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By E. Toby Boyd

2020 was a year unlike any other in the history of California public schools. The COVID-19 pandemic, the closure of public schools, and the sudden shift to distance learning brought challenges none of us could have foreseen. Through it all, CTA has been committed to helping you provide the best possible ongoing educational opportunities and resources to your students, and to ensuring that you can be and feel safe when returning to in-person instruction.

I know how eager you all are for this pandemic to wane so you can be with your students again. Fortunately, there is hope. The rollout of vaccines has begun, and educators are high on the priority list. The safety and efficacy data, the extremely low risk of harm, and the potential for the population to eventually reach herd immunity make the vaccines’ arrival welcome news indeed.

But vaccines alone are not enough to keep us, our students and loved ones safe. CTA is working to ensure that school districts planning to reopen use a multilayered approach based on science and the recommendations of the experts. That includes masks and personal protective equipment; adequate ventilation; regular, rigorous cleaning and handwashing; social distancing in and out of class; and ongoing testing and tracking. It will take all of us using a variety of safety measures to safely emerge together.

“Vaccines alone are not enough to keep us safe. CTA is working to ensure that school districts planning to reopen use a multilayered approach based on science and the recommendations of the experts.”

In January, CTA called on Governor Newsom to enact a statewide plan to limit COVID-19 transmission over the next 100 days and slow the spread, along with a more rapid and effective vaccine rollout plan. We also need a public health communications campaign to help get all of our communities rowing together. And we must have a plan that provides continuity and improvement of learning now and in the long term.

I’m encouraged by President Biden’s push to reopen schools as soon as it is safe, and his recognition of the many factors that must be in place for that to happen.

We now have an educator as U.S. secretary of education; that’s a welcome change. I’m optimistic about the role the federal government will take in helping us reach our goals, not just in returning to schools and classrooms, but in addressing the many other systemic issues that have held back too many students since well before the pandemic ever started.

We are seeing light at the end of the tunnel. Again, it’s critical that we work together. Ignoring safety protocols or discounting science will only prolong a pandemic that has gone on far too long and caused far too much suffering and loss. I can assure you that CTA will continue fighting to ensure every public school has the resources, equipment and information it needs to keep students, staff and the community safe.

In the meantime, I thank you again for the brave and dedicated way you’ve met multiple challenges and stood up for your students over the past months. Their futures remain bright because of you.

E. Toby Boyd