California Gov. Gavin Newsom and state legislative leaders have reached an agreement aimed at getting most public school children back in classrooms by the end of March.
Under the deal announced Monday, school districts could tap into $2 billion in new funding if they reopen classrooms by March 31. Schools must return to in-person instruction at least through second grade to get the money.
Districts in regions with coronavirus case numbers at low enough levels must return to in-person instruction for all elementary school grades, plus one grade each in middle and high school.
Another $4.6 billion will be available for academic interventions for students who have fallen behind and is not contingent on a return to classrooms.
While the Biden administration has urged schools to reopen full time, the CDC’s latest guidelines would suggest many schools should remain partially or fully closed.
Under the guidelines, the CDC advises schools in “red” areas to hold virtual-only classes for middle and high schools “unless they can strictly implement all mitigation strategies, and have few cases.” Elementary schools should be in hybrid learning or reduced attendance, requiring students to be distanced 6 feet apart. Red areas are counties that have 100 new cases per 100,000 people in the past seven days, or a test positivity rate of 10%.
In addition to guidelines on when to open, the CDC continued to encourage schools to implement mask, social distancing and other guidelines. While the CDC encourages educators who can to get vaccinated, the CDC says that getting teachers fully vaccinated should not be a determining factor in reopening schools.
The National Educators Association said in a statement last month that more must be done to protect educators and students than vaccinations.
“We must also recognize that CDC standards still aren’t being met in too many of our schools,” the NEA said in a statement. “Many schools, especially those attended by Black, brown, indigenous, and poor white students, have severely outdated ventilation systems and no testing or tracing programs. State and local leaders cannot pick and choose which guidelines to follow and which students get resources to keep them safe. And too many schools do not have in place the basic protections that the CDC has said are universally required.”