THE DATA

"Teachers and the education decision makers  need to realize that masks and social distancing, are on par with the effectiveness of the upcoming vaccine"

Dr. Jeanne Noble, Director of Emergency COVID Response, UCSF

CALMATTERS

1.11.21

In pandemic-era budget, Newsom tries to nestle friends and neutralize enemies

Even as Newsom described soaring revenues that have put the state on much stronger financial footing than officials predicted earlier in the pandemic, he seemed to follow the mantra of former Gov. Jerry Brown — paddling a little on the left, and a little on the right. “While we are enjoying the fruits of a lot of one-time energy and a surplus… it’s not permanent,” Newsom said Friday as he introduced a record-breaking $227 billion budget proposal that will launch months of negotiations at the Capitol. “We have to be mindful of over-committing.” … His budget rollout included extra emphasis on grants for small businesses and $2 billion in incentives to reopen schools. But it does not require schools to reopen based on specific public health metrics, causing some superintendents to complain that labor unions, community groups or school boards could block them from reopening campuses. Newsom, who won office with the help of organized labor, said he’s committed to a “collaborative framework” that empowers unions. He hinted that a forthcoming proposal would give the state a stronger role when unions and school boards can’t agree on a reopening plan, but he did not disclose details. Teachers immediately pushed back. “We are in the middle of a devastating COVID-19 surge, and any discussion of returning to in-person instruction is premature,” said a statement from California Federation of Teachers President Jeff Freitas.

SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE

1.7.21

Moving California teachers to the front of the vaccine line might not be enough to reopen schools


Many parents and public officials throughout California supported pushing the state’s 1.4 million teachers and other education workers toward the front of the vaccine line, believing that would finally allow schools to reopen. But the state teacher’s unions — as well as San Francisco’s — have said vaccinations won’t be enough and are calling for additional measures not endorsed by public health experts as necessary for students and staff to safely return to the classroom. Instead of reopening, it’s looking more likely that many, if not most classrooms will remain in virtual mode for months, if not until the fall, despite the vaccine. … “If you’re not going to be a teacher on the front line you should be where everyone else is,” said John Affeldt, managing attorney for Public Advocates, a civil rights law firm. “They ought to prioritize the districts that are going back.” That potentially life and death decision to prioritize educators over others was founded on the urgent need to get schools open and kids back in class, officials said. Research has increasingly shown that many students are struggling with distance learning, their academic, mental, emotional and physical health at risk. Tens of thousands of young people have simply gone missing from their classes, too many now considered dropouts, their whereabouts unknown. In San Francisco, more than 1,000 students — out of the district’s 52,000 — have been absent more often that not this school year, if they show up at all. “The inequitable learning loss and increase in mental health issues that has already occurred threatens the future economic and health conditions of millions of students,” said Ted Lempert, president of Children Now, an Oakland-based research and advocacy organization. “We must get kids safely back in school now.” Children are increasingly considering suicide, according to the Benioff Children’s Hospital in Oakland, and pediatric emergency visits for mental health issues have jumped over the last year by up to 31% according to the Center for Disease Control. … “We cannot safely and fully return to face-to-face instruction without putting our public-school workers at the top of the (vaccine) priority list,” said said Claudia Briggs, spokeswoman for the California Teachers Association. “But remember, right now there’s no research evidence that the vaccine alone eliminates or reduces transmissions. It reduces illness.” Health experts, however, believe the vaccine does mean teachers and staff could safely return to school sites. The need for increased ventilation, masking and social distancing “go away for teachers once they are vaccinated,” [George] Rutherford [UCSF infectious disease expert] said, although such mitigation efforts would need to be in place for unvaccinated students. … There is little indication from many labor or district officials that the vaccine will be a game changer in terms of reopening many of the public schools that have remained closed to students since March. The California Teachers Association, for example, said the vaccine is but one aspect of reopening schools safely and that no classrooms should open in the state’s highest-risk purple tier, even if educators are vaccinated. According to public records obtained by The Chronicle, the United Educators of San Francisco is demanding that schools not reopen until each local zip code has been in the state’s low-risk orange tier for two weeks — something not required by health officials. The union conditions also include staff and students to be tested every two weeks and air quality monitoring in every classroom, among other requirements. San Francisco teachers are also demanding the district install lids on every toilet, which would be closed during flushing to presumably prevent the spread of the virus through aerosols or droplets released, although none of the millions of cases worldwide has been connected to a toilet, Rutherford said.

CALMATTERS

1.3.21

California’s plan to bring many students back to school for in-person learning in careful stages


With new evidence about how schools can be open safely – and new resources to ensure that this can be done – we can start planning in the New Year to bring many students back to school in-person in careful stages and with supports that enable success. … Our strategy reflects mounting evidence, recently summarized by Harvard and Brown researchers, demonstrating that schools can safely remain open, even in conditions of wide community spread, and protect students and educators alike. Our own experience in California bears this out. For example, among the more than 39,000 students and 5,000 staff back to school in Marin County this fall, there were only five cases of suspected in-school transmission. Other districts have reported similar results. A study released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention noted that children who attended school did not experience increased rates of infection from COVID-19, while those who attended family gatherings and other kinds of social events did. Our safety measures should be coupled with new ideas about how and when we can best educate our children. We need not be constrained by the traditional concept of the school year and should instead consider how to add learning time this summer and year-round. In the coming months, educators can build on what they have learned during the pandemic and make plans to tackle learning loss with effective interventions, along with teaching and tutoring models that can help students make gains quickly. … Our creative and committed teachers have been doing as much of this as possible online, often while working overtime to educate their own children at home as well. Now it’s time to boost our support for their efforts with resources for getting and keeping schools open safely, so that we can, as a state, continue to solve for learning together.

SFGATE

1.3.21

Expanding School Year In New Ways May Be One Outcome Of Pandemic

Expanded summer school for K-12 students may be one positive outcome of the pandemic that has otherwise contributed to varying levels of learning loss among students across the state. Without providing details, Gov. Gavin Newsom indicated that he will be including funds in the budget he will present to the Legislature in January that might allow schools to effectively extend the school year into the summer, as a crucial way to help make up for the learning loss that many students have suffered during the pandemic. "We're going to be creative to look more broadly outside the previous constructs, this mantra or mindset that goes back to an agrarian society that no longer exists, that has the presumption that 99 percent of us will be toiling the fields come this summer," he said during his briefing on his plan to encourage more schools to offer in-person instruction. … Newsom stressed that the issue of how to ensure that children catch up and succeed is a major concern of his -- like it is of most parents, he said. "I can assure you it is not only top of mind, it's foundational in terms of the budget that we'll be submitting for consideration to the legislature."

AXIOS

1.2.21

Private schools pull students away from public schools


Private institutions are attracting wealthy families who are frustrated with public schools' flip-flopping on remote and in-person learning. … The trend is weakening public schools, which will lose funding as they lose students, and deepening the divide between how rich and poor kids are educated. … Just 5% of private schools were virtual this fall, according to survey data from the National Association of Independent Schools, cited by CNBC. Compare that with the 62% of public schoolkids who started the fall on Zoom, per Burbio, which has been tracking public school re-opening plans. … Private schools in several states have seen applications surge, reports the New York Times. And some of the country's biggest districts — like New York and Los Angeles — are losing thousands of students, per Axios' Oriana Gonzalez. "The pandemic is an opportunity for privatization and you see people really feeding into that," says Jon Hale, a professor of education at the University of Illinois. … Not only is this trend separating higher and lower income students, it's also widening the urban-rural divide. … What we still don't know is whether parents will keep ditching public schools for private ones in 2021 and beyond.

PRESS RELEASE

12.30.20

Governor Newsom’s Safe Schools for All Plan


With growing evidence that the right precautions can effectively stop the spread of COVID-19 in schools—especially in elementary schools—the Administration is committed to doing everything it can to make in-person instruction in schools safe for students and staff. Developed in partnership with the Legislature, the Administration's plan focuses on ensuring careful implementation and building confidence by supporting schools to bring back the youngest children (TK-2) and those who are most disproportionately impacted first, then phasing in other grade levels through the spring, as conditions allow. This phased-in approach recognizes that younger children are at a lower risk of contracting and transmitting COVID-19, with core safety measures in place. At the same time, distance learning will remain an option for parents and students who choose it and for those whose health status does not allow them to return to school in the near term. … The Budget will propose for immediate action in January, $2 billion for the safe reopening of schools beginning in February, with a priority for returning the youngest children (TK-2nd grade) and those who are most disproportionately impacted first, then returning other grade levels 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 foster youth. … 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. … All staff and students in schools are required to wear masks. … the Administration will distribute millions of surgical masks to schools at no cost. … Schools will continue to be on-boarded onto the School Portal for Outbreak Tracking … School staff will be prioritized in the distribution of vaccines through the spring of 2021. … Dr. Naomi Bardach, a UCSF pediatrician and expert on COVID-19 transmission in schools, will lead the Safe Schools for All Team. … The Team will provide hands-on support to help schools develop and implement their COVID-19 Safety Plans. … A state dashboard will enable all Californians to see their school's reopening status, level of available funding, and data on in-school transmissions.

