A new California Assembly bill proposed by Phil Ting, D-San Francisco, may require school districts to resume in-person learning after March 1 if state and county health officer orders allow.
AB10 requires districts to make a tiered reopening plan and be ready to open within two weeks of March 1 if the county reaches the red tier or better.
Assembly member Steve Bennett, D-Ventura, who was recently elected to office, gave his thoughts on the bill proposed by his peers in an email to the News-Press.
“I support getting in-person instruction for students as soon as it can safely be done, and I will watch how AB10 evolves through the process,” he said.
The bill’s authors are worried about learning loss disproportionately affecting low-income students. The majority of reopenings are private schools.
“Schools should be ready to open as soon as public health authorities allow it. Distance learning is ineffective for many students. We must bring students back into the classroom with safety measures in place as soon as possible to prevent further learning loss,” Assembly member and bill co-author Patrick O’Donnell, D-Long Beach, chair of the Assembly Education Committee, said in a news release.
The following Santa Barbara County public schools have been able to open prior to the Dec. 6 lockdown: Los Olivos School, Benjamin Foxen School, Manzanita Public Charter School, Ballard School, Santa Ynez Charter School, Cold Spring School, Montecito Union School and Carpinteria Unified School District’s elementary schools.
Montecito Union Superintendent Anthony Ranii said the biggest difficulties for the school was: setting up outdoor classrooms; creating a staffing plan; and informing parents. Despite overcoming these challenges, the decision to reopen was not easy.
“It’s difficult to know what the right course is because it’s a rapidly evolving situation,” he said.
The outlook on COVID-19 changes as the public learns new information. Districts must allot for families’ preferences when planning a reopening.
“We understand the need for a timeline and like the fact that it would provide families time to prepare. As a school district, we continue to work with our labor groups so that we can identify ways to return to in-person learning safely,” Bree Valla, deputy superintendent for Lompoc Unified School District, told the News-Press in an email.
Lompoc Unified is currently meeting with the teacher’s union to decide how to create class schedules.
“Our administrators have been meeting weekly to develop plans that meet the ever-changing requirements since August,” she said. “We are committed to doing what’s needed so that students can get the best education possible, safely.”
The Santa Barbara Unified School District, desiring the benefits of in-person instruction, has been working to prepare the schools to reopen. It expects to be ready well before March 1.
“Expecting and hoping that we would be in the red tier, or better, following the break, Santa Barbara Unified has been working and planning toward reopening schools on Jan. 19,” Superintendent Hilda Maldonado said in an email to the News-Press. “Our ability to reopen with an in-person hybrid model on that date is now in jeopardy due to climbing COVID-rates.”
The process to reopen has been multi-faceted, but the district has managed to make a comprehensive plan.
“In order to keep staff and students safe, campuses must meet a strict list of health and safety guidelines — such as physical distancing and mask-wearing as well as sanitation/disinfection requirements. This involves a fine-tuned collaborative effort and focus from our staff as well as our facilities and maintenance crews,” she said.
The following assembly members also contributed to AB10: Rebecca Bauer-Kahan, D-Orinda; Tasha Boerner Horvath, D-Encinitas; Lorena Gonzalez, D-San Diego; Kevin McCarty, D-Sacramento; Al Muratsuchi, D-Torrance; and Cottie Petrie-Norris, D-Laguna Beach.