Science and coronavirus data has guided reopenings for tattoo parlors and salons in California, yet government and school officials say Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom has not provided the same blueprint to help schools reopen.
School reopenings vary by county, but public and private schools can offer in-person instruction even if their counties are inside the state’s most restrictive tier or purple coded regions by applying for a waiver that must be approved by the county and state officials.
Still, 25 of the state's largest school districts remain closed, and officials have griped that Newsom has not provided guidance on how often teachers and school staff should be tested for the virus, nor any mandates on how often students should get tested, even as health officials point out that increased testing and contact tracing helps to tamp down outbreaks as they crop up.
In July the state suggested school employees should be tested once every two months, but said nothing about testing for students, and the information has not been enough.
Other statewide conditions for reopening, based on local case rates and other quantitative data, are also less robust.
Especially when compared to the rigorous guidelines that determine if bars, restaurants, and other non-essential businesses can reopen, advocates for school reopenings have a hard time understanding why the blueprint isn't as fixed.
“There is pressure to reopen, but it’s not evenly distributed,” Morgan Polikoff, a University of Southern California associate professor of education, told the San Francisco Chronicle. “We’re letting these elected (school) boards, who don’t know anything about science … make those decisions.”
During the COVID-19 shutdown, teenagers are increasing their social media and video game use to stay in touch with friends, resulting in “tremendous loss due to school closure and social isolation, a new report from the California Partners Project, which Jennifer Siebel Newsom, the governor's wife, co-founded, and the Child Mind Institute, found.
Some activist groups, such as the Action Network Schools Before Bars, has urged Congress to incentivize states to keep non-essential businesses such as bars closed to in-person service until communities’ safe-school reopening benchmarks are met.Los Angeles Unified School District Superintendent Austin Beutner criticized allowing shopping over schooling.
“Our priorities are misplaced when malls receive more focus than the public schools that provide children with the foundation of literacy, math and critical thinking skills they need to succeed in school and in life,” Beutner said, according to the Associated Press. “Without significant changes in priorities and a greater focus on public education it’s unlikely that schools in Los Angeles will reopen for in-person instruction anytime soon.”
Newsom announced this week he was halting reopening plans and put almost all of the state back under the strictest set of rules that prevent indoor worship and force most indoor business to close or operate at a fraction of their capacity and keep most schools closed, including the nation’s second-largest school district in Los Angeles, due to a surge in coronavirus cases.
Newsom also said he was strengthening a mask requirement outside of homes with limited exceptions, and he was considering a curfew on business hours.