California leaders have reached an agreement to encourage schools to resume in-person classes by the end of March.
The agreement combines proposals from Gov. Gavin Newsom and from California’s legislature to provide $6.6 billion to help return schools to in-person learning.
“We incentivize opening up our schools by providing real resources to do it,” Newsom said during a news conference Monday.
Of that money, $2 billion will be made available to schools that bring students back by March 31.
Schools will be eligible for their part in that $2 billion incentive if they resume classes for at least students in transitional kindergarten through second grade and high-needs students in all grades by the end of the month.
Meanwhile, schools that are in the state’s Red Tier – reporting seven or fewer new cases per 100,000 residents – or a better tier, would be required to offer in-person instruction to all elementary students and at least one middle or high school grade to be eligible for the funds. The state’s Red Tier is the second most restrictive tier and indicates a “substantial” Covid-19 risk.
The rest of the funding – some $4.6 billion – is aimed at helping schools make up for lost learning time, or as Newsom calls it, “reimagining the school year.” This could include longer school days or summer school, he said.
Ultimately, the reopening decisions are left to the superintendents of each district, not the state. But the funding, which is mainly earmarked for personal protective equipment, improved ventilation, and other safety protocols, may well provide the incentive districts need.
Teachers have been concerned over vaccines
Some teachers’ unions, including United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA), which represents educators in the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD), have balked at resuming classes until teachers have the chance to be vaccinated.
The governor announced last month he’d set aside 10% of Covid-19 vaccine doses to be used for teachers and childcare workers in an effort to resume in-person instruction.
And on Monday, the pool of residents eligible to receive a vaccine in Los Angeles County expanded to include educators and child care workers.
The LAUSD, the second-largest school district in the nation, said Monday it will provide the vaccine to all its eligible employees at three school sites in efforts to reopen in-person learning at preschools and elementary schools by the middle of April.
“Vaccinating school staff is a critical piece of reopening school campuses in the safest way possible,” Superintendent Austin Beutner said in a statement. “Providing vaccinations for school staff in an organized manner will help Los Angeles Unified open schools sooner.”
The district’s initial focus will be vaccinating school staff who are already working at school sites and involved in preschool and elementary schools, Beutner said.
The district is also expected to receive an additional 25,000 doses of vaccine over the next two weeks which will be used to vaccinate “school staff who are already working at school sites, staff who are working with our youngest learners and those working with students with learning differences and disabilities.”