California governor doubles down on call to reopen schools in the fall

Gov. Gavin Newsom speaks at Ruby Bridges Elementary School in Alameda during a press conference. Newsom announced Tuesday that he expects all schools and higher education insitutions to offer full-time in-person instruction in the fall after retiring the reopening tier system.

Gov. Gavin Newsom on Wednesday again called on schools to reopen for full-time in-person instruction in the fall, though it remains unclear whether the state will require it.

Newsom made the announcement at Santa Rosa’s Sheppard Elementary School, which opened for in-person instruction Tuesday following the reopening of dozens of Los Angeles Unified schools and more than 9,000 others throughout the state. Touting the number of schools that have already reopened their campuses, Newsom had a clear message for K-12 administrators: Start planning for the fall. 

“We must prepare now for full in-person instruction come this next school year. That’s foundational, and that’s principal,” Newsom said.

But whether the state will mandate schools to reopen for full-time in-person instruction will likely be decided during the annual “May Revision” of the state budget. Newsom, on Wednesday, said he is working with the Legislature to formalize what districts will be required to do in the fall, since the trailer bill that accompanied the 2020-21 budget included a provision for distance learning. The trailer bill, which details budget and policy changes accompanying the budget, allows distance learning as an alternative to in-person instruction and will sunset at the end of the current school year.

“I don’t have a closed fist on this. I have an open hand, but I hope [school leaders] have an open heart, because the consequences of delay are profound, particularly for our diverse communities,” Newsom said.

Given the state’s system of school governance with an emphasis on local control, Newsom said “mandates are often not looked upon as favorably as you would like to think.”

Newsom also urged districts to consider extending the school year and use the influx of one-time state and federal money to “extend learning opportunities, extend the school day, extend the school year.”

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