Credit: Brittany Hosea-Small/San Francisco Chronicle/Polaris
Kate Brethauer, a special education teacher at Robert Louis Stevenson Intermediary School, receives her first Covid-19 vaccination along with many other local teachers at the St. Helena Foundation vaccination clinic at Napa Valley College in St. Helena on Jan. 21, 2021.

The California Teachers Association has told Governor Gavin Newsom that the union wants schools in counties with high Covid-19 infection rates to remain in distance learning for 100 days so that the state can develop a more aggressive plan to slow the spread of the virus and have all school staff vaccinated.

“We need a clear and coordinated state, county and local plan that puts the health and safety of our communities first and does not take shortcuts toward the path of opening schools in person,” stated union leaders in a letter to Newsom Wednesday. “To do otherwise will continue the ‘yo-yo’ effect we warned of last summer and this fall — opening schools, only to then close them because we failed to have the necessary layered protections and asymptomatic testing in place.”

To make that happen, the union is asking the governor to keep all schools in counties in the purple, or widespread, tier of the state’s tracking system in distance learning during the 100-day period. Counties in that tier have more than 7 cases per 100,000 residents or have more than 8% of test results positive over a 7-day period.

The union also is asking for enforcement of health orders and workplace regulations and increased Covid-19 testing.

The letter challenges the governor’s plan to begin reopening schools to some students next month. His “Safe Schools for All” incentive plan has also drawn criticism from school superintendents.

This is not the first time the union has called for enhanced safety precautions and vaccinations for school employees to reopen schools. 

But the letter does come as school districts across the state have been struggling to figure out how to vaccinate their staff with an unpredictable vaccine supply and lack of statewide coordination of vaccinations.

Although teachers and other school employees are included in the next phase (Phase 1B) of the state’s vaccine rollout they are not being vaccinated in many California counties, which are still vaccinating healthcare workers and nursing home residents in in Phase 1A.

When teachers and school employees get vaccinated depends on how the county health department decides to prioritize vaccines within Phase 1B, which also includes everyone 65 and older, agriculture and food workers and emergency service personnel. There is no guidance that puts teachers at the top of that group.

In the letter the union recommends that schools be considered for vaccination clinic sites, calling them familiar, convenient and trusted locations that can play an important role in vaccinating people in the community. Los Angeles Unified Superintendent Austin Beutner has also asked that schools in the district be designated as official community vaccination centers.

The governor’s plan would give school districts $450 to $750 per student if they offer in-person instruction to students in transitional kindergarten through 2nd grade by Feb 15 and third through sixth-grade by March 15. Districts that start a month later can get $100 less. Districts would have to have comprehensive health and safety plans in place, including Covid-19 testing. 

In the letter the union says it has concerns about the timeline for implementing the plan and the use of Proposition 98 dollars for school safety, but is committed to reopening schools.

President Joe Biden’s Covid relief package is in line with the union’s requests to the governor and would be needed to fund all the necessary safety precautions required in order to return to school, said Claudia Briggs, union spokesperson.

Vaccinating teachers is also a key part of Biden’s plan to reopen schools.

The American Rescue Plan will provide the resources schools will need to protect students and teachers in order to reopen, including ventilation, said Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, during a virtual meeting hosted by national teachers unions Thursday.

“So not only, when you have the public health measures of masking, better ventilation, better spacing, but if we can get them (school staff) vaccinated as quickly as possible, that would hopefully get to the goal that we all want,” Fauci said.

 

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  1. Craig Steen 3 months ago3 months ago

    As my union CTA/NEA is so concerned about opening up safely and protecting teachers and students, why won’t they comment on the present administration allowing undocumented children with 6% positive Covid tests to enter the US and into our schools? These kids are being sent all over the US, and during a time of pandemic. More hypocrisy, but will you report on it?

  2. Craig Shimokusu 4 months ago4 months ago

    Ha, teachers who have been sitting at home throughout the pandemic will get vaccinated before USPS workers who have risked their lives throughout the entirety of this pandemic. Zero days off, just like cops, ER doctors, and nurses. Imagine if all those services were shut down, like the schools....so many people would have been screwed. Think about all those Amazon, UPS, Fedex and USPS workers who delivered your toilet paper, … Read More

    Ha, teachers who have been sitting at home throughout the pandemic will get vaccinated before USPS workers who have risked their lives throughout the entirety of this pandemic. Zero days off, just like cops, ER doctors, and nurses. Imagine if all those services were shut down, like the schools….so many people would have been screwed. Think about all those Amazon, UPS, Fedex and USPS workers who delivered your toilet paper, while you sat at home. It’s a total joke.