EDSOURCE

12.30.20

Newsom offers $2 billion plan to bring back in-person instruction in elementary grades


Gov. Gavin Newsom presented a $2 billion proposal for financial incentives Wednesday to prod school districts to bring back elementary school students for in-person instruction, starting in mid-February. School districts would receive extra funding — from $450 to about $700 per student — if they agreed to a timetable for reopening schools, a rigorous regimen of testing both students and staff for the virus, and a strict health and safety plan that teachers and employee unions would have to consent to. … Districts would receive the funding if they offered in-person instruction from transitional kindergarten (TK)  to 2nd grade in the first phase, starting Feb. 15, and for 3rd to 6th graders in the second phase, a month later. Districts would get full funding, regardless of how many parents decided to continue with distance learning. They would also have to agree to bring back small cohorts of students of all ages with the most needs, including homeless and foster children and students with disabilities, whom Newsom said have been disproportionately affected by the shift to distance learning. He said his strategy is consistent with his administration’s position, which since summer has permitted waivers for TK through sixth grades for schools that are in the state’s Tier 1 “‘purple” list. As of this week, the state had approved 1,732 such waivers, many of them to private and parochial schools. Under the new plan, districts with schools that already have physically reopened could continue to operate but they would need to meet the new testing requirements and have an updated safety plan negotiated with employee unions to receive the additional funding. Asked during a press briefing whether the new funding would be enough to entice unions to agree to return within the next two months, Newsom said that teachers’ love of teaching would provide the motivation. … But he also pointed out that districts already have received nearly $7 billion in federal CARES Act money. Much of that funding must be K-12  spent by Dec. 31, however. Newsom did not mention the $6.8 billion for K-12 that California would also receive in 2021 from the Covid relief package that Congress approved before Christmas and President Trump signed into law this week. The state would be offering districts a discounted rate of $55 per Covid test through the new testing lab in Valencia … It’s unclear whether the additional funding, safety and testing requirements would  also help persuade teachers to return to school once they have been vaccinated for Covid. To meet the Feb. 15 reopening date for TK-2, school districts would need to complete labor negotiations and submit a safety plan by Feb. 1 for the first phase. Those deadlines would be subject to the state of the pandemic and infections rates that have soared this month. … In a statement Wednesday, CTA President E. Toby Boyd withheld support for Newsom’s plan pending more information while praising him for “finally recognizing what CTA, for months, has been advocating” for the return to in-person instruction: tighter safety standards, rigorous and consistent testing, data collection and transparency. But he reiterated his opposition to reopening any schools that fall in the purple tier.  That position is at odds with Newsom’s proposal. The governor said that data and medical evidence support bringing back students in highly infected regions, as along as strict safety protocols are obeyed. Youngest students are less receptive to the virus, and there has been little transmission among students or to teachers in schools, he said. Newsom also has been getting considerable pressure from parent groups and some legislators to require school districts to reopen if they met a range of health and safety requirements. … Wednesday's announcement included one shift away from California’s local control policy so far by requiring public health departments to reject a school district’s reopening plan within five days. Without such action, schools have the green light to reopen. The new plan flips the latest policy on its head, which allowed elementary schools that wish to reopen to apply for a waiver, then await approval. … The plan would allow families to remain in distance learning even if their schools reopen. That could pose one complication for districts, given that teachers have voiced concerns about how they would be able to teach students online and in person at the same time. But schools across the nation have provided models of how that could work. … Newsom's proposal requires all students to wear masks, a change from previous rules that would have required it only for third grade and above. The governor's reopening announcement was not just a $2 billion plan, but a clear statement that the governor believes children belong back in school. That has been a difficult and controversial position for some leaders to take, especially Democrats whose supporters have been more resistant to school reopenings. The issue has been fraught with emotion, as some who believe schools should remain closed have accused reopening proponents of playing with the lives of teachers and students. Seemingly cognizant of that position, Newsom accompanied his Wednesday rollout with multi-page statements defending school reopening. In a "rationale" document, the governor's staff stated that "the social-emotional skills cultivated in the youngest grades are foundational for future wellbeing." They also cited "lower rates of anxiety and depression" among students who are in classrooms, as well as a 40 percent drop-off in child welfare referrals since March, suggesting that much more child abuse may be going undetected. The governor also issued a "science" defense, citing various studies showing that student-to-student transmission is low even in communities with high rates of coronavirus spread when the right classroom precautions are taken. His staff noted that this is especially the case among young students. And they said transmission more often happens outside of school.

POLITICO

12.30.20

Newsom pushes February school reopening plan in California


Gov. Gavin Newsom announced a $2 billion push Wednesday to reopen California elementary schools for the youngest students in February, offering incentives and testing to school districts that resume classroom instruction. Most of California's 6 million public school students have been learning remotely since the pandemic forced widespread closures in March. While a smattering of districts opened this fall when infection rates were lower, most kept campuses shut and stayed online, especially those in large metropolitan areas. Newsom's plan relies on carrots rather than sticks in trying to reopen elementary schools across California. The centerpiece is a $2 billion mid-year budget request that would channel money toward getting kids back in classrooms, with an emphasis on younger children who are in transitional kindergarten through second grade. Priority will be given to districts with large numbers of low-income students, foster youth or English learners — groups whose disadvantages have been exacerbated during distance learning. … The timing is far from perfect. California is in the midst of a record level of infections and hospitalizations, with facilities in Southern California running out of bed space and having conversations about rationing care. Newsom said Wednesday that his plan would kick in when counties reduce their daily new cases below 28 per 100,000 residents. While that is still far below the state's current average of 93 new daily cases per 100,000, it's four times the rate that California previously allowed for schools to reopen without waivers. But Newsom's rollout comes as families have expressed frustration with distance learning and critics have assailed him for sending his own children back to private school in November without a cohesive plan to reopen public schools. That frustration is one of many that Newsom must confront as conservative Republicans continue to gather signatures for a recall drive, which just received a boost with more than $600,000 in contributions this week. While Newsom and lawmakers have come under immense pressure to reopen schools sooner, that has put them in direct opposition to influential teachers unions that argue classrooms remain unsafe for teachers. Unions have already opposed legislation to compel swifter reopenings, and the success of Newsom’s plan could hinge on the approval and cooperation of local teachers. … Several influential Democratic lawmakers — including those with long ties to teachers unions — introduced legislation this month that would force school districts to reopen when infection rates decline enough to qualify their counties for the state's red tier. The California Teachers Association and California Federation of Teachers quickly mobilized members and made clear that they opposed any state attempt to override local decision-making by districts and their employee unions.

WALL STREET JOURNAL

12.24.20

Schools Rethink Covid Rules. ‘We’re Over-Quarantining Kids Like Crazy’


After a turbulent first semester marked by disruptions and unpredictable school closures and student quarantines, administrators and parents across the country are re-thinking the quarantine protocols for in-person learning amid the pandemic. Some parents and researchers say some policies put in place early don’t match the data emerging on how slowly the coronavirus spreads among schoolchildren. They argue for new policies that let schools stay open with mask-wearing and social distancing while limiting quarantines and allowing districts more flexibility to design their own responses. “There’s been a tremendous failure of data on this,” said Brown University economist Emily Oster, who has studied Covid-19 and schools and said authorities often overreacted to the few cases that appeared in schools. In early September, she organized a team of data scientists to track confirmed cases in schools across the country. The effort, which has grown to track more than 9,000 schools and more than four million students doing in-person learning nationwide, found a biweekly infection rate of 0.22% among students and 0.42% among staff as of early November. The rate equates to 1.1 children and 2.1 staffers infected per 1,000 each week. The project’s preliminary results indicate that nationwide, students who attend school are infected at a rate that is 27% lower than the case rate of communities they live in. “They can quarantine 500 people, and that’s really costly on a lot of levels, and zero of them end up having Covid,” said Ms. Oster, who believes public officials should reconsider school quarantine policies, “and then you say, ‘OK, it seems like the other mitigation strategies we were taking were actually working pretty well.’ ” … In more than four months of in-person learning, 203 students and 82 staff across the Mason City Schools district have tested positive. More than 2,500 students, mostly among Mason High’s 3,500 pupils, have been quarantined for 14 days after potential exposure. Yet until late October, when the district found its first positive case traced to classroom exposure, no students who were quarantined because of contact with a positive case at school had tested positive themselves, suggesting it was unlikely transmission was widespread within the schools. So far, only four students have tested positive after being exposed in class. … As more children were quarantined and few tested positive, parents began to question the policy.

NEW YORK TIMES

12.24.20

Disadvantaged Students More Likely to Be Learning Remotely, Study Finds


Disadvantaged students are much more likely than others to be engaged in remote schooling during the coronavirus pandemic, increasing the risk that less effective instruction will widen the achievement gap, according to the first comprehensive analysis of attendance patterns. Using cellphone data to track movement to more than 100,000 schools, researchers at Columbia University found that closed classrooms were disproportionately composed of nonwhite students, as well as students with low math scores or limited English proficiency or who are poor enough to qualify for free meals. About 58 percent of nonwhite students attend schools that rely heavily on remote learning, compared to 36 percent of white students. Remote learning is widely considered less successful than traditional classrooms, especially for younger children. “Given the sheer magnitude of the students affected, this does not bode well,” said Zachary Parolin, the study’s lead author. “Inequality in learning outcomes is only more likely to grow.” … A September study by the Brookings Institution warned that school closures would disproportionately affect students of color. Richard V. Reeves, a co-author of the study with Ember Smith, said the new data, which is more comprehensive, deepened his fear of rising inequality. He urged officials to consider reopening schools to protect poor students from enduring harm. “It’s easy to forget how perilous the process of staying on track is for many of these kids,” he said. “The consequences of short-term derailments can be very large indeed, and the students who are most affected were already most behind.” … NWEA, a nonprofit research group, warned in May that the spring school closures could cost students a third of their expected annual progress in reading and half of their expected progress in math. Data from Zearn, an online math program used by some schools, shows widening performance gaps, with progress among low-income students falling by 14 percent since January, even as it rose by 13 percent among high-income students.

NEW YORK TIMES 

12.23.20

Make Schools More Human

[T]here is the question of how to catch students up on what they missed during the pandemic. This is a serious problem — 56 percent of teachers in one survey reported covering half as much material as they would in a normal year, or less. … There has been considerable attention to the health crisis, and some to the economic crisis. But there hasn’t been a serious commitment to the corresponding educational crisis.

U.S. NEWS AND WORLD REPORT

12.23.20

New Study Cautiously Suggests Schools Don’t Increase Spread of Coronavirus

SCHOOL DISTRICTS offering in-person instruction do not contribute to community spread of COVID-19 as long as there are relatively low levels of preexisting coronavirus infections in the surrounding areas, according to one of the most comprehensive studies to date that's set to play a major role in the fraught debate over reopening schools. … "This is what epidemiologists have been saying all along," Strunk says. "Once community spread becomes out of control, then you need to start thinking about whether or not any public spaces are safe. And schools are just that." One of the most important cautions the researchers delivered is that in school districts offering some type of in-person instruction, only about half of students choose that option, according to previous analyses the researchers have done. That means, for example, if a school district is considering reopening for in-person learning every day, for all students, the results of this particular study may not be applicable considering the number of students, staff and space constraints. In addition, adhering to recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and public health experts that schools should ensure staff and students wear masks, stay socially distanced and wash hands often, is paramount to curbing spread. … While infections continue to rise among school-aged children – they currently account for about 10% of all COVID-19 infections, according to the CDC – evidence is mounting, including from this latest study, that while children can and do contract the virus in schools, schools are not the superspreader sites they were initially thought to be. … "I think what this paper shows is that's what's necessary," Strunk says of Michigan's commitment to keeping schools open by closing other public spaces in order to keep the community spread at bay. "If you want to have schools open in person you need to keep rates of community spread relatively low."

