‘We need to do more’: California schools face daunting task of reopening amid recession

California Connection

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KTXL) — California State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond outlined some hurdles Wednesday that schools face in trying to open on time for the new school year.

They include massive cuts in school funding caused by a historic state budget deficit.

“Most districts are planning to open on their normal dates in late August and September,” Thurmond explained.

But that doesn’t mean schools will meet those dates.

The state’s top educator said masks for everyone and fewer students per classroom are a given, as are sanitation protocols.

“We’ll have to sanitize down schools every day, sometimes multiple times a day,” he said.

More school buses and drivers may be required if students on board have to distance themselves.

Many districts are addressing back to school safety concerns by using a hybrid of classroom instruction and distance learning.

“Simply, they’ve been receiving those requests from parents,” Thurmond said. 

Home schooling is an option more parents are looking at that requires a family to lose an income earner to teach their kids and a commitment to a lifestyle change. It’s not possible for everyone or even most parents.

The big unanswered question is how are school districts going to do all that is required to open schools safely when California is looking at the possible statewide loss of up to $19 billion due to the COVID-19 recession?

Key education programs will likely be curtailed or eliminated at a time when things like more computers and personal safety equipment must be acquired. None of those are a given.

“We going to need to do more,” Thurmond said. “We don’t believe that school districts cannot reopen safely if they have to implement these kinds of cuts.”

The governor has reworked his budget plan to allow districts more flexibility in how they spend their money but that won’t be enough without a big aid package from Congress.

The Department of Education will host a Zoom forum that will include all 1,000 school districts in the state. The idea is to give them guidance on how to reopen schools for the next school year and for districts to share some of the strategies that they have developed with other districts that have yet to finalize a plan.

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