School Reopening Update
On January 14th, the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) released the COVID-19 School Guidance Checklist, which supersedes the guidance it issued on August 3, 2020. This document is intended to reconcile guidance for schools from CDPH and the California Occupational Safety and Health Administration (CalOSHA). That said, there remain differences between the new guidance and the Governor’s proposed $2 billion In-Person Instruction Grant Program. The differences will be significant for some local education agencies (LEAs). For example, the guidance advises consultation with bargaining groups, whereas the proposed grant program requires negotiation with them.
The Checklist is part of the Administration’s new Safe Schools for All Hub, which is meant to centralize COVID-related state guidance for schools. At present, the site’s content is focused on the merits of the Governor’s In-Person Instruction Grant Program.
Last Thursday, the Senate Committee on Education and the Senate Committee on Budget held a joint hearing on the Governor’s proposal. During the hearing, the program was criticized by Senators, education labor and management organizations, and school district representatives. Common concerns expressed were the fact that grant amounts would not be sufficient to pay for COVID-19 testing of students or other program requirements, insufficient statewide capacity to process tests in a timely manner, insufficient time for LEAs to complete application requirements, and the plan’s omission of vaccinations for teachers and school staff—which labor and management both stated was key to a return to in-person instruction. Hearing participants concluded that the proposed program would not result in schools reopening sooner, and encouraged the Administration to return with an amended proposal.