SACRAMENTO, Calif. — California Governor Gavin Newsom is looking into the prospect of starting the upcoming school year as early as late July in order to address students' "learning loss."
The loss of time for students to learn began in mid-March after most schools in the state closed their doors due to the coronavirus pandemic, switching to virtual learning format that has proved difficult for many.
"The schools are shut down for the remainder of the school year," Newsom said at a press briefing Tuesday. "Learning continues at home, distance learning and the like, but we recognize there’s been a learning loss because of this disruption."
Despite the announcement, Newsom said no definitive decision has been made. California schools traditionally begin their Fall semester in August or at the beginning of September.
Newsom did not address whether this plan would include students heading back to a physical classroom or through online distance education, which has become the primary way of learning during statewide public school closures.
"We need to prepare for that. We need to start preparing for the physical changes in the schools and the environmental changes in the schools that are necessary in order to advance that conversation and make it more meaningful, accordingly in the childcare space itself," Newsom said.
Newsom said that he was able to make the announcement of opening schools early only because of Californians are "overwhelmingly" following the state's stay-at-home and physical distancing directives.
Still, He cautioned the public to continue their dedication bending the curve and slowing the spread of the coronavirus or the state could face a second deadly wave.
David Schapira, the Director of Governmental Affairs for the California School Employees Association, said the union has been in direct contact with the Governor’s office since the start of the outbreak and was not surprised by the announcement.
The CSEA is the largest classified school employee union in the United States and represents more than 250,000 paraeducators, bus drivers, janitors and cafeteria workers.
"I think what the Governor's office is talking about in terms of late July, is Summer programming," Schapira said. "I think the official start of the school year where all students will be invited to return, is not likely to be in July."
A late July start date may offer an opportunity for students who have suffered learning loss to get caught up, Schapira said. This may be especially important for students in special education who may need extra support.
A July date could also allow for students to be in a classroom setting to allow parents the flexibility or returning to work, Schapira said.
However, all of this would need to be contingent on the state providing clear and specific health and safety guidelines in order for schools to reopen, he said.
Schools would need to need have sufficient plans for social distancing between students and staff in the classroom, on school buses, and in cafeterias, Schapira said. There would also need to be sufficient protective equipment in place for students and staff, as well as cleaning supplies for sanitation.
While Schapira said the CSEA has confidence that the state will work closely with education partners before a decision is made, much remains unclear about how, when, or if physical classrooms will reopen in the fall.
"My biggest fear is that schools, if we don't have all of these preparations in place, could become a place where this disease is communicated," Schapira said.
Follow the conversation on Facebook with Giacomo Luca.
FOR THE LATEST CORONAVIRUS NEWS,
DOWNLOAD OUR APP:
►Stay In the Know! Sign up now for the Daily Blend Newsletter