California Leaders Reach Deal to Reopen Schools

CA Health and Government COVID-19 Guidance: Week in Review

On Monday, March 1, 2021, California Governor Gavin Newsom announced an agreement on a $6.6 billion budget package aimed to “accelerate the safe return to in-person instruction across California and empower schools to immediately expand academic, mental health and social-emotional supports, including over the summer.” The deal does not address funding for private schools. Likewise, the proposed legislation does not require schools to reopen, and will leave the final decisions to individual school districts.

Among other details, the governor noted that the plan earmarks $2 billion to reopen public schools for students in grades transitional kindergarten (TK) through second grade by April 1, 2021, “to support in-person instruction, such as personal protective equipment, ventilation upgrades and COVID-19 testing.”

In order to accelerate in-class instruction, “[a]ll public schools would be required to offer in-person instruction to grades K-2 for all students and for high-needs students in all grades by the end of the month, losing 1 percent of eligible funds every day thereafter if they do not.” Similarly, “[s]chools in the state’s Red Tier [under the state’s Blueprint for a Safer Economy, with seven or fewer cases per 100,000 residents] or better, would be required to offer in-person instruction for all elementary school students and at least one middle or high school grade, or risk the same penalty.”

In addition, the governor announced that $4.6 billion would be dedicated to the state’s Expanded Learning Opportunities Grants to local educational agencies based on the equity-based Local Control Funding Formula, with an additional $1,000 for each homeless student.  The funds are intended for supplemental instruction, more instructional time, learning recovery programs, mental health services and access to meal programs, among other benefits.

Finally, the governor announced that the package would “codify multiple successful state programs to support safe school reopenings,” highlighting the following:

  • Vaccine Prioritization for K-12 School Staff, including setting aside 10 percent of vaccines for education workers;
  • Data Reporting requirements, including reopening status and COVID-19 safety measures; and
  • State Safe Schools Team, including $25 million to provide “technical assistance, oversight, and accountability” to public schools in the state.

More information is available at the state’s Safe Schools For All Hub.

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