  3. Anne 4 months ago4 months ago

    Mandating that schools reopen before allowing counties to offer up the vaccine to public school teachers is irresponsible to our students, their families and to the teaching staff that serve our kids. This is true particularly considering the risk that our phase one teachers encounter when students with (despite district health and safety protocols) remove their masks and cannot keep a regular safe six ft of social distance from us, or from each other. … Read More

    Mandating that schools reopen before allowing counties to offer up the vaccine to public school teachers is irresponsible to our students, their families and to the teaching staff that serve our kids. This is true particularly considering the risk that our phase one teachers encounter when students with (despite district health and safety protocols) remove their masks and cannot keep a regular safe six ft of social distance from us, or from each other.

    I know Governor Newsom is not hoping for super-spreader events in our public schools, particularly in our purple tier counties, so the disconnect here needs to be reconciled. Teachers want to return to work in a way that is 1) safe for kids and 2) safe for staff. And by the way, the teachers who do want to be vaccinated being “turned away” at vaccination center lines is really not helping to “get the ball rolling.” I think the start point here is asking that vaccines be made available to all/any public school teachers who want them if they have been asked to return to sites to work directly with children, but not mandated.

  4. Brenda Lebsack 4 months ago4 months ago

    Angie, I am also a teacher. This is why we need school choice. Parents should be the ones to decide. If the state cares so much about “equity,” then both rich and poor should have access to private education or alternative/creative options. Why does “privileged” Gov Newsom’s children receive private in-person education, while parents, who cannot afford private, have no other options? Does “the state” know what’s best for our children? Or … Read More

    Angie, I am also a teacher. This is why we need school choice. Parents should be the ones to decide. If the state cares so much about “equity,” then both rich and poor should have access to private education or alternative/creative options. Why does “privileged” Gov Newsom’s children receive private in-person education, while parents, who cannot afford private, have no other options?

    Does “the state” know what’s best for our children? Or do parents knows what’s best for their children? That’s the real question.

  5. Angie 4 months ago4 months ago

    This is insane! Newsom is not a scientist nor a teacher. He is a rich politician that has children that have access to being in a private school with low numbers of students. The school I work at has a ratio of 27 students to every teacher. How do you socially distance 28 people in a room? Children at any age will share food, toys, even clothes, and yes, they will then share bacteria and … Read More

    This is insane! Newsom is not a scientist nor a teacher. He is a rich politician that has children that have access to being in a private school with low numbers of students.

    The school I work at has a ratio of 27 students to every teacher. How do you socially distance 28 people in a room? Children at any age will share food, toys, even clothes, and yes, they will then share bacteria and viruses. I may not be a scientist but I am a teacher. I have worked in education for twenty years and in all of my experience I got sick the most when I worked with very young children who have underdeveloped immune systems, that then in turn get sick and get other people sick and so on.

    So as someone who has experience in a classroom this is such a bad idea! We will only end up closing again after new infections. Even with distance learning we had staff out sick and students too. My teacher friend in Georgia shared how staff got sick after Thanksgiving break. Georgia re-opened early but also gave people choice of keeping kids at home. My friend was amongst people who went back but then students & teachers got infected. She got Covid and had to quarantine away from her little girl during Christmas. Then the school had to close again! I have an uncle who died from Covid & my son has lost two friends in their twenties too.

    So this is real. I. love my job but I am concerned for the safety of my students, my colleagues and myself. I have asthma, so even a cold is bad for me. If I do not get a vaccine before re-opening the school I work at, I will not feel safe going back to work.

    Replies

    • Suzanna 4 months ago4 months ago

      Fortunately as a teacher you can stay home, be afraid and get paid. Your job is to teach. What about nurses and doctors? They actually work with sick people. They don’t get paid to stay home and be afraid.