CBC NEWS

12.23.20

Transmission of COVID-19 in schools still 'very unlikely,' Dr. Bonnie Henry says

Despite widespread concern about transmission of COVID-19 in schools, Dr. Bonnie Henry said the data so far suggests schools are a "very safe" place to be during the pandemic. The provincial health officer presented modelling Wednesday showing that while there have been hundreds of cases where staff and students were potentially exposed to the novel coronavirus, only a small fraction of those have actually led to transmission. "The data shows us that we are not seeing schools being a place where transmission spreads widely," Henry said. "When the safety protocols that are in place in schools are followed, it is a very safe environment and transmission is very unlikely." … In the Vancouver Coastal Health region, about 600 school-aged children and school staff have tested positive for the virus, resulting in fewer than 200 exposure events in schools. "In almost 90 per cent of cases, they acquired their infection outside of the schools, primarily from household contacts," Henry said. Only 10 per cent of the exposure events led to transmission within the school environment, generally to about one or two people, she added. "Most transmission events involve staff members to each other. As we know, adults are more likely to transmit this to each other," Henry said.

NEW YORK TIMES

12.23.20

Salt Lake City says it will reopen schools, which had been all-remote, once teachers are vaccinated


It remains unclear how much vaccinating teachers will lead to a broad return to normal for U.S. schools, but at least one district — Salt Lake City, Utah — is planning to reopen as soon as its teachers get their second dose in the coming weeks. Salt Lake City, with 21,000 students, was the only district in Utah to stay completely remote this fall. … A spokesman for the Utah State Health Department said the current estimate was that teachers and school staff would likely be vaccinated in mid-to-late January.

NEW YORK TIMES

12.22.20

Public Schools Face Funding ‘Death Spiral’ as Enrollment Drops

So far, states mostly have managed to hold school funding steady during the pandemic, but it’s not clear how long that can be sustained, said David Adkins, the executive director and chief executive of the Council of State Governments, which tracks state policy nationally. It will be especially hard if enrollment doesn’t rebound. “We’ll have to see how many of those folks come back home after normalcy can be achieved,” Mr. Adkins said. But if the pandemic accelerates an exodus of affluent families from the public school system, he said he fears the loss of enrollment and political support could trigger a “death spiral,” further weakening public schools at a time when poor and disadvantaged students are already lagging. For the most part, schools have been buffered financially from the pandemic. Property taxes, which are the main funding source for many districts, tend to hold steady until a recession is deep enough to diminish home sales and property tax collection. And many state governments had healthy reserves when the pandemic hit, having salted money away in anticipation of a potential economic downturn. Some states enacted policies protecting schools financially from pandemic-related enrollment dips. In Sacramento, California lawmakers promised to use pre-pandemic student numbers to calculate school funding through the 2021-22 school year, to give districts the resources they needed to make schools safe and to prevent layoffs in communities where education is often a major employer. But California entered the budget year with a projected surplus of nearly $6 billion. Grace periods were more limited in other states.

KGTV (SAN DIEGO)

12.21.20

When should teachers get the COVID-19 vaccine in Phase 1B?


Last week, the governor’s vaccine advisory group suggested three industries should be considered for priority within Phase 1B: emergency services workers, food and agriculture workers, and education and child care employees. … [Toby] Boyd, the CTA president, said teachers would not feel comfortable returning to the classroom with vaccinations alone. "This vaccine is just part of the puzzle that needs to occur to go back into in-person teaching. It still will require us to have the necessary cleaning, distancing, ventilation," personal protective equipment and rapid testing, he said.

E-MAIL FROM BUSD SUPT

12.18.20

Supt. Brent Stephens, email to BUSD Community


After weeks of bargaining about school reopening, we also now have a clear idea of some differences between the district’s current view on how to reopen elementary schools and the proposals BFT has put forward.  BFT leadership noted some of these differences in our positions during the union comment period at the December 16 School Board meeting.  Among these differences, some of the more substantial ones are: 


  • Who Should Teach In-Person. The district has created a process for employees who are at higher risk from COVID-19 to seek a legal accommodation from in-person work. The district believes that this accommodations process provides strong additional protection for high-risk individuals. BFT is proposing that only teachers who volunteer to provide in-person instruction would do so.


  • When Elementary Schools Should Reopen. The district believes that we should reopen when the community transmission rate returns to the Red Tier, in keeping with state and county public health guidelines. BFT has proposed that school reopening would begin when the City is in the Orange Tier, and that schools would close again if the City returns to the Red Tier.


  • Student COVID-19 Testing. The district is working diligently to create a student COVID-19 testing program. However, because it is not a requirement for reopening, testing cannot be made mandatory for students. The state has also not provided any additional resources to districts to support student testing. For these reasons, the district does not feel that student COVID testing should be a prerequisite for school reopening. BFT has proposed that students must be tested in order to attend school.

PRESS RELEASE

12.18.20

Statement from Mayor London Breed on Importance of Moving Forward With Reopening Public Schools


“It is infuriating that our schools are not going to reopen for in-person learning in January. I can’t imagine how hard this is for our families and for our young people who haven’t been in the classroom since March and are falling further behind every single day. We should not be creating a false choice between education and a safe return to classrooms. As a society, we have a responsibility to educate our children, and safety is embedded in that responsibility. We can do both. We must do both. Right now we are in a surge that requires us to stay home and stop the spread, but when we get through this difficult moment, we need to be ready to get our students in the classroom the moment our public health officials say we can. We can’t create unrealistic standards for in-person learning that aren’t even recommended by the Department of Public Health. I understand the concerns of some of our teachers who are in the vulnerable population, and we should listen to them. But let’s be honest: San Francisco’s public health officials have been among the most conservative in the country in terms of reopening. When they say our schools can start opening again, our kids should be in the classroom the next day. And we have data that shows our kids and teachers can return to the classroom. Under the guidance of the Department of Public Health, our City’s 78 Community Hubs and 91 private and parochial schools across the City have been open for in-person learning for months and have not experienced any outbreaks. Even now, during this latest surge, the worst we’ve had, there have been no outbreaks. None of this is easy, but by following health protocols we can create safe environments that help us mitigate the spread of this virus and give our kids the learning environment they so badly need.

CBS SAN FRANCISCO

12.17.20

COVID Schools: Mayor Breed Says Success Of Community Hubs Could Be Used To Reopen SF Public Schools,

"Mayor London Breed joined the city’s Department of Children, Youth and Their Families on Thursday to celebrate the completion of the first semester in the city’s Community Hubs, which provide in-person support for some 2,000 students citywide as public schools remain closed. The hubs launched back in September and have since expanded to 78 locations, providing in-person distance learning support, meals, internet access and activities. Those enrolled in the hubs include low-income students, homeless students, foster youth and those in English Language Learners classes. … “These hubs have made a difference in people’s lives, and they have been safe, even in this challenging time,” Breed said during a virtual briefing. “The lessons we’ve learned at the hubs can inform the hard work that we’re doing right now to reopen our public schools. While some people are questioning whether that’s safe to bring our public school students back to the classroom, it’s important to keep in mind that we haven’t had any (COVID-19) outbreaks at the hubs or at the private schools that have already opened for in-person learning,” she said. “It will take a lot of work but I believe we can and we must open in-person learning as soon as possible.” … Looking toward the next semester, which starts on Jan. 5, the city hopes to expand the hubs to serve 3,000 students."

US NEWS AND WORLD REPORT

12.17.20

"Schools, Day Care Not a Big Factor in Kids Getting COVID: Study,"

"As a rule, COVID-19 spreads rapidly in most groups, but new research suggests that schools and day care centers appear to be the exception. Among those under 18, the virus is easily spread by close contact with family members who have COVID-19 and at gatherings where people don't wear masks, but going to school wasn't linked to positive COVID-19 tests, according to the researchers. Schools where people wear masks and keep at least 6-feet apart are places where the virus is less likely to spread, said study author Dr. Charlotte Hobbs, a professor of pediatric infectious disease and microbiology at Children's Hospital of Mississippi in Jackson. … It's imperative that people stress the importance of wearing face masks and physical distancing as essential measures to prevent transmission of COVID-19"

 POLITICO

12.16.20

"California teachers unions mobilize against Democratic school reopening bill"

"California teachers unions are demanding that the Legislature maintain pandemic restrictions on school reopenings and have begun mobilizing against a Democratic bill [AB 10] introduced last week that could force schools to reopen in March. In separate letters to legislative leaders, the California Teachers Association and the California Federation of Teachers urge lawmakers to avoid rushing to reopen K-12 schools as Capitol momentum builds to address learning loss and education inequities. Most of the state's 6 million public schoolchildren remain at home with distance learning. … The union criticism will put several Democratic authors of AB 10 in an awkward position, especially since they are normally supported by the two unions. The authors include Assembly Education Chair Patrick O'Donnell (D-Long Beach) and Assemblymember Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego).Expect teachers unions to fight hard against the current bill language and relax some of the requirements, including the March deadline. But fed-up legislators, who are also K-12 parents, are willing to fight after nearly 10 months of distance learning. They also have support: Newsom and state Health Chief Mark Ghaly have indicated they want to work with lawmakers on AB 10, Ting said last week."

