By Alberto Garcia
California Governor Gavin Newson said on Tuesday that schools in the state may open in late July or early August, but he added that no formal decision has yet been made.
The governor spoke about schools during his daily briefing on the COVID-19 crisis where he outlined his new four-phase plan to reopen the state in steps over the next weeks and months.
Newson said were are already in Phase One which supports essential services, ramps up virus testing, and builds out virus tracing capabilities, including hiring thousands of staff to trace people that may have come in contact with infected patients.
Phase Two, which could come in weeks, would include providing guidance for schools and some business sectors to re-open while instituting health procedures to minimize the spread of the virus. Schools, child care centers, some retail stores, and some manufacturers of non-essential products would be included in this phase.
Newsom said he is concerned about “learning losses” some students have experienced since schools closed in mid-March to help slow the spread of the deadly virus, especially among students without access to computers at home as well as households where parents have continued to work and have not been able to help their children with home studying.
“That learning loss is very real,” Governor Newsom said during his press conference. “If we can maybe start up the school year a little earlier, maybe we can help close that gap.”
However, Newson did not provide details of when or how schools would be re-opened, or what health precautions would be taken to ensure children are not exposed to the virus.
“Having talked to many other parents and educators, even the kids, I think we might want to consider getting that school year moved up a little bit,” Governor Newson said during his news conference.
Newson has suggested in earlier press conferences that he envisioned schools having staggered start times and schedules to limit the number of students gathering together during recess. lunch, and other school activities. So far, school districts have not announced modified schedules because each district would have to negotiate such changes with its teachers and employee unions.
Newson said that Phase Three could include opening some higher-risk businesses like theatres, gyms, and hair salons but he added that it may still be months until that happens. This phase could also include holding sporting events but without fans in the stands.
Phase Four would include re-opening nearly all businesses but Newsom suggested that it could not happen until a vaccine or other therapeutics were available to ensure the virus would not spread and cause secondary spikes in cases.