March 2 (UPI) — California Gov. Gavin Newsom reached an agreement with state leaders Monday on legislation to return students to in-person instruction.
The $6.6 billion budget package would provide funding to school districts that are able to return in-person instruction for students in kindergarten through the second grade by April 1.
“Since the height of the winter surge, we have successfully shifted the conversation from whether to reopen schools to when,” said Newsom. “Now, our collective charge is to build on that momentum and local leadership and — just as critically — do whatever it takes to meet the mental health and academic needs of our students, including over the summer.”
The plan would provide $2 billion to fund safety measures such as personal protective equipment, ventilation upgrades and COVID-19 testing, as well as $4.6 billion to fund summer school programs, tutoring and mental health services.
All public schools would be required to offer in-person instruction for kindergarten through second grade students as well as “high-needs students,” while schools districts in areas with seven or fewer cases per 100,000 residents would be required to provide in-class learning for all elementary school students and at least one grade of middle or high school by the end of March.
Schools that do not return to in-class learning would lose 1% of eligible funds every day that they fail to do so.
“Schools are vital to our state, they are a central part of our communities and they are a lifeline for California students and families,” Senate President pro Tempore Toni G. Atkins said in a statement. “Enabling schools to reopen safely, based on science, has been one of the toughest challenges we have faced since the pandemic began.”
In addition to incentives for reopening schools, the package also would set aside 10% of vaccines for education workers, require schools to report data on reopening status and safety measures and allocate $25 million to the State Safe Schools Team, which provides technical assistance, oversite and accountability to the state’s schools.