SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — As students across the San Francisco Bay Area spend their finals months of instruction online, state and local education officials were beginning to wrestle with what public education will look like when facilities are reopened for the 2020-2021 academic year.
Schools have been closed under shelter in place orders since mid-March and will not reopen until after the current academic year ends in June.READ MORE: Oakland City Council Votes to Defund Police, Stripping More Than $17M from Department Budget
Gov. Gavin Newsom gave some ideas as to what public education may look like when he discussed his roadmap for reopening the state amid the coronavirus on Tuesday.
Staggered school start times. Class sizes cut in half. Social distancing in the hallways and cafeteria. These are a few of the possible scenarios.
The timeline for reopening schools remains unclear, as it does for reopening California society at large. But Newsom said Tuesday that when the state’s 6 million students do return, things will look dramatically different.
“We need to get our kids back to school,” Newsom said. “And we need to do it in a safe way.”
The outline he presented for what it will take to lift coronavirus restrictions in the nation’s most populous state asked more questions than it answered. He sought to temper the expectations of a restless, isolated public.
For schools, the biggest challenge officials will face is how to continue physical distancing among children and adults to ensure that “kids aren’t going to school, getting infected and then infecting grandma and grandpa,” Newsom said.READ MORE: 165 Pounds Of Fireworks Seized, Man Arrested In Oakland Crackdown
That could mean requiring schools to stagger schedules, with some students arriving in the morning and the rest in the afternoon. In the coming weeks and months, officials along with educators and unions will be discussing that idea and other possibilities for keeping campuses safe, he said.
School assemblies, gym class, recess, lunchtime and all scenarios in which students gather in large groups will have to be rethought. School maintenance will need to be overhauled.
“We are entering a new era of education. And whether that’s transitional or whether it portends a more permanent change in how we educate students is unclear,” said Tony Flint, spokesman for the California School Boards Association.
Flint said the governor’s idea of staggering class times would help guide the conversations school districts are having about how to safely reopen.
“Do you need to move to an expanded school day, or school week, or consider weekend classes? Do you need to look at a year-round model?” said Flint.
Education funding cutbacks have already led to teacher shortages and made campus nurses rare, raising questions about how officials might cope with extended days and ensure kids are healthy, said Tony Wold, associate superintendent of the West Contra Costa Unified School District, which includes 55 schools.
“We can’t just build new schools overnight. Even if the state gives us more money, where will the teachers come from?” said Wold. “This is probably the most Herculean challenge I have ever seen in public education.”MORE NEWS: Menlo Park Fire Chief: Time Is Short in Search for Survivors of Florida Condo Collapse
Newsom said he was having intensive conversations with state Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond and other education leaders about how to reorganize schools. And any changes in school schedules would have to be negotiated with the powerful teachers’ unions.