More than 40% of public schools in California remain closed, more than a year after Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom closed most schools in the state in April 2020 and again in July amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the Return to Learn Tracker shows.
“There is no reason why California should be the last state to open our public schools,” former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer, who hopes to run against Newsom in a recall election later this year, told Fox News. “There is absolutely no valid excuse.”
Faulconer says it’s Newsom “who has allowed this to happen,” which points to “a failure of leadership and allowing this to happen not based on science.”
Newsom introduced a plan in March incentivizing schools to reopen by April. The state has 1,037 public school districts, but most of those that have opened have adopted a hybrid learning model rather than a completely in-person learning model.
“The fact that the CDC [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] has said for months now [that] it’s okay to resume in-classroom instruction, and yet this governor has allowed districts up and down the state of California to remain closed — it’s not even close to good enough for our kids and our teachers,” Faulconer said.
He continued: “Failing to reopen our schools has had a devastating toll on students and their families. It just shows how out of touch this governor is and why so many Californian families and parents are rightfully angry.”
Meanwhile, states across the south and southeast are mostly offering the most full-time, in-person learning, the Return to Learn Tracker shows.
The CDC said in January that there is “little evidence that schools have contributed meaningfully to increased community transmission.” In February, the agency said the adverse effects of virtual learning outweigh the threat of transmitting the virus during in-school learning.
“There is more spread that is happening in the community when schools are not open than when schools are open,” CDC Director Rochelle Walensky told reporters at the time.
The CDC has issued reopening guidelines for U.S. schools that does not require teacher vaccinations in order for schools to reopen, though educators in most states are already eligible to receive the vaccine if they sign up for it. California began vaccinating teachers in some counties in February; the state is currently advancing its phase 1B vaccine rollout plan, which includes educators and childcare professionals.
On Friday, the CDC announced another update, stating in a release that it now recommends students should maintain a distance of “at least [three] feet in classroom settings,” rather than six feet, with universal masking in elementary schools and areas where transmission is low, moderate or substantial.
President Biden had the initial goal of reopening schools within the first 100 days of his presidency, though plans have since faltered as local governments grapple with the different needs and demands of their communities.
Most counties in California remain in the red tier, representing a “substantial” COVID-19 threat based on the weekly average of daily COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people. Schools in counties in the “purple tier” with the most COVID-19 cases may reopen for in-person classes if they complete certain state requirements, according to the state’s official website.
Statewide COVID-19 cases in California have been steadily decreasing since reaching record-highs in January. California has recorded more than 3.5 million cases so far and about 2,000 on Wednesday, representing a rate of 4.6 cases per 100,000 people, the state’s official COVID-19 website shows.
The state has also recorded a total of nearly 58,000 deaths and 148 on Wednesday, or 0.03 deaths per 100,000 people.
California has administered more than 18 million vaccines as of Wednesday.
Faulconer is leading a movement to recall Newsom, which reached 2.1 million signatures from state residents in mid-March. The recall effort only needed 1.5 million signatures to get a recall vote on this year’s ballot but aimed for 2 million to offset any invalid signatures.
“Californians are ready to make a change,” the gubernatorial candidate said. “It cuts across all demographics. I think if you look at why this recall had such strong public support, it’s because it’s across the political spectrum: It’s Democrats, it’s Independents, it’s families, it’s small business owners, it’s everybody who is tired of the failed policies of this governor.”
He added that the recall effort is a “referendum on Gavin Newsom’s failures.”
Republican businessman John Cox is also running for governor against Newsom.