The CFT has asked Governor Newsom and state legislative leaders to delay the physical reopening of schools. Despite coronavirus cases surging throughout the state, growing numbers of hospitalizations and deaths, and mounting testing woes, some school districts are rushing to reopen — putting students, teachers, and communities at risk.
In a letter to state leaders, the CFT also urged the governor to provide stronger leadership and direction to school communities, who have been left on their own to make the difficult decision on whether it is safe to reopen schools.
“Teachers and classified professionals love their jobs and miss their students dearly. They want nothing more than to return to their classrooms and school communities,” says CFT President Jeff Freitas. “But with cases of coronavirus surging, schools simply cannot guarantee the safety of our students and our school workers if we rush to physically reopen, especially when there is ambiguous guidance from the state. We urge the governor to take action and delay the reopening of schools until we can guarantee our schools are safe. The stakes are as high as it gets, and we have only one chance to get this right.”
Following guidance from the CDC, the state of California, and the AFT, the CFT has put forward five science-based requirements that should be met to safely reopen schools.
The five requirements are:
- In-person instruction at schools must be prohibited until the number of new cases declines for at least 14 consecutive days, both statewide and in local communities.
- The infrastructure and resources to test, trace and isolate new cases in schools must be regular and provided by the state.
- The state must deploy the public health tools that prevent the virus’ spread and align them with education strategies that meet the needs of students. This includes the state providing sufficient personal protective equipment, and Local Education Agencies having necessary resources for adequate social distancing (including enforcement), disinfection, and ventilation.
- The involvement of parents, workers, unions, and community stakeholders in all planning is essential. This includes the requirement that exclusive employee representatives must sign-off on all working conditions through the established collective bargaining process.
- Finally, the state must properly fund education in order for schools to reopen. The cost to reopen in person, provide a hybrid model of education, or to provide fully remote education simply costs more money than current funding levels.
Because school districts are unable to meet these requirements on their own and vary widely on proposed plans, the CFT is urging the governor to provide expanded support and stronger direction, not simply guidance. Otherwise, they fear that school districts rushing to reopen will be ill-prepared to guarantee safety, with possible deadly consequences.
“With cases surging and individual school districts unable to address the crisis on their own, we need the governor to assume a greater leadership role — directing school districts to delay reopening and then providing clearer direction and support for when it is safe to do so,” says Freitas. “Only when the state can provide clearer guidance and support should schools reopen.”