Photo: Rich Pedroncelli / AP Photo

Governor Gavin Newsom at a press conference in April 2020.

Photo: Rich Pedroncelli / AP Photo

Governor Gavin Newsom at a press conference in April 2020.

On December 30, 2020, Governor Gavin Newsom announced a $ 2 billion “Safe Schools For All” plan to encourage more schools to reopen to face-to-face teaching in 2021. For the latest details on the plan issued by the Newsom administration, see the following: The Safe Schools For All hub, released January 14, 2021. Here are some key questions about how the plan works.

What is the reason for the plan?

The Newsom administration believes that “the personal environment is the best place to meet not only the core learning needs of students, but also their psychological and socio-emotional needs.”

At the same time, his government contends that safety is “fundamental” and that “the right precautionary measures can effectively stop the spread of COVID-19 in schools – especially elementary schools”.

Will it be safe to bring students back?

Governor Newsom believes it is safe to return students to school from the earliest grade if health and safety practices are implemented and followed.

In a statement attached to the plan, the administration argued that:

  • Research around the world shows that children are less likely to get COVID-19 than adults, and when they get sick they get sick less than adults.
  • In open school studies in America and around the world, children do not appear to be a major source of transmission – either among themselves or among adults.
  • The growing body of evidence is particularly strong in favor of lower risks associated with elementary schools.
  • Even in communities with high levels of Covid, we don’t see many outbreaks in schools. That’s because taking the right precautions can stop outbreaks before they start.

What are the incentives for districts to participate?

Districts will receive additional funding: a base amount of $ 450 per student if they submit their application by February 1, or $ 337 per student if they submit by March, plus an additional amount per student based on the number the high needs students (low income students, English learners, fostered and homeless children) in their district as defined in the local control funding formula. Governor Newsom said the additional amount could be up to $ 250 per student on top of the base amount.

Does Newsom’s plan need legal approval?

Yes. He will ask lawmakers to “take early action” to approve the plan so that it can come into effect this school year.

The California Department of Health has issued the following documents:

Safe Schools for All Hub January 14, 2020.

Instructions for Schools in California, CDPH, Jan. 14, 2020.

Summary: California’s Safe School for All Plan, CDPH, December 2020

Rationale: California’s Safe School for All Plan, CDPH, December 2020

Evidence summary: TK-6 schools and COVID-19 transmission, December 2020.

Slide presentation, December 30, 2020. Includes details not included in the above documents.

Governor Newsom made the following statement on December 30, 2020:

Declaration by the governor, December 30, 2020.

Can all schools participate?

Only schools in counties with fewer than 25 positive coronavirus cases per 100,000 residents can participate. As of January 1, this means that most schools will no longer be able to participate as most counties have infection rates of 25 or more.

What do schools need to do to participate?

Schools must submit a Covid-19 safety plan to local and state health authorities. Local health officials have five days to approve or reject the plan.

Does the program apply to all children in all classes?

No, this only applies to children in grades K to 6 and to transitional kindergarten.

Will schools in counties of the so-called “purple” level be allowed to reopen?

Yes, as long as the average daily infection rate is below 25 positive cases per 100,000 population.

Do children have to go to schools that are reopening?

No. Schools must continue to offer distance learning to parents who do not want their children to be taught in person.

Where do the funds for the program come from?

They will come from additional government funding made available to K-12 schools under the Proposition 98 formula, which will become available due to an unexpected budget surplus this year. The funding will be included in the proposed budget, which Newsom must submit by January 10 for the coming fiscal year.

What about middle and high school students?

The proposal does not include information on middle school and high school students. Currently, middle and high school students will continue to learn through distance learning unless their schools were opened for face-to-face tuition before their districts were added to the “purple” tier one list or they attend small group classes, learning labs and Support centers partly designed for nursing, homeless and other students with the greatest needs.

Do school districts have to do anything extra to get the funds?

Yes. Everyone in a school – both adults and children – needs to be tested for the virus regularly, including those who don’t have symptoms. For counties in counties with fewer than an average of 14 positive cases per 100,000, each must be tested every two weeks. In districts with a higher incidence rate, everyone would need to be tested weekly.

Everyone is expected to wear masks. However, school staff must wear surgical masks, which are distributed free of charge by the state to schools.

Can schools that are already open for face-to-face lessons participate in the program?

The materials published so far do not directly address this problem. Presumably, however, these schools can participate as long as they comply with guidelines and submit a health plan to local and state authorities for approval.

Who pays for the Covid-19 tests?

The private health insurance plans that employees already have, as well as MediCal for those participating in the program, are designed to cover the cost of testing. For people who are not privately insured or who are not enrolled with MediCal, the school districts will probably have to bear the costs. Most health insurances do not cover asymptomatic tests, however, so the districts have to pay for these costs themselves.

When does the program start?

The program will be introduced gradually from February 15 for students in transition kindergarten to second grade and for students from third to sixth grade on March 15. By February 1, districts must submit a Covid Safety Plan that has been approved by school workers’ unions and is in compliance with the new Cal / OSHA regulations. However, the schedule for counties in counties with high infection rates would be postponed until infection rates fell below 28 cases per 100,000 residents.

Does a county have to be less than 28 positive cases per 100,000 population before a school or county can apply?

No. A district may apply for and use the funds only if their positive cases fall below 28 cases per 100,000.

Do districts get funding only for the students in person?

No. Districts will receive the base amount plus the additional amount they would get as a supplement or focus based on average daily attendance in 2019-20 for the entire school or district, not just for children in the classes that receive personal tuition is offered. However, districts must use the funds for students in the classes in which they offer face-to-face tuition.

What happens if a district doesn’t apply by February 1?

Districts can apply by March 1 to open by March 15. However, instead of receiving the full base grant of $ 450 per person, you will receive $ 337.50 per student.

How much support and resistance is there to the plan?

In general, the plan received significant support from a number of superintendents, professional associations and interest groups. However, several superintendents asked questions about the feasibility of some health and safety practices, including the cost and logistics of tests that would test both staff and students.

What is the position of the two leading unions in the plan?

The California Teachers Association gave the proposal only lukewarm support. “There are many unanswered questions and the devil is always in the details,” said CTA President E. Toby Boyd. He said the union continues to support face-to-face teaching, but not in schools in counties that are still on the “purple” tier one list. “If the local teacher unions take this stance and the districts are still on the ‘purple’ list on February 15, it is unlikely that districts will be able to participate in the reopening plan,” Boyd said.

Jeff Freitas, president of the California Federation of Teachers, said the plan was “the starting point our state and its schools must consider for personal teaching,” but said schools “must be funded at a level that assists the necessary tests, traceability, PPE and high quality instruction. “

As with other school staff, Max Arias, Executive Director of SEIU Local 99 said: “We look forward to receiving more and more personal tuition, safely and with due care.”

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