Photo: Andrew Reed/EdSource
A UC Berkeley employee uses disinfectant to clean doors to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 at the student union.

In his briefing in Sacramento on March 12, 2020 on the coronavirus, Gov. Gavin Newsom made his most extensive comments to date on his view about school closings. His remarks followed a meeting on Monday attended either in person or remotely by county school superintendents of all 58 counties.  As a public service, EdSource is reprinting his lightly edited remarks below. The full briefing can be viewed on Twitter here. 

We put out directives Saturday as it relates to schools, and if they do move forward to the possibility of closures, what those protocols and procedures would look like. As you know, just two days ago we met with all the superintendents to lay that out. All of that is happening in real time. As community spread occurs in different counties, different school districts are impacted differently, different schools individually are impacted differently.

But we do deem that schools are essential, not non-essential.  We did lay out in those directives specific strategies and protocols as they relate to assisting our children, but also assisting teachers and staff in protecting themselves from spread (of the virus).  And as you know, these include, among other things, staggering PE, making sure that assemblies are canceled and that we are providing meals in the classroom or in other isolated settings — all common sense as it relates to sanitation and distancing in trying to concentrate classrooms, and not mix them with other classrooms.

So I just want to be clear on that, because we’ve seen private schools, charter schools, and institutions of higher learning that have begun to shut down their traditional classrooms, and have turned online. We have that capacity in some districts, but not in other districts. I’ll remind you that 60 percent of the students in the state of California are in reduced school lunch or meal programs, some breakfast programs as well.  You have some, like Merced, where 80 percent of thestudent body is in a reduced meal program. So there is a deep socio-economic consideration and a workforce consideration.

If you are a caregiver, a police officer, firefighter, emergency room doctor, nurse, nurse practitioner, and you have kids, you may have no capacity to have those kids at home without your own presence being there. You are then no longer a part of the workforce.  And that’s why we have to be very thoughtful and considerate as it relates to our education system and the broader impacts, including if we do close, how to feed these kids, and how to protect these kids and to make sure that real caregivers are there to secure their needs if indeed they are back home.

I met with all 58 county superintendents to understand those nuances and complexities. Two days ago we talked about those complexities, not just from a socioeconomic perspective in traditional terms, but also through the lens of immigration, and other lenses that we have to look at — transportation, geographic distribution, large districts vs. small districts. I’ll give you a specific example — meal hubs. It’s easier in a small district. It’s much more difficult in a large district. Where are those meal hubs going to be?  Are they going to be in libraries? Where can we provide those points of access? In parks? If you’re going to have meal hubs to address the needs of low-income kids, do you order online? If you don’t have the capacity to do that, how do you then access those orders? All of those things are being considered deeply in real time.

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  1. Katherine R O'Boyle 1 year ago1 year ago

    Ummm, why don’t parents just feed their own children?

  2. Gracie Elle 1 year ago1 year ago

    Why are public and school libraries remaining open? There is no way to have social distancing in a crowded library full of children who are not going to “cover their coughs.” Public and schoold libraries should be online only for the next three weeks, heaven knows there are enough free databases.

  3. Shauna E. Mantovani 1 year ago1 year ago

    What about the health and welfare of educators and their extended families? Adults are the ones being hardest hit with this virus, and yet I have heard no consideration of teachers’ health when discussing the issue of school closures. Teachers are at great risk, we need to be proactive not reactive with this virus. I implore school districts, counties, and the governor to close the schools in the best interest of all.