With classrooms set to remain closed through the end of this school year, California officials are considering starting the next one as early as July or early August, Gov. Gavin Newsom said Tuesday.
Newsom made the announcement as he outlined plans to gradually reopen businesses as COVID-19 hospitalization rates start to stabilize in the state.
Some sectors, including education, child care, retail and “nonessential” manufacturing, may be able to operate again within weeks, according to the governor. But other businesses and institutions — such as salons, gyms, spas, entertainment venues and churches — may have to wait months to reopen.
Most schools in the state have been shuttered since March.
In announcing talks about their reopening, Newsom cited the disruption to learning as many parents struggle to have their children’s education continue online.
“Having talked to many other parents and educators, even the kids, I think we might want to consider getting that school year moved up a little bit,” the governor said.
The state needs to prepare for physical changes in schools “in order to advance that conversation,” according to Newsom.
Dr. Sonia Y. Angell, director of California Department of Public Health, said it’s “going to take more planning,” but that officials need to begin the work now.
“School is their place, that’s so important and critical for them and their learning,” Angell said of children. “We really, really feel strongly that when it’s safer for them, when we can create environments that allow them to go back, we do want them to go back.”
Newsom also spoke about being a father of four, remarking that “learning loss is very real.” He acknowledged the tougher challenges faced by families with less advantages.
The state previously announced efforts to address that disparity by providing tablets and hotspots to families in need with help from companies such as Google. However, with 6 million children across the state, bridging the gap remains an issue in rural and many urban areas, according to the governor.
Many families simply lack the capacity to support children’s online learning, Newsom said.
Several hours after the governor’s announcement, the Los Angeles County Office of Education announced it was forming a task force of superintendents to work on reopening in “summer or fall.” The task force will initially meet Wednesday to begin working on guidelines for the county’s 80 school district to begin reopening.