State Superintendent Tony Thurmond gives update on in-person classes, learning loss

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- There's a lot to dissect when it comes to reopening schools, but just about every expert agrees that kids need to be back in class. So how can you do this safely? State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond talked to ABC7 News about this.

He feels very confident that kids will be back in-person by the fall. Thurmond cites Governor Gavin Newsom's announcement that 210,000 education staff members have been vaccinated in the first week of prioritizing them.

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What about monitoring schools once everyone returns? "I, for one, believe the key in all of this is rapid COVID tests. They only take 15 minutes, without rapid testing you have no way to have awareness if they're (students) asymptomatic," Thurmond said.

But before we get to the fall, there's a lot of question about summer school. Every school district makes their own decision about their calendar and summer school, but Thurmond says the $4.6 billion from the state will go a long way to carve out the resources and make-up for learning loss. He says there's no time to waste. The funding will be allocated based on its local control funding formula. The money can be used for issues like tutoring, training for teachers, family support programs, and access to computers for students.

"My office is working with all of our educator groups, our legislative groups, our advocacy groups to really talk about what summer will really look like, we've got to plan that now if we expect it to be a meaningful program come summertime," Thurmond said. "There's a lot of educator fatigue, it's been hard to get substitutes. You know, to really end the school year and then move into summer and then start school again is kind of a herculean order, districts need to start planning now."

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Thurmond says his guess is that there will be voluntary, not mandatory, testing for students to identify learning loss. He acknowledges all of this takes a lot of preparation and outreach.

As for the other $2 billion in incentives from the state, Thurmond says lots of districts have questions and are interested but stressed again that COVID testing is the essential piece here.

On a side note, Thurmond addressed the new proposal to appoint instead of elect SFUSD school board members. He said he's been appointed and voted onto school boards so he sees the good in both sides, but Thurmond cites those who are elected have accountability while those who are appointed may follow what they're told by those who appointed them.

Watch the entire interview in the video player above.

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