    • William 4 months ago4 months ago

      Angie, I respectfully disagree with you. I respect teachers and don't want anyone to get sick and die, but our children need to be taught. I'm an attorney who owns my own business and has been out doing court appearances and in public since March. I did not have the luxury to stay home and get paid, but fortunately, I had a job deemed essential and could continue earning a living. Even more fortunate, I … Read More

      Angie, I respectfully disagree with you. I respect teachers and don’t want anyone to get sick and die, but our children need to be taught. I’m an attorney who owns my own business and has been out doing court appearances and in public since March. I did not have the luxury to stay home and get paid, but fortunately, I had a job deemed essential and could continue earning a living. Even more fortunate, I could swing the homeschooling schedule with my wife to make sure my kids were actually doing their assignments, etc. Most parents don’t have the ability to do that. Kids – young kids – are being left alone at home to teach themselves. They’re suffering from depression. They’re not learning. And for what? The “lockdowns” and mask mandates that are some of the strictest in this country have left CA with some of the highest infection rates.

      It’s time to get back to living. Wear a mask when necessary. I have no doubt infection rates will go up. That’s how a virus works. There is no way to avoid this. We cannot “pack it up” and be shut-ins at this point because it’s not sustainable. More importantly, our kids are not learning properly and I fear we’re going to be raising a bunch of Dexters who don’t know how to interact with people socially.

      When I was a kid growing up, I’d always hear people talk about teachers being “heroes” for teaching our children. I’m asking that you please live up to that moniker. If you’re uncomfortable and want to stay home, then that’s fine and I don’t think you should be forced to return to work. But the schools need to reopen and we can let others who are willing to teach shoulder the load.

  6. Lori 4 months ago4 months ago

    How do you open a school in purple tier without changing the guidelines ! Most of the state is purple ! What am I missing?

    Replies

    • Richard 4 months ago4 months ago

      Simple. Just change the rules. The rule was that schools had to wait 2 weeks after moving into red tier to open. The state changed this to 5 days, and my district immediately adopted the new less restrictive mandate. Sounds trivial but those might have been the 9 days which gave me a chance to get vaccinated. Now schools in purple can open for some younger students. Sure why not? Keep in mind that schools … Read More

      Simple. Just change the rules. The rule was that schools had to wait 2 weeks after moving into red tier to open. The state changed this to 5 days, and my district immediately adopted the new less restrictive mandate.

      Sounds trivial but those might have been the 9 days which gave me a chance to get vaccinated. Now schools in purple can open for some younger students. Sure why not? Keep in mind that schools which reopen in red can stay open if/when their county returns to purple. Will the state then make the rules more restrictive and send kids home if the new variants start

      to run rampant? Will the state step up to fund summer learning to prevent this horrific learning loss? Will the vaccination priority list be reworked to get shots in teacher’s arms more quickly. The correct choice on this pop quiz is D) None of the above. But you already knew that, didn’t you?

  7. Tim 4 months ago4 months ago

    The CDC recommends opening the schools to in-person learning. Shall we follow the science?

  8. Finna 4 months ago4 months ago

    Do the math people! Many districts have large class sizes due to inadequate funding from the state. My districts’s class sizes are set at 32 kids per class/teacher (4th-8th). Even if we go hybrid with only 16 kids per class, we physically do not have the space in our classrooms to socially distance kids 3-4 ft. apart! If the government is serious about returning kids to school onsite, put up the $ to lower class … Read More

    Do the math people! Many districts have large class sizes due to inadequate funding from the state. My districts’s class sizes are set at 32 kids per class/teacher (4th-8th). Even if we go hybrid with only 16 kids per class, we physically do not have the space in our classrooms to socially distance kids 3-4 ft. apart!

    If the government is serious about returning kids to school onsite, put up the $ to lower class sizes or shut up! That is why private schools were able to reopen (small class sizes)! This is what is holding a lot of superintendents from opening schools – not just the unions. Oh good luck finding substitutes during the pandemic, too! (Another huge hurdle for superintendents and why they haven’t reopened schools.) We didn’t have enough subs before the pandemic! It’s more complicated than you think.

    Replies

    • simon 4 months ago4 months ago

      This argument about class size still sounds like an excuse to me. You can split the class into smaller size groups and alternate - maybe just 1 day a week as a starter. If your class has 32 kids, divide by 4. Each group comes in once a week and Friday you can do still all distant learning. Do the math! If we keep making excuse and wait until everything is perfect, nothing is going … Read More

      This argument about class size still sounds like an excuse to me. You can split the class into smaller size groups and alternate – maybe just 1 day a week as a starter. If your class has 32 kids, divide by 4. Each group comes in once a week and Friday you can do still all distant learning. Do the math!

