Gov. Newsom Announces Plans to Send Elementary and SpEd Students Back to School in Feb.

Two days before the close of 2020, Governor Newsom announced a $2 billion package to encourage the safe reopening of elementary schools as early as mid-February, with priority given to students in kindergarten through 2nd grade and students with special instructional needs (the remainder of elementary students could return in March). There are caveats, though, that make it unlikely for LAUSD campuses to open any time soon. 

The Safe Schools for All Plan focuses on bringing back “the youngest children (TK-2) and those who are most disproportionately impacted first, then phasing in other grade levels through the spring, as conditions allow.” It notes that distance learning will remain an option for those who choose it and for those “whose health status does not allow them to return to school in the near term.”

The funds will provide about $450 “per student to school districts offering in-person instruction and will be weighted for districts serving students from low-income families, English learners, and foster youth.” The plan supports frequent Covid-19 testing for all staff and students (weekly testing will be required at schools in communities with high transmission rates) and mandates that all staff and students wear masks (the administration will distribute millions of surgical masks to schools at no cost). 

School staff will be prioritized for vaccination in the spring of 2021. The plan also notes that a state dashboard will allow families to see their school’s reopening status, level of funding, and data on in-school transmission, and an online “hotline” will allow staff and parents to report any concerns.

Before returning to in-person instruction, school districts must submit their reopening plans to state and local health officials, who have the authority to reject plans. Once schools open, Newsom said, the agencies will be obligated to provide schools with Covid-19 monitoring. The catch, of course, is that only schools in counties with a seven-day average of fewer than 28 cases per 100,000 residents will be eligible to open. The current case rate in L.A. County is about 66 per 100,000 residents, so it and other areas with higher rates of transmission will be much lower on the list. 

Newsom noted that campuses in these counties can continue to open under waivers for elementary schools and to serve students with disabilities or those learning English. 

Are you comfortable sending your child back to school under these guidelines? Let us know in the comments! We’ll provide updates as we learn more. 

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