NEW YORK TIMES

12.16.20

"When Will It Be Like 2019 Again? Vaccines will soon be available for teachers — but what comes next is complicated"

"Teachers are near the front of the line to receive vaccines. Does that mean schools are close to returning to a pre-Covid normality? Not exactly. Our colleagues Eliza Shapiro and Shawn Hubler reported this week that it’s probably too early for parents to get their hopes up that public schools will throw open their doors anytime soon. Beyond health care workers, who are first in line, there are an estimated 87 million Americans working in essential sectors like food and agriculture, manufacturing and law enforcement. That includes the country’s three million teachers, but the exact pecking order will vary from state to state — and may not account for the school nurses, janitors, cafeteria workers and other people who are also crucial to reopening classrooms. Public health experts disagree as to whether teachers should get early vaccine access. Some argue that teachers are safer at work than many other essential workers, since there has been little evidence that schools can stoke community transmission. … Given the complicated logistics and limited supply of vaccines, inoculating essential workers could last well into spring. … “Some don’t want to go back unless there is a vaccine, and others absolutely don’t believe in it,” said Marie Neisess, president of the Clark County Education Association, which represents more than 18,000 educators in Nevada."

NBCNEWS.COM

12.15.20

"Covid is having a devastating impact on children — and the vaccine won't fix everything,"

"Emergency rooms have seen a 24 percent increase in mental health-related visits from children ages 5 to 11 compared to last year. The increase among older kids is even higher — 31 percent. … One national testing organization reported that the average student in grades 3-8 who took a math assessment this fall scored 5 to 10 percentile points behind students who took the same test last year, with Black, Hispanic and poor students falling even further behind. … Some districts report that the number of students who’ve missed at least 10 percent of classes, which studies show could lead to devastating lifelong consequences, has more than doubled. And an estimated 3 million vulnerable students — who are homeless, in foster care, have disabilities or are learning English — appear to not be in school at all. … The massive displacement from school — not to mention mounting evidence that kids and their parents are increasingly experiencing depression, anxiety and trauma during the pandemic — is what has experts comparing the children of the pandemic to kids who’ve survived natural disasters."

NEW YORK TIMES

12.15.20

"If Teachers Get the Vaccine Quickly, Can Students Get Back to School"

"States and cities across the country are moving to put teachers near the front of the line to receive a coronavirus vaccine, in an effort to make it safer to return to classrooms and provide relief to struggling students and weary parents. … But in districts where children have spent much of the fall staring at laptop screens, including some of the nation’s largest, it may be too early for parents to get their hopes up that public schools will throw open their doors soon, or that students will be back in classrooms full time before next fall. Given the limited number of vaccines available to states and the logistical hurdles to distribution, including the fact that two doses are needed several weeks apart, experts said that vaccinating the nation’s three million schoolteachers could be a slow process, taking well into the spring."

NEW YORK TIMES

12.14.20

"Germany shuts down schools again"

"This fall, even as cases surged across Europe, Germany worked hard to keep schools open, prioritizing them over other aspects of daily life like restaurants and bars. But even in a country once seen as a success story, that strategy is no longer viable. On Wednesday, German schools will close along with nonessential stores and services as part of a strict lockdown that will be in effect through Christmas. Schools are tentatively scheduled to reopen in mid-January. “The numbers were so out of control that German leaders decided they had to lock everything down, even schools,” said Melissa Eddy, a Times correspondent in Berlin. Germany took an aggressive approach to containment early on, relying on science, contact tracing and accessible testing to mostly keep the virus at bay. It cited research that elementary students posed a low risk of spreading the virus, which is now a growing consensus among much of the world. But that couldn’t stave off this week’s difficult decision. That’s not because schools seeded the virus. Instead, it’s because community spread has skyrocketed. “It sends the message that Germany lost control of the pandemic entirely,” Melissa said. “The schools got sacrificed because they failed to lock down everything else strictly enough.”

CALMATTERS

12.14.20

"Health care workers up first"

"With the state expected to receive around 2.1 million COVID-19 vaccines this month, everyone from farmworkers to grocers to teachers to Uber drivers is jostling to be next in line. But since California has more than 2 million health care workers alone and the vaccine requires two doses spaced three weeks apart, it will be months before there’s enough to go around."

12.11.20

“Hope Is On The Horizon”: California Governor Gavin Newsom Announces COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution Plan"

"Once vaccine is distributed to healthcare workers based upon the foregoing priority categories, the Plan directs the State to broaden vaccination access to other groups including essential workers – e.g., farm laborers, police officers, child care staff and teachers – and communities at increased risk of COVID-19, including minority communities disproportionately affected by COVID-19.  During a November 23, 2020 press conference, Governor Newsom said, “mass vaccinations are unlikely to occur anytime soon. For the back of the envelope purposes, March, April, May, June, July, where we start to scale, and we start getting into the subsequent phases (of vaccine distribution).” … In addition to the technical/logistical challenges posed by multi-dose vaccines, research has shown that many patients who receive their first dose of a multi-dose vaccine often fail to return for their second dose.  For example, studies conducted in both the US and UK on the hepatitis B vaccine — which, like the Pfizer and Moderna Covid-19 vaccines, is supposed to have around a one-month period between the first and second doses — found that roughly 50% of patients failed to get their follow-up shot within a year after their first.[8]   By failing to obtain the second dose, a patient may experience little or no protective effect from the vaccine.  Therefore, to the extent that the goal of vaccination in this case is to bring the current public health emergency to an end, the public will need to be educated as to why the second dose of the vaccine is as much an imperative as the first dose.  For this reason, many have argued that public education is an indispensable element of any successful vaccination plan."

POLITIFACT CALIFORNIA

12.10.20

"Can You Handle The Truth?: PolitiFact California Examines School Safety Research Amid COVID-19"

"For example, the schools that reopened with public health mitigation measures in place — things like mask use, social distancing and ventilation — those schools have avoided significant spread of the virus. Experts say those measures really need to be enforced for schools to prevent transmission. They said schools also have to be willing to close back down once levels of community spread begin to spike. … Biden claimed in a recent interview on CNN that people have “lost faith in the ability of the vaccine to work.” He added that the number of Americans willing to get a vaccine was “staggeringly low.” Most polls show that between 50 to 70% of Americans are willing to get vaccinated. Biden does have a point here because those rates are not as high health experts would like to see in order to fully stop the coronavirus. That skepticism is even higher among Black and Latino Americans who have been hit harder by the disease. Despite this, health experts said they aren’t despairing just yet. They said that history has shown that educational campaigns can boost confidence in new vaccines, making people more willing to get a shot."

RHODE ISLAND GOVERNOR'S TWEETS

12.10.20

“ RI Governor Gina Raimondo efforts on behalf of thwarting remote learning"

"To those of you...throwing in the towel on the kids and going virtual, I think it's a shame, I really do. You’re letting the children down and I don’t see any reason for it. The statistics that are coming in around the harm to our children being out of school are heartbreaking."

Alec MacGillis’s response: “Serious Q: Is there ANY prominent elected Democratic official in the country who has staked out such a strong stance in favor of school reopening as @GovRaimondo?”

NEW YORK TIMES

12.09.20

“Coronavirus School Briefing”

"At a national level, unions have largely joined a growing scientific consensus that reopening elementary school is relatively safe during the pandemic. “Unlike adults, elementary school students actually follow the rules, and actually have been really good at wearing their masks and adhering to physical distancing,” said Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers."

SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE

12.09.20

CHALKBEAT COLORADO

12.09.20

“Teachers come behind health care workers for COVID vaccine — along with a lot of other Coloradans"

"Colorado teachers and child care providers will have access to a COVID vaccine sometime this spring — after health care workers and residents of nursing homes and before the general public, state officials said Wednesday. But with perhaps millions of Coloradans — including those age 65 and older and those with preexisting conditions — in the same category as educators and other public-facing essential workers, it’s not clear yet where school staff fall in line. … But the long timeline for vaccine rollout seems to make it unlikely that inoculation will play a major role in getting students back to school this school year, especially because it requires two doses a month apart. “Given the critical nature of what our educators provide, we do believe educators should be prioritized,” said Amie Baca-Oehlert, president of the Colorado Education Association, the state’s largest teachers union. “Especially if we want to prioritize in-person learning, the vaccine is a crucial component.”

WASHINGTON POST

12.08.20

EDSOURCE

12.08.20

“California Assembly leaders press for all districts to resume in-school teaching in the spring,”

"[T]hree Democratic Assembly leaders proposed legislation Monday that would require public school students to physically return to school in stages by early spring, after public health officials lift closure orders. … Assembly Bill 10, which has not yet been electronically posted, signals the growing impatience of parents and some legislators that schools have been slow to reopen to in-person instruction and have ignored the needs of low-income students and English learners who have foundered under distance learning. There is new evidence that persistent gaps in learning between those students and others have grown during the pandemic (see here and here). … “If a health order is lifted, schools should be back in session, with accommodations for vulnerable students and teachers,” O’Donnell said in an interview Monday. As emergency legislation, to be acted on soon and to take effect immediately, the bill will require a two-thirds approval of the Legislature — a daunting challenge coming in the darkest period of the pandemic. But the bill could also add pressure on Gov. Gavin Newsom to act on his own, which Ting and other legislators had been calling for previously. O’Donnell said the intent is to “inject a sense of urgency” and to “push and prod” district administrators and unions back to the table to get a plan for fully ready for reopening schools. … Most districts, including the largest urban districts, have remained in distance learning since March. Other districts, primarily in rural areas and in parts of San Diego, Orange and Marin counties, have reopened mainly under a hybrid setting for a partial return for in-person instruction for those families who want to return. Some pre-K-6 schools in counties in the purple tier received waivers to reopen and can continue to operate under the state’s latest Covid clampdown, although no new waivers are permitted. An unknown number of districts have opened schools for tutoring, counseling and special services for individuals or small cohorts of special education, homeless and foster children. However, some districts, including Los Angeles Unified, have now suspended these operations. The bill would not set the timing for when districts should send most students back to schools or the instructional model — whether a hybrid setting for a partial return or in-person instruction for those who want to return. And it would ensure that students who cannot or would prefer not to return physically to school can continue in distance learning. But it would require districts and charter schools to publicly adopt a plan to offer in-person instruction within two weeks after state and county health departments issue orders allowing school campuses to be open. Under the current system, that would mean moving a county to red, the second-least restrictive conditions, based on infection rates and numbers of patients in hospital intensive care units. … The California Teachers Association and the smaller California Federation of Teachers have been demanding that comprehensive Covid testing, staff training in safety protocols, adequate classroom ventilation and better data on the spread of infections be in place before teachers return to classrooms. Their opposition would be a huge obstacle to passing AB 10. In an email, CTA spokeswoman Claudia Briggs called the bill a starting point and said that CTA looks forward to working with authors, educators and administrators. … O’Donnell said that if more resources for testing and other safeguards are needed, legislators will work with Newsom to provide them."

