Dear Superintendents and School Leaders,
At a press conference today, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced his Safe Schools For All Plan
. The plan is intended to provide the support and accountability needed to establish a clear path to minimize in-school transmissions, enabling a phased return to in-person instruction and ongoing safe practices.
The plan is built on four pillars:
Funding: The governor will propose for immediate action in January to earmark $2 billion for the safe reopening of schools beginning in February. The priority will be for the youngest children (TK-2nd grade) and those who are most disproportionately impacted to return first. Then, other grade levels will return to in-person instruction through the spring. These funds will provide approximately $450 per student to school districts offering in-person instruction and will be weighted for districts serving students from low-income families, English learners, and youth in foster care.
Safety and Mitigation: To further ensure health and safety in the classroom, the administration will focus on implementation of key measures, including testing, personal protective equipment (PPE), contact tracing, and vaccinations.
Testing: The administration will support frequent COVID-19 testing for all school staff and students, including weekly testing at schools in communities with high rates of transmission. For example, any interested public school will be on-boarded to the state-owned Valencia Branch Lab for PCR tests at one-third the market rate and the state will establish a hotline to help schools implement testing. Districts and schools can fill out this online form to indicate interest.
PPE: All staff and students in schools are required to wear masks. Furthermore, surgical masks will be recommended for school staff, and the administration will distribute millions of surgical masks to schools at no cost. The administration has also enabled schools to leverage state-negotiated master contracts for PPE to reduce costs and streamline supply chains.
Contact Tracing: Schools will continue to be on-boarded onto the School Portal for Outbreak Tracking to improve collaboration between school and health officials, and members of the state contact tracing workforce will be deployed to improve communication with schools.
Vaccinations: School staff will be prioritized in the distribution of vaccines through the spring of 2021.
Oversight and Assistance: Dr. Naomi Bardach, a UCSF pediatrician and expert on COVID-19 transmission in schools, will lead the Safe Schools for All Team, a cross-agency team composed of dedicated staff from the California Department of Public Health, Division of Occupational Safety and Health (better known as Cal/OSHA), and educational agencies. The team will provide hands-on support to help schools develop and implement their COVID-19 Safety Plans. These supports include school visits and walk-throughs as warranted, webinars and training materials, and ongoing technical assistance.
Transparency and Accountability: A state dashboard will enable all Californians to see their school's reopening status, level of available funding, and data on in-school transmissions. Additionally, a web-based "hotline" will empower school staff and parents to report concerns to the Safe Schools for All Team, which will lead to escalating levels of intervention, starting with technical assistance and ending with legal enforcement.
The following documents summarize and support the governor’s Safe Schools For All Plan:
We understand this brings up a number of questions. We will work with the California Department of Education and local public health to gain clarity on how this will be implemented. In the meantime, as always, please let me know if you have any questions or need support.
Dr. Paul Gothold
San Diego County Superintendent of Schools