California Governor Gavin Newsom plans to transition K-6 students into in-person learning in 2021 amid California’s fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. Gov. Newsom’s willingness to reopen schools to certain students stems from increasing scientific studies that support the idea that children catch COVID-19 less frequently and severely.
According to the California Department of Public Health, “ A study from May 2020 showed that elementary students produce fewer ACE-2 receptors than middle and high school-aged students, who produce fewer receptors than adults. Consequently, children have fewer doorways into the body for the virus, which leads to fewer infections and less severe infections for those who catch the virus.”
With the new prevalent medical findings, Gov. Newsom is proposing a new $2B budget to strengthen safety measures by increasing PPE, ventilation improvements and regular testing. Additionally the $2B budget aid in creating more transparency by holding California schools accountable for submitting safety plans and reporting cases to the state.
Gov. Newsom plans to transition kindergarten through second grade students and children with disabilities into in-person instruction during the fall for the first phase of his plan. The following grades would be filtered into in-person schooling for the spring semester, however there would still be an option for remote learning if parents and students preferred to remain online.
The focus on getting younger aged students and students with disabilities back in classrooms is to help eliminate barriers that make learning more difficult for these demographics.
“By focusing on a phased approach with virus mitigation and prevention at the center, we can begin to return our kids to school to support learning needs and restore the benefits of in-person instruction,” Gov. Newsom said in a statement. “It’s especially important for our youngest kids, those with disabilities, those with limited access to technology at home and those who have struggled more than most with distance learning.”
Additionally, the urgency in getting K-2 age students back to in-person school is to prevent stunted social development and a possible onset of mental health issues.
According to CPDH, “The social-emotional skills cultivated in the youngest grades are foundational for future wellbeing. In the classroom, students learn not only academic skills, but social and emotional skills as well.”
Subsequently, mental health is improved amongst younger children that learn in-person.
“There are also immediate health-related benefits for children who are provided in-person instruction, including lower rates of anxiety and depression, higher rates of immunizations, and other positive indicators of public health and wellbeing,” according to CPDH.
Although the focal point of Gov. Newsom’s plan has been younger children, Gov. Newsom also wants to open schools up to those who utilize it as a safe space. Foster youth, homeless youth and any other student that garner safety and stability from school have been significantly impacted by COVID-19.
“In-person instruction also helps school staff to detect and address child abuse and neglect,” according to CPHD. “For example, the state observed a roughly 40% drop in child welfare referrals following the stay-at-home orders in March 2020 compared to spring averages from the prior year.”
As 2021 includes new beginnings, in-person schooling will soon become a part of that new beginning.