Reopening of schools in California, Senate Bill 86, CDC guidelines for reopening schools
The state of California plans to reopen most of the schools by April 2021:
A school is like a second home for kids! Apart from academics, schools allow the kids to gain plenty of social experiences and be physically active and mentally engaged. For some kids, schools are as important as basic necessities like food and health care. Schools are also important for parents because many of them use schools as childcare centers: so, they can work without worrying about their children.
About a year ago, in early March, schools in California were forced to close for in-person learning due to COVID-19. On the 4th of March 2021, California’s governor and the legislature announced that they have reached an agreement on reopening most of the schools for in-person learning. Senate Bill 86 is designed to provide guidelines and funding to get students and teachers back in schools.
A brief summary of the Senate bill 86:
The Bill passed by California’s lawmakers on Thursday is a 6.6 billion dollars compromise which is actually a package of incentives to allure more and more schools to reopen by the end of March 2021. Here’s a brief summary of Senate Bill 86.
- The bill allocates 456 million dollars to hire new paraeducators to meet the increased needs of our students during the COVID-19 times. That’s about 10 percent of the bill to address our students’ learning needs by increasing instructional supports and expanding learning time.
- The 2nd major part of the bill is the dedication of 10 percent of the state’s allotted vaccines to schools’ staff.
- The bill does not force schools to reopen but instead promises to provide financial incentives to schools that do. The package offers $2 billion, and to be eligible to get a share, schools would have to meet certain standards defined by the lawmakers. And the deadline to do so is May 15th.
- The remaining funds of more than 4 billion dollars will be used to address the student’s learning losses such as by offering summer schools.
- Lastly, the bill requires that all local education authorities must continue to comply with pre-existing collective bargaining requirements. They are also asked to submit a plan to apportion this funding by the 1st of June in consultation with school staff and parents.
This legislation is a strong statement from our leaders and it shows how serious they are about the importance of the in-person for students.
Qualifying criteria to get a share of the 2 billion dollars:
- Schools located in the state’s purple tier would have to offer in-person classes to kids in Tk through 2nd grade once the number of COVID cases in their area decreases to 25 cases per 100,000 people.
- Schools under the red tier would have to welcome back all the elementary students plus one grade of middle schools or high schools. The districts that are in red tiers include Santa Clara, San Francisco, San Mateo, Marin County, and Napa.
- Regardless of the tier status, offer in-person classes to the students of all grade levels including kids with special needs, kids that are at higher risk of abuse, or homeless students.
- Schools that remain closed past the April 1st, 2021 deadline will lose one percent of their share of 2 billion dollars with every passing day.
Common queries related to the Senate Bill 86 and reopening of schools in California:
Is it safe to send your kids back to schools in California?
Statistically, kids fare much better with COVID-19 as compared to the aged or middle-aged people. In California, the age group 0-17 accounts for 12.9 percent of the total positive cases, but the good news is that the death percentage is almost 0 percent. Most of the deaths have been in a population greater than 65 years of age. So, in terms of morbidity or mortality, it seems that it is safe to send your children back to school if the CDC guidelines are followed and adhered to.
Do teachers need to be vaccinated to reopen schools?
Nowadays, teachers’ vaccination is one of the most discussed topics between the governor and teachers’ unions. Though some of the teachers’ unions are demanding to be vaccinated before reopening of schools, the governor of California, citing CDC guidelines, said schools could reopen safely without teacher vaccinations.
Senate Bill 86 does not require teachers to be vaccinated before the reopening of the schools. However, it does prioritize reserving at least 10% of the COVID vaccine for the teachers and other school staff. The state officials have also stressed that they’re trying hard to vaccinate all the teachers as soon as possible.
How to reopen schools safely?
The only way to reopen schools safely is the implementation of the CDC guidelines.
- CDC recommend staying home when you’re sick.
- The use of face masks by both the kids and the staff, especially in situations when the physical distance is difficult to maintain.
- CDC also recommend the reinforcement of the appropriate health behaviors such as hand washing.
- Disinfecting of the most touched surfaces and objects like mobile and laptops is extremely important. You can use liquid disinfectants to disinfect surfaces like desks, chairs, or doorknobs, but doing so with objects like laptop or mobiles is not safe as it could damage the device. To disinfect such product, we’d recommend you to use ‘chargemax products’
- Maintain a physical distance of at least 6 feet.
The issue of reopening schools should not be politicized, and we should let our COVID-19 researchers make the decisions for us. It’s possible that the decisions taken by them may not be the perfect ones, but given our current circumstances, these will be the best possible decisions.