MARIN INDEPENDENT JOURNAL

12.08.20

"CA public schools could reopen in 4 months if bill passes, but is it safe? Doctors weigh in”

"Teachers in Marin will be high on the list for the coronavirus vaccine, officials said Tuesday. “Schools are essential services,” Dr. Matt Willis, Marin public health officer, said at an online forum to discuss the stay-at-home order that went into effect Tuesday. “Teachers are prioritized because they are providing essential functions.” He estimated that Marin educators could start receiving the vaccines by late January or early February. That would be after the most vulnerable populations are served — such as nursing home or long-term care residents, frontline health care workers and first responders, he said. … Valerie Bachelor, a state teachers union spokesperson, said vaccines are important, but only if other safety measures are also enforced. Bachelor made the statement on behalf of Marin Educators for Safe Schools, a coalition of teacher representatives from 17 Marin school districts. “We believe that vaccines for teachers and school staff will ultimately be critical to ensure that our schools can safely reopen for the long term,” the statement said. “But they are only one part of the puzzle.” … Up until the post-Halloween and post-Thanksgiving spikes, Marin had great success in flattening the curve after schools opened Sept. 8 for in-person learning, Willis said. That indicates that schools are not the source of virus spread in the community, he said. “Until recently, Marin was the last non-rural county that was still in the red tier,” Willis said … “We were the last ones standing, and we had the largest number of kids back in school.” …  [Dr. Lisa] Santora [Deputy Public Health Officer] … Since Sept. 8, county schools have had only two positive coronavirus cases linked to one on-campus transmission. The transmission was from a staff member to a staff member; no students were affected. “Our community is not getting infections at schools,” [Dr. Lisa] Santora [Deputy Public Health Officer] said. “It’s the private gatherings in private households where people are not wearing face coverings and they’re not keeping 6 feet of distance.” “At this point, one of the safest possible places to be is on a school campus that is following a school site-specific protection plan,” Santora added."

ABC7NEWS

12.08.20

"CA public schools could reopen in 4 months if bill passes, but is it safe? Doctors weigh in”


"Schools are safer than we had feared particularly with young kids ages 5-12. They don't carry the virus as much. They don't spread it as much," said UCSF's Chair of Medicine Dr. Robert Wachter. Dr. Wachter says the data is clear, "We've learned that schools are safer than we thought, and we learned that the consequences of keeping them closed are worse than what we thought." … "The highest risk group are actually the adults, staff to staff is where the transmission has been seen the most even that hasn't been very frequent but it is more common than in kids," said Dr. Naomi Bardach, Pediatrics at UCSF Children's Hospital. … "Testing for children in schools is one of the layers that is going to be part of how we stay safe. There are other multiple other layers that are extremely important: masking, physical distancing, small cohorts, good ventilation, hand hygiene and symptom screening and testing," said Dr. Bardach."

NEW YORK TIMES

12.07.20

“New York City elementary schools are reopening while other cities move in the other direction,”

"New York City is reopening some of its public schools Monday in the teeth of a worsening coronavirus outbreak. The decision to do so reflects changing public health thinking around the importance of keeping schools operating, particularly for young students, and the real-world experience of over two months of in-person classes in the city’s school system, the nation’s largest. … Mayor Bill de Blasio has committed himself to keeping schools open, his aides say, and has started with elementary schools and those for students with severe disabilities. (About 190,000 children in the grades and schools the city is reopening this week would be eligible.) … The United States has diverged from other countries around the world in closing schools but leaving indoor dining and bars open. Many parents have criticized that situation, saying that risks of infection are higher in restaurants and bars and that it prioritizes the economy over education. Across Europe and Asia, students, especially very young ones, have largely continued going to school while other parts of daily life have shut down. While Mr. de Blasio’s decision was applauded by many parents, there is no guarantee that the pattern of chaos that they have faced will abate as the fall turns to winter. New York City’s rules for handling positive cases all but guarantee frequent and sudden closures of individual classrooms and school buildings. And it remains unclear whether the city will be able to reopen its middle and high schools to in-person learning any time soon. One thing that could hamper the city’s efforts, officials cautioned, is a truly rampant second wave in New York. The test positivity rate has only increased since the city closed schools and the seven-day rolling average rate exceeded 5 percent last week. Hospitalizations have quickly mounted.

The coronavirus pandemic is getting worse in many parts of the world, including New York City, but about 190,000 children there are heading back to school starting today — a reflection of a new public health consensus."

WASHINGTON POST

12.06.20

“A lost generation’: Surge of research reveals students sliding backward, most vulnerable worst affected." 

  • A flood of new data — on the national, state and district levels — finds students began this academic year behind. Most of the research concludes students of color and those in high-poverty communities fell further behind their peers, exacerbating long-standing gaps in American education.

  • A study being released this week by McKinsey & Co. estimates that the shift to remote school in the spring set White students back by one to three months in math, while students of color lost three to five months. As the coronaviruspandemic persists through this academic year, McKinsey said, losses will escalate.

  • “I think we should be very concerned about the risk of a lost generation of students,” said former education secretary John B. King Jr., who is now president of Education Trust, an advocacy and research group focused on equity issues.

  • The McKinsey study echoes a half dozen other national reports released in recent days. They all find that students regressed because of lost classroom time in the spring, particularly in math, though the reports vary in degree of the losses and in disparities among student groups.

SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE

12.04.20

“Pediatricians to San Francisco: Children are suffering, so reopen schools"

"Distance learning is wholly inadequate to meet the educational needs of elementary age children, and this is exacerbated for children living in poverty. Within the current distance learning framework, elementary age children in San Francisco public schools are receiving around one third of the instructional hours they did when they attended school in person. Parents and other caregivers must make up the deficit, and children whose parents do not have the capacity to do so are at a tremendous disadvantage. Reading ability in third grade is one of the strongest predictors of high school graduation and college enrollment. Thus, for elementary age school children, it is all the more critical that they return to in-person schooling before learning losses lead to permanent deficits in educational attainment. Distance learning is also resulting in a mental health crisis for children. Social interactions with other children and with teachers and school personnel are critical for children’s mental and emotional health. We are seeing previously healthy children present newly with depression, anxiety, sleep disturbance, attention problems, and disruptive behaviors. These mental health symptoms are compounding the challenges of distance learning, as children who are experiencing emotional distress are unable to focus on schoolwork. … [R]esearch shows that opening elementary schools does not drive viral spread in communities as long as schools adhere to public health guidelines. …  The San Francisco Department of Public Health has created comprehensive guidelines for safety in educational settings and, to date, 100 private and charter schools in San Francisco have been approved to reopen. Meanwhile, 100% of publicly run schools remain closed. … Ongoing school closures are creating a public health crisis of unprecedented proportions for children. We urge all San Franciscans to work together to ensure that public elementary schools safely resume in-person learning without delay."

NEW YORK TIMES

12.04.20

“Coronavirus School Briefing - ‘Unprecedented Learning Loss,"

"As the fall semester winds to a close, final assessments and midterm grades are due. And many, many children will have failed their classes. In Houston, the nation’s seventh-largest public school district, 42 percent of students failed two or more classes in the first grading period, compared with 11 percent in a normal year. In Fairfax County, Va., an internal analysis found that the percentage of middle school and high school students earning F’s in at least two classes had jumped to 11 percent in the first quarter this year from 6 percent a year ago. In Washington, D.C., internal testing data shows steep declines in the number of kindergartners through second-grade students meeting literacy benchmarks. In Chicago, the nation’s second-largest district, 13 percent of high school students failed math in the fall quarter, compared with 9.5 percent last fall. “We’re obviously dealing with unprecedented learning loss and course failure,” Brian T. Woods, a Texas superintendent, said, “and it’s going to take years to mitigate.” In his district, the share of students failing at least one course in the first grading period increased to roughly 25 percent from 8 percent last year. But in many cases, it is the schools have failed their students. Few children in the districts above have spent time learning in-person this semester. Many struggled to access classes online. The most vulnerable and disadvantaged students are suffering the most from continued remote learning."

SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE

12.03.20

"Editorial Board, “California should be ashamed of its shuttered schools,"

"The Bay Area and California’s relatively responsible approach to the pandemic, particularly in the context of the worst national response in the developed world, has saved many lives. The success is marred, however, by a glaring failure to educate children. While restrictions on high-risk gathering places have looked more justified as the toll of the virus has grown in places that failed to take such steps, the mass abandonment of schoolchildren has only become more inexplicable. … [T]he evidence that children can be taught safely in person, particularly at younger ages, has accumulated. With the help of masks and modifications to allow for more distancing and ventilation, schools in much of the United States and Europe have opened for in-person instruction without major outbreaks. Most of the infamous cases of school-based mass transmission, including outbreaks in Georgia and Israel, have taken place among older students and with scant precautions. Moreover, children are unlikely to get seriously ill from the virus, and those of elementary school age appear to be responsible for limited transmission to each other or adults. Studies in Europe, where schools have been kept open despite outbreaks rivaling the United States’, have found no correlation between open classrooms and coronavirus spread. The relatively low risk of spreading the virus through appropriately cautious schools is in contrast to the significant harm of keeping them closed, forcing students and parents into remote-learning regimes that are flawed in the most fortunate households and failing the less fortunate. … State and local officials took advantage of hard-won lulls in the contagion to let bars, restaurants and other risky businesses reopen even as they deferred to teachers’ unions and school boards to keep classrooms empty. “Schools should absolutely reopen,” the state’s acting health officer, Dr. Erica Pan, said in October. That so many haven’t is an embarrassment."

NEW YORK TIMES

12.01.20

"California families sue over remote learning, saying minority students have been left behind"

"Seven families sued the state of California on Monday over the quality of education that their children are receiving at home this year, saying they have been left behind by the shift to remote learning during the pandemic. The suit argues that a lack of attention to the realities of remote learning has exacerbated inequality in schools and deprived minority students from poor families of their right to an education. “The change in the delivery of education left many already underserved students functionally unable to attend school,” the lawsuit, which was filed Monday in the Alameda County Superior Court, asserts. “The state continues to refuse to step up and meet its constitutional obligation to ensure basic educational equality or indeed any education at all.” The plaintiffs include 15 Black and Latino students in Oakland and Los Angeles, who range from kindergartners to high school seniors. The suit details their individual struggles as they try to continue their education despite a lack of sufficient computers, internet access and instruction."

