Reopening CA Schools: Some praise Newsom's plan, others say it's too difficult for some districts

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Thursday, December 31, 2020
Why Newsom's school reopening plan may not be doable
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While some education experts argue that schools are safer than being out in the community, others are saying Gov. Newsom's reopening plan may not be doable, especially for larger districts.

PALO ALTO, Calif. (KGO) -- Governor Gavin Newsom revealed a new plan Wednesday to reopen California schools for in-person instruction as early as February.

While some are praising the news, others say this will make it harder for some districts to open.

RELATED: Gov. Newsom announces new plan to reopen schools for in-person learning as early as February

The plan includes $2 billion in funding. Young elementary students and students with special needs would come back first.

The plan calls for increased COVID-19 testing and school staff and students would be required to wear masks.

"It's 15 times more likely for you to get COVID outside of the school setting than in a school setting," says Marin County Superintendent of Schools Mary Jane Burke.

She says the numbers show that schools are safer than the community and she's proud that 95 schools in her county are currently open for in person learning.

"We have the data to show that with those components we do not see in school transmission," Burke said.

VIDEO: Bay Area parents, teachers react to California's new school reopening plan

Gov. Gavin Newsom issued a new reopening framework for schools during his Wednesday address, setting a target for mid-February for some schools.

According to the county's data, Marin County has seen just six transmission cases and 94 positive coronavirus cases among more than 44,000 kids and adults involved in in-person learning. Burke says the time is right to open more schools.

Palo Alto Unified School District Superintendent Don Austin agrees but believes the governor's $2 billion plan will set things back because of the restrictions and requirements. Specifically, with the governor's goal of testing all staff and students.

"I think it's late in the game with an incomplete understanding of the logistics involved in the school districts becoming testing sites," says Austin who went on to say that, "practically speaking, the logistics involved are going to be overwhelming for most school districts to consider, especially school districts of any size."

RELATED: Who will get the COVID-19 vaccine next in California? Here's who's included in phases 1A, 1B and 1C

Palo Alto Unified has had eight student COVID-19 cases and 17 adult ones with no transmissions on campuses, where they've had more than 3,000 students and employees.

They test more than 200 staff every two weeks and have had to dedicate a whole team to it, something that Austin believes will be hard for many bigger districts.

"The most important thing we can do in our state is open schools, and it seems to be the least prioritized," says Austin.

But it's something that we are all now talking about for the first time in weeks.

"The question isn't, 'should we open the schools?' It's, 'what do you need to feel safe?' says Burke.

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