Educators Concerned Schools are Being Allowed to Reopen Without Basic Safety Protections and Testing in Place to Prevent Further Spread of COVID-19
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Letter to Gov. Newsom, Elected Leaders Calls for Immediate Action Absent Federal Leadership, Assistance
BURLINGAME – California’s educators call on Gov. Gavin Newsom, Senate Pro Tem Toni Atkins, Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon and Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond to ensure robust testing, tracing, and isolation support, along with the other prevention measures, are in place before additional students, their educators and support personnel return to in-person teaching and learning. Reopening schools safely continues to be a priority for educators who are eager to get back to teaching their students in person.
“Our position has not changed. California cannot reopen schools unless they are safe. Our concern for the safety and welfare of students and staff has been heightened by the fact that school doors are opening, or preparing to open, across the state through small cohorts, waivers, and as counties advance through the risk levels without basic testing plans and programs in place for students and educators,” said CTA President E. Toby Boyd in the Sept. 16 letter he and CTA executive officers sent on behalf of their 310,000 members. “We know testing and tracing are essential to preventing the further spread of COVID-19.”
State Board of Education President Linda Darling-Hammond recently made comments on MSNBC agreeing with Dr. Uche Blackstock on the need for “ventilation, masks, being able to separate and cohort students into smaller groups, having space for social distancing, as well as school nurses.” In the same interview, Darling-Hammond reiterated the need for additional funding for our schools and highlighted the importance of adequate testing protocols and having programs in place at schools for rapid detection and quarantining.
“These are all the same areas where California’s public schools are really struggling. Yet schools are still being allowed to open. We hear reports every day from educators throughout the state – in rural, urban and suburban districts – of students crowded into classrooms, districts without funds to immediately improve HVAC ventilation systems, mask wearing not embraced, too few school nurses, and testing and tracing glaringly absent,” said Boyd. “We could not help but feel the disconnect of Linda Darling-Hammond’s words on how important these safety measures are to our schools versus the reality of what we are actually doing in our state. This is, for sure, a historic failure of the Federal Government on many levels. As a result, we need our state government to lead and help our local schools prepare to open in a safe manner.”
CTA leaders point to a study by the Duke Margolis Center for Health Policy, which found “a basic screening strategy will require approximately 200 million tests each month for students and staff at the nation’s primary and secondary schools and residents and staff at nursing homes for them to open safely and in stages.” The report calls for testing all “students and staff every two weeks” and an increased frequency when disease trends worsen. According to a New York Times report, California is one of eleven states that does not publish information on school cases, leaving students and parents in the dark.
Fearful and deeply concerned for their safety and that of students and family members, teachers and education support professionals throughout the state are voicing their concerns and urging distance learning continues until conditions are safe. Orange County, Siskiyou, Placer, Santa Clara and many more counties are among those where school districts are pressing to open.
“Absent a prudent and responsible public health response from the White House, we need the governor and our elected leaders to develop the necessary strategy our students, educators and communities deserve as they return to school in person,” said Boyd. “Not doing so exacerbates educational and health inequities as only the elite and private schools will be able to pay for regular testing – leaving public schools to suffer both the health consequences and the “yo-yo” effect of opening and then closing again due to the spread of the virus.”
For more information on CTA’s COVID-19 response and a look at letters previously sent, visit the website at cta.org.
The 310,000-member California Teachers Association is affiliated with the 3 million-member National Education Association.