NEW YORK TIMES

11.30.20

"Why School Districts Are Bringing Back Younger Children First"

"After a summer of uncertainty and fear about how schools across the globe would operate in a pandemic, a consensus has emerged in more and more districts: In-person teaching with young children is safer than with older ones and particularly crucial for their development. On Sunday, New York City, home to the country’s largest school system, became the most high-profile example of that trend, when Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that only pre-Ks, elementary schools and some schools for children with complex disabilities would reopen next week after all city classrooms were briefly shut in November. … But the decision put New York in line with other cities in America and across the world that have reopened classrooms first, and often exclusively, for young children, and in some cases kept them open even as those cities have confronted second waves of the virus. In-person learning is essential for young children, who often need intensive parental supervision just to log on for the day, education experts say. And mounting evidence has shown that elementary schools are unlikely to fuel transmission as long as districts adopt strict safety measures. The evidence is more mixed for middle and high schools. … “The data is becoming more compelling that there is very limited transmission in day care and grade schools,” said Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota and a member of President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s coronavirus task force, in a recent interview."

NEW YORK TIMES

11.30.20

"Positive Test Rate of 11 Percent? France’s Schools Remain Open"

“Five weeks into a second nationwide lockdown, France, like much of Europe, has proved that it is possible to bring the rate of known infections down, even with schools open. … In France, 11 percent of coronavirus tests are coming back positive but students have kept going to school. … In November, the average number of new daily cases in France over the previous seven days soared to more than 80 per 100,000 people; as of Sunday it had dropped to 17 per 100,000. “Obviously, the decline has been slower because schools are open, but we had to find a middle ground,” said Yazdan Yazdanpanah, an infectious disease specialist and a member of France’s Scientific Council, which advises the government on the pandemic. But, he added, the slower drop in infections has been offset by positive effects on education, mental health and the economy. … The country’s 12 million students in primary and secondary schools engaged in online learning, but soon, teachers and education officials warned that many children had fallen behind. “It reinforced our conviction to keep the schools open, for education and social reasons,” said Sophie Vénétitay, a teacher and union official. … On Friday, out of 61,500 schools nationwide, only 19 primary schools, three middle schools and three high schools were closed because of outbreaks. … With classrooms open, parents have been able to focus on work at home or commute to their workplaces, which has helped blunt the second lockdown’s blow to the economy. The Bank of France estimated that economic activity this month would be 12 percent below normal — far less than the 31 percent drop experienced in April."

NEW YORK TIMES

11.29.20

"New York City Will Reopen Elementary Schools and Reduce Hybrid Learning"

"Mayor Bill de Blasio announced on Sunday that he would reopen public elementary schools, abruptly shifting policy in the face of widespread criticism that officials were placing more of a priority on economic activities like indoor dining than the well-being of New York City’s children. … The mayor said the city would abandon a 3 percent test positivity threshold that it had adopted for closing the school system, the largest in the country, with 1.1 million children. And he said the system would aim to give many parents the option of sending their children to school five days a week, which would effectively end the so-called hybrid learning system for some city schools. … The powerful teachers union, the United Federation of Teachers, which has often clashed with City Hall over its effort to reopen the system, said it supported the new plan, as long as rigorous virus testing was in place. The new blueprint represents the city’s second shot at reopening, after the first attempt was plagued by problems and Mr. de Blasio’s 3 percent threshold to close schools was roundly assailed as too low by parents, politicians and public health experts. Now, instead of using such a metric, the city will increase testing in schools and close those that have multiple confirmed virus cases. The system will also, for now, adopt a model that has become more common across the country and world, offering classroom instruction only to young children and students with disabilities. Since Mr. de Blasio first announced his plan to reopen schools in July, mounting evidence has shown that elementary schools in particular can be relatively safe, as long as strict safety protocols are followed. New York’s schools had extremely low test positivity rates during the roughly eight weeks they were open this fall, and there was agreement from the president of the teachers’ union to the mayor’s top public health officials that schools were far safer than had been anticipated. By the time schools closed, the school positivity rate was .28 percent. When elementary schools reopen, the city will significantly increase random testing: rather than testing a sampling of students and staff in each building once a month, the city will test weekly. Students will not be allowed to attend in person unless parents sign consent forms, allowing testing. Nothing else about New York City’s safety plan will change; six feet of social distance will be mandated. But the city will reduce its use of hybrid learning — under which children physically attended school a few days a week and learned remotely the rest of the time — for many schools."

SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE

11.28.20

"Surge in D’s and F’s in San Diego County schools raises questions: How to grade during pandemic"

"Schools nationwide and across San Diego County are seeing a surge in poor grades fueled by the pandemic. The trend is in line with school officials’ and national experts’ predictions that school closures, along with obstacles to online education, will cause massive learning loss this year. … The national consulting firm McKinsey & Co. estimated that students who do not receive full-time, in-person instruction until 2021 will lose an average of seven months of learning this school year. Hispanic students may fall behind further, by nine months, and Black students by 10 months. Low-income students may fall behind by more than a year, the firm said. Most school districts in San Diego County have reopened to some degree, but most are providing in-person instruction to only some students or on a part-time basis. Some, including San Diego Unified and Sweetwater, are only serving small groups of students with limited, in-person sessions. Experts say that bad grades are largely a result of the many challenges students face because of the pandemic and school closures, such as unreliable internet, a lack of adult support, a lack of a quiet home environment to do school work, anxiety, depression, hunger or homelessness — all factors outside a student’s or teacher’s control. … only 19 percent of teachers have covered all or nearly all the content they would have covered by this same time last school year, according to a recent nationally representative RAND survey of educators. Therefore a grade for the same course by the same teacher this year doesn’t mean the same thing it did last year …"

WASHINGTON POST

11.28.20

"This state is shutting bars and gyms as the coronavirus surges — but not schools"

"Bars in Rhode Island must close for two weeks starting Monday. Gyms, casinos, movie theaters and bowling alleys will also go dark. But not Scituate High School — or most other public schools in the state, where Gov. Gina Raimondo (D) has made in-person instruction a priority even as coronavirus cases soar. ... “There is a fair amount of data that schools can be opened safely during the pandemic,” said David Rubin, director of PolicyLab at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, which has advised schools on how to open but also to reconsider when their regions’ rate of positive coronavirus test results surpasses 9 percent. … Pointing to state data, Raimondo argues that schools, with their controlled environments, may actually be safer for children: About 1,245 of some 98,000 Rhode Island students attending school at least partly in person had tested positive as of Nov. 21; the state says most cases were transmitted outside of school. In contrast, about 950 of nearly 50,000 students learning remotely had confirmed cases. …“I think there are massive long-term negative impacts on our children for keeping them out of school for a long time,” said Raimondo, whose two children attend private schools that have been open all fall. “Every child deserves that same opportunity. It shouldn’t just be for the parents who choose to and are able to pay tuition. … Throwing in the towel and letting kids stay home for a year and a half to languish — it’s just wrong.” That is an increasingly mainstream view. A UNICEF report published this month said evidence shows that “with basic safety measures in place, the net benefits of keeping schools open outweigh the costs of closing them.”

NEW YORK TIMES

11.28.20

"U.S. public school enrollment drops as parents, frustrated by lockdown, pull their children out"

"Two and a half months into the school year, Massachusetts compiled its data and found sobering results: Enrollment in public schools was down 37,000, or almost 4 percent, from last year, a startling drop for a system that has mostly held steady. Though no nationwide data is available, similar snapshots are emerging all over the country. …The reason is no mystery. With public schools mostly shifting to remote or hybrid learning, parents are pulling their children out entirely, opting to keep them at home or looking for options that offer more in-person instruction. “In some cases, the charter schools are taking them, in some cases privates and parochials,” said Glenn Koocher, who heads the Massachusetts Association of School Committees. “The bigger tragedy is that some kids aren’t getting anything, because they’ve fallen off the map.” Mr. Koocher said he believes a third of the students that left public schools this year are in that category. “The districts have lost touch with them,” he said. “They’re staying home, probably doing nothing, and we’re out of touch with them.” A reverse phenomenon has taken place at private schools, many of which began the school year with in-person learning. …Some unenrolled students may return to the public school system next year, when in-person teaching resumes, Mr. Kooker said. But if they don’t, school budgets are likely to suffer, because state aid to schools is distributed on a per-pupil basis. That matters more in poorer neighborhoods, since wealthy school districts augment state funding using local property taxes. “You still have to have the teachers,” he said. “You don’t lose money in school expenses, but you lose state aid.”

WASHINGTON POST

11.24.20

"A ‘trend of more failing’: Online school has sent F’s spiking by 83 percent in Virginia’s largest school system"

  • "Online learning is causing a serious drop in academic achievement in Virginia’s largest school system, according to a Fairfax County Public Schools study, and the most vulnerable students — those with disabilities and English-language learners — are struggling the most.

  • Between the last academic year and this one, which for most students is taking place remotely, the percentage of F’s earned by middle school and high school students jumped from 6 percent of all grades to 11 percent — representing an overall increase of 83 percent from 2019 to 2020. Younger students were more seriously affected than older ones: Middle-schoolers reported an overall 300 percent increase in F’s, while high-schoolers reported a 50 percent increase.

“The pattern was pervasive across all student groups, grade levels, and content areas,” says the Fairfax study, published online this week. “The trend of more failing marks is concerning across the board but is especially concerning for the groups that showed the biggest unpredicted increases ... namely our English learner students and students with disabilities.”

SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS

11.23.20

“Coronavirus: Will Bay Area schools remain safe amid case surge? Schools have seen few outbreaks so far"

“The infections that we’ve identified in schools when they’ve been evaluated were not acquired at schools, they were actually acquired in the community and in the household,” said Robert R. Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “The truth is for kids K through 12, one of the safest places they can be from our perspective is to remain in school.” Santa Clara County Health Officer Dr. Sara Cody said that “as our cases are rising — and they are rising sharply — we’ll get more reports from schools.” But like Redfield, Cody sees cases coming into schools from the community, not spreading there. And Cody, who led the Bay Area in the nation’s first lockdown and drew criticism for her slow business reopening pace, is so confident in class safety protocols that she said she’ll continue to approve elementary school reopening waivers. “If we didn’t feel confident our protocols were going to protect students and staff, we wouldn’t go ahead and encourage opening classrooms,” Cody said. “To date, we’ve seen very, very little transmission in school settings, and hope that continues to be the case.” This past week, in one of the few detailed looks at the virus in schools around the state, Cody said there have been 216 cases linked to schools out of more than 29,000 to date countywide. Of those, 169 were single cases, and 20 others involved two or more cases. … Even in the most restrictive purple-tier counties with widespread outbreaks where schools generally must teach remotely online, state officials said elementary schools can still reopen with an approved waiver. All Bay Area counties except San Francisco, San Mateo and Marin now are in that purple tier. Like Santa Clara County, Contra Costa County will continue accepting waiver applications, but Alameda stopped offering them last week. In San Mateo County’s Menlo Park City School District, among the first to bring kids back to classrooms Sept. 8, Superintendent Erik Burmeister said they have had a total of 10 students and staff infected with the virus out of 2,900 preschool-8 students and 380 staff. All were infected outside the schools, and the district shut down four classes for two weeks and didn’t see further spread, he said. “So far, the data are showing the very strict health and safety measures have resulted in no spread within our district,” Burmeister said. “If that changes, we will move to distance learning.” In many public schools, teacher unions have forestalled classroom reopening out of concern for their safety. Even before the latest case surge, teachers complained that district provisions for protective equipment, testing and classroom ventilation were inadequate. The latest case spike only amplifies those fears, said California Teachers Association spokeswoman Claudia Briggs. “The current surge in cases puts an exclamation point on why we have to prioritize putting all the proper safety measures in place in our schools,” Briggs said. But while parents have been divided over reopening, a growing number are losing patience with the remote “distance learning” that educators agree remains inferior to in-person instruction. Many parents are turning to private schools with open classrooms after seeing friends’ kids thrive there this fall.”

NEW YORK TIMES

11.23.20

"In Canada, a Push to Keep Schools Open in Second Lockdown"

  • “The good news is that we’re not seeing much evidence of transmission within the schools,” said Dr. Barbara Yaffe, Ontario’s associate medical officer of health. …“We expect staff and students to be contagious, and come to school with infections. But the measures we have in schools have so far been effective at preventing the additional spread,” said Dr. Vinita Dubey, Toronto’s associate medical officer of health. …A report by Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children released this summer called for a full return to school, stating that while children under 10 were less susceptible to the virus and less likely to pass it onto others, they were already reporting increased rates of depression and anxiety. Experts said they believed that substance abuse and suicidal behavior went up as well. That was followed by a study in August, published in the Canadian Journal of Public Health, detailing a sobering list of long-term effects on young children who miss school, from less-developed cognitive skills and higher incidences of teen pregnancy to lower employment rates and higher arrest rates. “You can close restaurants and bars and give financial handouts so they can reopen at a later date,” said Dr. Michael Silverman, the chair of Infectious Diseases at Western University’s School of Medicine & Dentistry in London, Ontario, who co-authored that report. “What kind of financial handout can you give to a kid for the long-term cognitive development impacts, to make up for it?” He added, “Schools should be the very last thing to close.”

  • In the largest province, Ontario, masked high school students attend smaller classes in person, but only every other day. Meanwhile, younger students are crowded into classes with no additional spacing between desks and, in some cases, no mandatory masks. That prompted protests and petitions by students and parents, criticism by epidemiologists and other experts, and a court case launched by four teachers’ unions, who were concerned their members would be put at risk. And many feared schools would be shut down again by Thanksgiving. Instead, currently, only two schools in the entire province are closed due to Covid-19, according to Caitlin Clark, the Minister of Education’s spokeswoman. “As of today in Ontario — 99.85 percent of the province’s students and 99.75 percent of staff have never had a case of COVID-19, which underpins why schools remain open for learning,” Ms. Clark said in an email.

SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE

11.22.20

Dr. Jeanne Noble (UCSF), “The third wave is here but we still need to reopen our schools”

​“Our children need to be back in school. They are experiencing significant, potentially long-term and unnecessary adverse impacts from Alameda County, followed by BUSD's, delay in allowing our schools to safely reopen. … School closures in the initial months of this pandemic made sense; we assumed that children would be major transmitters of COVID and would need to bear the brunt of our lockdown measures for the safety of our nation. Luckily, this assumption turned out to be incorrect. Children are not the primary drivers of COVID spread. Indeed, although individuals under the age of 18 make up nearly a quarter of Alameda county’s population, youth account for only 10% of COVID cases. This is at least partially due to the fact that children -- especially young children -- are less efficient spreaders of COVID. They are also not at high risk of severe health consequences from COVID. In the entire state of California, two people under the age of 18 have died from the virus.  Given this data, it is difficult to argue that keeping our schools closed is about the safety of our children. … while the risk of COVID transmission will never be zero, the Institute for Disease Modeling estimates that the cumulative infection risk for teachers over a three-month period of regular in-person learning, with masking and social distancing, is less than 1%. This level of risk is not higher than that being assumed by other essential workers, such as grocery store clerks, and is significantly lower than the risk being assumed by health care providers. And that risk can be further reduced by weekly testing on campus, an achievable goal for Bay area schools, both public and private.”

BLOOMBERG OPINION

11.20.20

"Joe Nocera, “Schools Don’t Spread Covid. Teachers' Unions Don’t Care"

​“In March, moving to remote learning was a reasonable decision. Nobody knew how the virus would affect children, how deadly it would be or even how it was spread. Teachers were scared, and so were parents. We also didn’t know how deficient remote learning would turn out to be, especially for poor kids who lacked computers and broadband access or whose parents were unable to help them with their schoolwork. We know a lot more now: in particular, we know that keeping schools open is one of the least dangerous — and most important — things a society can do. As my Bloomberg Opinion colleague Andreas Kluth predicted at the beginning of the pandemic, closing down schools was likely to widen the inequality gap. “Everything tells me that the virus-induced school closures of 2020 (and going into 2021?) will bifurcate today’s population of school children into winners and losers with lasting effects,” he wrote. That is exactly what’s happened. Yet notwithstanding the scientific consensus — namely, that closing schools does far more harm than good — teachers’ unions in many big cities have simply refused to go back into the classroom, claiming it’s too dangerous. Public schools didn’t reopen in the fall in Chicago, Los Angeles, Philadelphia and most other large cities. Several teachers’ unions have said flatly that they won’t come back until a vaccine is available. And then there’s New York City, which tragically shut down its school system on Thursday after having opened schools to hybrid learning in late September. Did Mayor Bill de Blasio make the decision to close them because they were suddenly Covid-19 hotspots? No. Although the citywide positivity rate has risen above 3%, the rate of infection in the schools was astonishingly low: 0.15%. Kids were not infecting teachers, and teachers weren’t infecting students — just as study after study had suggested would be the case. Rather, it was because to get the United Federation of Teachers to agree to come back to the classroom, de Blasio had to agree that if the city reached a 3% positivity rate threshold, the school system would return to remote learning. Was there any science behind the 3% threshold? No again. It was an arbitrary number designed to satisfy the union. Given how safe the schools have proved to be, it is clear that de Blasio should never have agreed to those terms. But it is equally true that the union could have looked at the evidence and decided to waive the 3% benchmark in the interest of their students. They could have followed the science. Instead, the teachers chose a path that may be better — or at least easier — for them, but which will inflict further harm on a generation of students who may never recover.”

POLITCO

11.20.20

"It's starting to sink in: Schools before bars"

​“It will take flipping the script to save the spring semester: Close the bars to reopen the schools. The research points in the direction of kids being able to attend schools without major risk of contracting the coronavirus. School shutdowns and parents’ pain are going the other way — increasing by the day around the country. With the fall semester chalked up to a loss in many places, the spring presents a fresh opportunity to reverse course, said David Rubin, director of PolicyLab at Children’s Hospital of  Philadelphia.It’s simple, he said. Prioritize opening schools. Keep restrictions on everything else in place.” … Community spread, or even in-school transmission, isn’t shuttering schools everywhere. In New Jersey, Murphy said unequivocally last week “we are not closing our schools,” but even as new coronavirus cases topped 4,000 for three days this week, [Gov. Phil] Murphy has been holding steady, telling CNN’s Wolf Blitzer on Wednesday, “I honestly can't see a scenario” where the state closes schools before indoor dining and gym facilities.”

WASHINGTON POST

11.19.20

"We’ve figured out it’s safe to have schools open. Keep them that way"

​“Summertime arguments to keep schools closed were made without much data yet about running schools during a pandemic. Those arguments relied on models and expected safety risks. But now, we have increasing data — and while not complete, the evidence is far stronger than what was available during the summer. We now have examples of schools at all grade levels that are being managed safely and effectively in a pandemic. New data and the experiences of individual school districts demonstrate that opening schools in a pandemic with infection-control measures in place does not lead to increased transmission of the virus. Educators can work safely in schools, and schools can be the safest place to be for children during a pandemic.  Infection-control measures in schools that are critical to success include mask requirements for students and staff; proper hygiene (hand-washing); ventilation improvements (including being able to open windows if needed); self-distancing in hallways, classrooms and shared spaces; and adherence to school rules for out-of-school social distancing. Where possible, consistent testing of asymptomatic individuals and tracing of contacts can increase the percentage of students that can be returned to in-person learning. In the case of cluster outbreaks, mandatory quarantines for infected individuals and their contacts must be enforced. If you’re sick, you stay home. New, stronger coordination and collaboration are needed among state and federal departments of education and health to provide resources and supports. None of this provides an absolute guarantee that there won’t be outbreaks in schools. But we now know how to minimize them.”

JILL TUCKER'S TWEET

11.18.20

Jill Tucker, San Francisco Chronicle reporter

​“Tidbit of info: In Marin County: 38% of students are in full or partial in-person learning (public and private), with more than 9,000 students a day in class. Out of 300,000 “student days” no cases transmitted in schools. 15 cases from outside exposure."

