SACRAMENTO (AP) — California’s schools superintendent said Wednesday he expects classes for the state’s 6 million students to resume as usual in late August or September, but with classes that look radically different to maintain social distancing standards.
Superintendent Tony Thurmond said he expects a mix of in-person and distance learning with fewer children in classes, hallways and other common areas to halt the spread of the coronavirus.READ MORE: Oakland A's Silent on Negotiations With City Over New Stadium
They will likely wear masks, as will teachers and staff. And there’s no way they can open safely without enough masks, sanitizer and wash stations, he said.
News that school districts were planning to open as usual in late summer is likely a relief to parents, although the changes required to welcome back students appear daunting.
Thurmond made his remarks in advance of a virtual meeting Thursday with representatives from 1,000 districts where they will talk about “what schools are thinking they’ll have to do in terms of how they arrange students, how they arrange personnel and how they utilize a maximum amount of personal protective equipment to keep our schools safe and sanitized.”
Thurmond also said that schools have told his department that some parents want distance learning to continue.
Schools have been closed since mid-March, when the governor issued a statewide stay-at-home order. The pandemic has punched a hole into California’s budget. Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom has proposed $14 billion in budget cuts because of the coronavirus, with more than half coming at the expense of public schools.
In response, the superintendents of six California urban districts enrolling a total of more than 900,000 students sent a letter this week to legislative leaders to say they need more money, not less, to operate schools safely.
“Cuts will mean that the reopening of schools will be delayed even after state guidance and clearance from public health officials is given,” reads the letter sent to legislative leaders and lawmakers reviewing the budget.READ MORE: COVID: Breakthrough Cases Surge Among San Francisco Hospital Staff
For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death.
The fact that districts will largely be responsible for their own individual plans as far as students returning to school, what Bay Area schools will look like in the fall is going to depend on where a student is enrolled.
“So if you think about it on a range with a slide or going from all the way virtual to back to normal we are going to be somewhere in the middle there,” said Pleasanton Unified School Superintendent Dr. Dave Haugland.
There will also be variables among the students themselves.
”We can’t expect that all of our students will come back absolutely ready to go like they have in the past. So will have to look at that when they come back and address that our practices and instructions as needed,” said Lydiksen Elementary School Principal Jacob Bergand.
The CDC is recommending face coverings, desks spaced apart and daily health checks.
That could mean staggered class times and possibly alternating days between distance learning and classroom learning. There is no one size fits all answer. Dr. Haugland says there are other things to take into account.
“Do we start with our more vulnerable students so do we start to open up by allowing our special education students to come back or students that are behind a standard to come back for the face-to-face instruction,“ said Dr. Haugland.MORE NEWS: COVID: Highly-Contagious Delta Variant Has Some Parents Rethinking Back-To-School Plans
He says the reality is some parents may not be quite sure if they even want their kids back in school when the school doors reopen.