California Students Could Be Back in Classrooms by April

TUESDAY, March 2, 2021 (HealthDay News) -- New legislation could have many California's public school students returning to classrooms by April.

The plan announced Monday by Gov. Gavin Newsom and legislative leaders provides $2 billion to pay school districts that return select groups of students into schools by the end of the month, the Associated Press reported.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, most of the state's 6.1 million public school students have been learning from home.

Under the legislation, school districts would not be ordered to get students back into classrooms, parents would not be forced to return their children to in-person learning, school districts would not be required to have agreements with teachers' unions on plans for in-class instruction, and COVID-19 vaccinations wouldn't be required for all teachers, the AP reported.

But the legislation would make it state law that 10% of the state's vaccine supply be set aside specifically for teachers and school staff, the AP said.

The state's two largest teachers unions mostly praised the agreement, with California Federation of Teachers President Jeff Freitas calling the prioritization of vaccines for teachers "a huge victory."

Kevin Gordon, a lobbyist representing many of the state's school districts, called the plan "a grand slam home run," saying it "dismantled every impediment to reopening that we've had so far."

Still, the plan, which has to be approved by the legislature, is inadequate, critics say.

The bill does not say how long students must be in the classroom each week, and Jonathan Zachreson, founder of the parent group Reopen California Schools, says districts could offer classroom instruction for a few hours one day per week and still get the money. He predicted many parents will get excited about the announcement, only to end up frustrated.

"It does not compel any school district to open other than just bribing them with extra money," he said. "We need to have higher standards for what in-person learning means."

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