EDSOURCE

11.18.20

"In ‘remarkable’ turnaround, California schools can expect huge one-time windfall next year, LAO says"

“An uneven recession savaging low-income Californians, but a surprisingly fast economic rebound advantaging higher-income Californians, will create a huge unexpected state budget surplus that will provide an unexpected $13.1 billion in one-time revenue for K-12 schools and community colleges in the fiscal year starting July 1, 2021, the Legislative Analyst’s Office reported on Wednesday.” … The projected total state surplus is possible because the budget the Legislature passed in June assumed dire forecasts. While unemployment is still 16%, the highest since the Great Depression, the budget assumed 25%. And while workers earning less than $20 per hour have borne the brunt of layoffs, high-wage Californians, particularly in the technology sector, have been relatively unaffected. With the stock market soaring, state revenue, primarily from personal income taxes and capital gains, is up 22% — $11 billion — after a little more than a third of the way through the current fiscal year.”

POLITICO

11.18.20

"Unicef: Schools are not main drivers of covid among kids,

“Data from 191 countries shows no consistent link between reopening schools and increased rates of coronavirus infection, UNICEF reported in an analysis Thursday. In releasing its first comprehensive assessment of the pandemic's effects on children, the United Nations agency said "there is strong evidence that, with basic safety measures in place, the net benefits of keeping schools open outweigh the costs of closing them."

NEW YORK TIMES

11.18.20

"Nicholas Kristof, “When Trump Was Right and Many Democrats Wrong"

“In both Europe and the United States, schools have not been linked to substantial transmission, and teachers and family members have not been shown to be at extra risk (this is more clear of elementary schools than of high schools). Meanwhile, the evidence has mounted of the human cost of school closures. … School closures magnify these inequities, as many private schools remain open and affluent parents are better able to help kids adjust to remote learning. At the same time, low-income children fall even further behind. … Research from Argentina and Belgium on school strikes indicates that missing school inflicts long-term damage on students (boys seem particularly affected, with higher dropout rates and lower incomes as adults). McKinsey & Company has estimated that in this pandemic, school closures may lead to one million additional high school dropouts. … Dropouts live shorter lives, so while the virus kills, so do school closures. One study this month estimated that closures of primary schools in the United States will cause many more years of life lost, because of increasing numbers of dropouts, than could be saved even if schools did spread the virus freely.” 

POLITICO

11.18.20

"State-sanctioned segregation’: California’s school closure debate boils over"

“Pandemic politics have reached a boiling point in California’s school reopening debate. A hands-off approach by Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom and public pressure from powerful labor unions has led the state’s biggest city districts to keep schools shuttered, leaving most of California’s 6 million public schoolchildren learning at home. Even San Francisco, which has had one of the lowest infection rates for any U.S. city, hasn’t attempted in-person teaching. As the pandemic wears on, more Democrats are sounding the alarm after staying silent earlier this fall. They are increasingly distressed that California's approach has widened the gap between low-income communities of color and wealthier white families. Frustrations hit a new level in October, when Newsom said his own children had returned to private school in Sacramento — while public school students in the surrounding neighborhoods remained home. Now leaders in the governor's own party are turning on him, saying the status quo has left the state with crisis-level inequity.California's system amounts to "state-sanctioned segregation," Patrick O'Donnell (D-Long Beach), the chair of the state Assembly Education  Committee, said in an interview — a frank declaration for a Democrat consistently supported by the California Teachers Association. “Some kids get to go and some don’t. That's not what California stands for," he said. “I think we need to move faster but remain thoughtful.” … The debate is complicated in the nation's most populous state, where the divide between rich and poor remains stark. For all of the wealth concentrated in the Silicon Valley and Hollywood, nearly 60 percent of California public schoolchildren live in low-income households that qualify for subsidized meals. Districts are reporting sharp increases in students failing, especially in lower-income neighborhoods. Reopening proponents say growing evidence shows that school transmission is not widespread if safety precautions are taken — and that countries elsewhere have kept schools open while shutting down most other sectors. … “We need strong guidance from the executive branch,” O’Donnell said. “We might be dead last to open, and our students might be dead last when it comes to academic success if we’re not careful.” While CFT has called on the state to shut down all schools as it did in the spring, Newsom has not forced campuses to close if they already opened. He left a pathway for other districts to open classrooms for elementary students and those with special needs. Newsom is also allowing private schools to stay open; most private campuses opened through a waiver process offered by the governor when the school year began or when their counties had fewer infections.”

SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE

11.18.20

“In California, Science Guides Whether to Open Hair Salons, But Not Always Schools"

"Dr. Monica Gandhi, UCSF: “Every single country except this one, they have prioritized school opening and children first,” said Dr. Monica Gandhi, an infectious disease expert at UCSF, saying that is a moral failing of school leaders — including those in San Francisco. “They’re not representing the principles they always profess to possess — the needs of the poor, the needs of the working class.”

NEW YORK TIMES 

11.18.20

"The Coronavirus Is Airborne Indoors. Why Are We Still Scrubbing Surfaces"

"Scientists who initially warned about contaminated surfaces now say that the virus spreads primarily through inhaled droplets, and that there is little to no evidence that deep cleaning mitigates the threat indoors.
“In my opinion, a lot of time, energy and money is being wasted on surface disinfection and, more importantly, diverting attention and resources away from preventing airborne transmission,” said Dr. Kevin P. Fennelly, a respiratory infection specialist with the United States National Institutes of Health."

NEW YORK TIMES 

11.16.20

"Different Virus Responses"

“The one indoor activity that appears to present less risk is school, especially elementary school. Why? Young children seem to spread the virus less often than adults do. “Research has shown that if you put social-distancing protocols in place, school is actually quite a safe environment,” Andreas Schleicher, who studies schools for the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development in Paris, told NPR. Closing schools and switching entirely to remote learning, on the other hand, has big social costs. Children are learning less, and many parents, mostly mothers, have dropped out of the labor force. The U.S. is suffering from both of these problems and from a raging pandemic.”

SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE

11.13.20

"How one Northern California school district got teachers and students back in the classroom"

"There was little debate in Manteca about reopening schools.
The district’s 25,000 students needed to get back into classrooms with their teachers, officials and parents argued.
On Nov. 6, schools across the San Joaquin County district welcomed back transitional kindergarten through third-grade classes, with half attending in the morning and half in the afternoon. They also reopened high schools to juniors and seniors, role models for the younger grades, splitting them into two groups, with in-person classes two days a week each.
The rest of the students in all grades started back Monday on similar hybrid schedules."
“We are essential workers and we know our No. 1 purpose is to educate students,” said Victoria Brunn, district spokeswoman. “We know in-person learning is what’s needed.”

Unlike other districts, Manteca Unified reached agreements with the teachers union and other labor groups on how and when to return.

In Manteca, there is no testing of students or staff, which was not required by the state
or county, Brunn said. Individuals seek testing through community resources or health providers if they have symptoms or have been exposed to someone with the virus.
That isn’t unlike what other essential sectors or industries do, including health care workers, police or retail clerks, officials said.

NPR

11.13.20

Lessons From Europe, Where Cases Are Rising But Schools Are Open

"Andreas Schleicher has a global view on education from his position in Paris overseeing the PISA international assessment program at the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. He says that while schools in Europe were initially closed out of an abundance of caution, "Research has shown that if you put social distancing protocols in place, school is actually quite a safe environment, certainly safer than having children running around outside school." At the same time, he says that in Europe, "I do think people have understood fairly quickly how much damage the school closures have done, particularly to disadvantaged learners." He says the science especially favors opening elementary schools, with young children both less likely to spread the disease and less able to benefit from remote learning."

JOURNAL OF THE AMERICAN MEDICAL ASSOCIATION 

11.12.20

Estimation of US Children’s Educational Attainment and Years of Life Lost Associated With Primary School Closures During the Coronavirus Disease 2019 Pandemic

"Findings  This decision analytical model found that missed instruction during 2020 could be associated with an estimated 5.53 million years of life lost. This loss in life expectancy was likely to be greater than would have been observed if leaving primary schools open had led to an expansion of the first wave of the pandemic."

WASHINGTON POST

11.10.20

"What determined if schools reopened? How many Trump voters were in a district. Union power also played a role. But covid-19 rates didn’t"

“Debates about whether to open schools have raged since the summer. Whatever else might shape these decisions, it would make sense that the local intensity of covid-19 spread would play a major part: School districts with low rates of cases would be more likely to open than school districts with high rates. Those districts would likely stick with a more cautious, online-only approach. But a new study we conducted, examining some 10,000 school districts across the country — some 75 percent of the total — remarkably finds essentially no connection between covid-19 case rates and decisions regarding schools. Rather, politics is shaping the decisions: The two main factors that determined whether a school district opened in-person were the level of support in the district for Donald Trump in 2016 and the strength of teachers’ unions. A third factor, with a much smaller impact, was the amount of competition a school district faces from private schools, in particular Catholic schools.”

NEW YORK TIMES 

10.30.20

"Europe’s Locked Down, but Schools Are Open"

“Germany’s bars, restaurants, theaters, concert halls, gyms and tattoo parlors are shuttered to stem a sharp rise in coronavirus cases. France and Ireland have also moved to shut down large swaths of society. But in all three countries, students and teachers are still in classrooms. Europe has largely steered clear of controversy from parents or teachers about reopening school after the spring’s initial wave, or whether to keep schools open as the virus has returned. Distance learning, or the hybrid of in-person and online learning, is not offered in most European countries. Instead, the continent’s leaders have largely adopted the advice of experts who contend that the public health risks of keeping children in school are outweighed by educational and social benefits, reports our colleague Melissa Eddy, a correspondent based in Berlin. “We cannot and will not allow our children and young people’s futures to be another victim of this disease,” said Micheal Martin, the Irish prime minister, in a national address. “They need their education.” Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany cited the “dramatic social consequences” of closing schools and day care centers during the lockdown in March and April. “To name it clearly: Violent assaults against women and children increased dramatically,” Ms. Merkel said. Children account for less than 5 percent of all cases of reported coronavirus in the 27 countries of the European Union and Britain, according to a study by the European Center for Disease and Prevention and Control. The agency found that school closures would be “unlikely to provide significant additional protection of children’s health.”