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California playing catch-up to other states where schools have reopened

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Posted at 10:10 PM, Feb 25, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-26 01:10:52-05

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) —  — A deal to help get kids back to in-person instruction is close. On Tuesday, Gov. Gavin Newsom said the state is working hard to reopen schools.

Newsom wouldn't comment on negotiations between lawmakers but said, "We've been engaged for weeks now, months candidly, in getting our schools safely reopened for in-person instruction and doing it in a very deliberative way."

Last week, Newsom announced that the state would set aside 10% of vaccines for teachers in order to begin vaccinating eligible Californians and get schools reopened.

Vaccinations are a key part of the state's $6.6 billion plan to reopen schools once the number of local COVID-19 infection rates decreases into the red tier for a county or seven per 100,000 residents. The plan states, "County public health departments shall make COVID-19 vaccines available to school site personnel who are working at a school site where pupils are attending in person."

On Tuesday, San Diego Unified School District Board President Richard Barrera announced the state’s second-largest district is set to reopen in-person classes for all grade levels on April 12. Students will also have the option to continue learning from home.

Across California, some school districts are already back to in-person instruction, while others plan to resume some in-person activities in the coming weeks.

On Wednesday, students in transitional kindergarten and kindergarten at Lucia Mar Unified on the Central Coast started back in the classroom.

A different approach

While California lawmakers negotiate and school districts plan for reopening, some schools in other states have been back to in-person instruction for months.

"We reopened 100% of our schools," said Alberto Carvalho, Superintendent of Miami-Dade County Public Schools. "That's about 400 different campuses on Oct. 5 for every single student based on parental choice."

Miami-Dade County Public Schools (MDCPS) is the nation's fourth-largest school system, with nearly 350,000 students and a school-site workforce of over 25,000.

According to MDCPS, 47% of its students are back in school, while 53% remain online.

"Schools have never been a problem here in Miami-Dade because the environment is extremely well controlled," Carvalho said. "Therefore, the conditions are as such that the risk of direct contamination or secondary contamination in a school is very rare, if at all in Miami-Dade."

According to the district, since the reopening of schools on Oct. 5, they've implemented several safety protocols in their schools to ensure the health and well-being of students and employees. Some of the measures include: requiring anyone entering a school facility to wear a facial covering, reminding everyone to continually wash and sanitize hands, and practicing social distancing.

MDCPS says all employees are required to complete a pre-arrival daily health screening, and parents are reminded to do the same for their children prior to sending them to school.

The district also uses electrostatic disinfection of buildings on a daily basis.

Carvalho says the district created a transparency tool, set up contact tracing, and modified student movement within schools.

"We went one step further with partnerships with the University of Miami pediatric unit for the mobile testing of students," Carvalho said. "We've been testing our employees since about March last year, and now we're accelerating the vaccination of our school site personnel who happen to be 65 years of age and older and are advocating quite frankly for the vaccination of all school site personnel who have direct contact with students and the public on a priority basis in the state of Florida."

While Florida and California have different approaches to public health and different timelines on when kids return to the classroom, most people can agree that it's important to get kids back to in-person instruction.