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Association of California School Administrators
Association of California School Administrators
Look at the facts on school reopening safety
From the Executive Director, Wesley Smith
February 15, 2021
No, this is not a scene from the Bill Murray classic, “Groundhog Day.” While many of the talking points are unchanged since my last article, much has happened in California in the reopening schools debate, and the inequitable access to high-quality synchronous instruction is one of the most significant civil rights violations of our time.
Recently, Gov. Gavin Newsom sat down with ACSA for a fireside chat. During the chat he shared his rationale for the current push for in-person instruction, addressed our concerns over the in-person incentive grant proposal and explained the challenges with California’s vaccination efforts. The video went viral. It was referenced across the state and in national media like Newsweek.
Shortly thereafter, a labor coalition published “Classroom Learning and Safe Schools for Employees and Students (CLASSES)” wherein, amongst other things, they advocate for no reopenings in the Purple Tier, for schools already open in the Purple Tier to abide by the requirements of the in-person incentive grant proposal, for vaccinations as a condition for reopening and for the expansion of collective bargaining.
Concerned by the impact of this advocacy on schools that are already open and those planning to do so, the management groups (ACSA, CASBO, CCSESA, CSBA and SSDA) sent another statement to the Legislature and administration. ACSA combined this statement with a grassroots call to action.
We argue that it is not factual to suggest schools cannot safely reopen in the Purple Tier. In fact, hundreds of districts have safely reopened for in-person instruction while in the Purple Tier and hundreds of thousands of students have safely participated in in-person instruction in the Purple Tier. As was stated in the letter, “A growing body of research demonstrates that layered mitigation strategies [face coverings, distancing, screening] are highly effective in preventing in-school transmissions.”
We argue that constantly and unnecessarily moving the goalpost will force the closure of many schools that have demonstrated they can safely provide in-person instruction without in-school transmissions. “For students falling behind in distance learning, the only policy worse than status quo would be new laws that needlessly stop schools from reopening or staying open,” the statement reads. “We caution policymakers against proposals that stall access to in-person instruction for our most vulnerable students.”
We argue that it is not factual to suggest that it is only safe to reopen schools once everyone is vaccinated. Again, hundreds of districts have demonstrated we can safely reopen schools without vaccinations. That being said, we do agree with our labor allies that educators must remain a priority within the 1b phase to increase the access to in-person instruction and ensure statewide reopenings next fall. In our fireside chat, we suggested the governor focus the vaccinations on those schools that have already opened and those that are prepared to do so. Furthermore, we asked him to include site and district administrators in his vaccination talking points. In many schools, site and district administrators have been on campus the most during the pandemic.
Finally, we argue that the Educational Employment Relations Act is clear in its requirements for bargaining. We also highlight an existing goalpost, “school reopening should align with the language used in the January 14, 2021 CDPH guidance: ‘For local educational agencies whose employees collectively bargain,’ the LEA must submit ‘evidence of consultation with labor, parent, and community organizations, as either recommended or required under applicable CDPH guidance.’” Moving goalposts closes schools.
We continue to advocate on your behalf. For those of you who can reopen for in-person instruction, we want to make sure that state policies do not impede your ability to open with in-person instruction or force you to close schools that have demonstrated you can safely offer in-person instruction to students — especially students with the greatest needs.
For information on how you can amplify your voice with your elected officials please visit findyourrep.legislature.ca.gov.
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