California’s school reopening plan fails to support urban school districts and low-income areas, according to a letter sent to Gov. Gavin Newsom Wednesday by superintendents in seven of the state’s biggest cities, including San Francisco and Oakland.
The letter — which is signed by San Francisco Unified School District Superintendent Vincent Matthews and Oakland Unified Superintendent Kyla Johnson-Trammell — argues that the $2 billion school reopening plan is too vague in determining what constitutes a “safe school environment,” leading to individual districts implementing different standards of safety.
Superintendents in San Diego, Los Angeles, Fresno, Long Beach and Sacramento also signed the letter.
“Our schools stand ready to resume in-person instruction as soon as health conditions are safe and appropriate,” the superintendents wrote in the letter. “But we cannot do it alone.”
Newsom announced the plan last week for students in transitional kindergarten through second grade to return to in-person classes statewide in February, with higher grades returning later in the spring.
Newsom touted that the plan’s funding would average to $450 per student and support testing of school staff and students, personal protective equipment, contact tracing and vaccinations.
The superintendents argued, however, that that $450 per student is unlikely to be distributed equitably, regardless of Newsom’s assurances to the contrary.
“The initial target date of Feb. 1 doesn’t reflect the COVID reality in many of the communities we serve,” the letter said. “Dollars need to be provided to all schools to support opening for in-person instruction, not just those in more affluent communities that already meet health standards due to lower COVID levels.”
Newsom’s office did not respond to a request for comment about the superintendents’ concerns.
The group called on state officials to take several actions in addition to implementing the “Safe Schools for All” plan, including establishing clear state standards for health issues in schools caused by the coronavirus.
State officials should also, the superintendents said, integrate coronavirus testing and vaccinations into existing school health services, establish plans now to mitigate learning loss from distance learning and establish a public timetable by Feb. 1 for vaccinations of school staff members.
“Schools must be made a priority and clear standards are needed to make sure every student is provided with the opportunity for in-person instruction if that’s what their family chooses,” the superintendents said.