

Assemblymember Dahle: "I think that's going to be a hybrid."

Assemblymember Dahle wants to make sure students remain in the classroom.

Data from the state's Department of Education points to a decline in high school graduation rates and test scores during the pandemic.

"I'm concerned that we are a decade behind not just in learning loss but I'm hearing from teachers and administrators that we are having to teach 6 year olds again how to be kind to each other and stand in line. How to sit in a circle because they have been isolated from so many people," said Assembly member Megan Dahle.

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