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California reveals billion-dollar deal to accelerate school openings

Posted at 5:41 PM, Mar 01, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-01 20:50:01-05

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) — California's governor and legislative leaders announced a new multibillion-dollar deal aimed at getting schools to resume in-person instruction for the state's youngest students by April 1.

The deal, which still needs formal legislative approval, would create a $2 billion incentive pool, which money given to schools that reopen campuses for students in pre-K through second grade, as well as high need students of all ages.

The money will go toward safety improvements, such as ventilation systems and protective equipment.

"We expect all of our TK- 2 classrooms open in the next month, we want to see more happen beyond that, going into red tier it's TK-6 and a commitment to one grade in middle and high school," announced Gov. Newsom during a press conference Monday.

RELATED: Gov. Newsom, state legislative leaders reach deal to get California children back in classrooms

The proposal does not force schools to reopen, but schools that fail to do so by April 1 will lose 1% of their funds for every day they miss the deadline.

Scott Davison is the co-director of the Carlsbad chapter of the Parent Association. He has a child in 8th grade.

"We love that they try to put forward something that's hopefully going to open schools, but it looks like it falls short to open schools that really haven't been open at this point," said Davison.

San Diego Unified recently reached a deal with its teachers' union to bring back students on April 12th provided the county falls back into the red tier and teachers are fully vaccinated.

Leslie Hofmeister has two children in the San Diego Unified District. She has been fighting for schools to open since September.

"CDPH, as well as CDC, have already said it's safe to open all of elementary again, it's just falling short of what we already know to be a plan and reopening guidance that has been followed by many other states and districts around the country," said Hofmeister.

Matthew Schneck is a teacher at East Village High School. He supports the agreement San Diego Unified reached with its teachers.

"My biggest worry is are we going to be losing money because we chose to create a plan that will allow us to open safely, and is that really fair to our students?" asked Schneck.

He's also concerned about the governor's plan for schools to open in the most restrictive purple tier.

"Essentially saying you have to open up in purple, it doesn't matter how widespread the virus is to mean was most concerning," said Schneck.

The plan says schools in the purple tier that haven't already opened or submitted a plan to reopen must test for COVID-19. Lower tiers don't require testing.

"I would think that you would want to at least know if coronavirus is being passed in schools," said Schneck.

Parents also questioned the part of the deal that requires one grade in middle and high school to return once a county reaches the red tier.

"Just to allow a few grades to open and to come up with bizarre options like opening one grade in middle school and one grade in high school, I mean, are they going to hold a lottery to see which grades get to open and which don't, it certainly doesn't make much sense," said Davison.

Newsom is confident about the plan.

"Our core belief is this, once you dip your toe in, once you build a cohort, confidence, once you build trust we will see a cadence of reopening across the spectrum," said Newsom.