      If we keep making excuse and wait until everything is perfect, nothing is going to happen. We need to start somewhere.

  9. Gayle Lecus 4 months ago4 months ago

    Most of you are advocating to open schools really don’t care about schools being funded. And the majority are middle class and upper class parents which benefits them but don’t give a you-know-what about those in the inner cites—yes – poor areas which have buildings over 100 years old and have poor ventilation.

    Replies

    • marco 4 months ago4 months ago

      That’s a heck of a presumption, Gayle, based on zero actual information. It’s educationally disadvantaged kids (low income, english learners, learning disabled, academically delayed) who are suffering the worst effects of distance learning. Reopening schools will benefit them the most. Obviously each district and school site is going to have to evaluate what protocols are needed based on their particular situation, whether it has to do with ventilation or classroom sizes or entry/exit etc.

      • William 4 months ago4 months ago

        BINGO, Marco. And you really should avoid assuming bad intentions when reading others' opinions, Gayle. The parents who are hardest hit by this are those with less money. While I do want schools to re-open, I count myself lucky that my wife and I can actually be at home with our young kids when they are in their Zoom classes. Many of my clients don't have that luxury. I've seen a lot of situations where … Read More

        BINGO, Marco. And you really should avoid assuming bad intentions when reading others’ opinions, Gayle.

        The parents who are hardest hit by this are those with less money. While I do want schools to re-open, I count myself lucky that my wife and I can actually be at home with our young kids when they are in their Zoom classes.

        Many of my clients don’t have that luxury. I’ve seen a lot of situations where parents are now left with no option but to leave their young kids (kindergartners even) at home alone for a few hours unsupervised with a laptop while they go to work.

        How else are they supposed to pay for the internet connection the kids need for class? Rent? Food? Unemployment isn’t cutting it anymore.

        Time to get back to work. If a teacher wants to stay home then that’s fine. Stay home. But reopen the schools so the rest of us who need to get back to living can do just that.

  10. Molly 4 months ago4 months ago

    Why do we need a governor when we have the unions?!?! 🙂

  11. Wayne 4 months ago4 months ago

    How about firing all the teachers that won’t teach or do their jobs. Oh I forgot this is California, whose politicians are in bed with the union. This is why in the last 50 years we went from best schools in the country to worst.

    Teachers are like reporters, neither does their job anymore

  12. Leda Dederich 4 months ago4 months ago

    Why are the unions defining public health measures? This is hostage taking; it’s ridiculous and should be strongly challenged by our elected officials. 100 days is not needed or backed by public health officials with expertise in Covid transmission in the school setting. It shouldn’t even be on the table.

  13. Daisy 4 months ago4 months ago

    100 days from now is mid-May. Which would make a return to in-person learning impossible this year. Huh. Its almost like that was UTLA’s plan all along…

  14. Charles 4 months ago4 months ago

    Stop generalizing about what all teachers want. In Irvine Unified we have been teaching in person since September and the vast majority of of us chose to return to class rather than teach online, which is a pain for teachers, as well as kids and parents. The parents are the ones who have been protesting to close us down and go back to online, as you can quickly verify.

    Replies

    • marco 4 months ago4 months ago

      I wasn't aware that Irvine Unified is back on campus, that's great news Charles. Is the district sharing information with other districts and CTA and legislators about how it is operating in person and what its experience has been (which if I understand you, sounds like it has been positive). As the "return" debate rages, it seems that everyone is relying only on hunches, hopes, fears, assumptions, and attempted strong-arming. It would be great for … Read More

      I wasn’t aware that Irvine Unified is back on campus, that’s great news Charles. Is the district sharing information with other districts and CTA and legislators about how it is operating in person and what its experience has been (which if I understand you, sounds like it has been positive). As the “return” debate rages, it seems that everyone is relying only on hunches, hopes, fears, assumptions, and attempted strong-arming. It would be great for California decision makers to learn from a not atypical district like Irvine.

      • Charles 4 months ago4 months ago

        Hello, I am not sure if the district is sharing what we are doing but I can briefly summarize: kids have a choice between fully online or hybrid, which is basically classes reduced to 15 or so kids twice a week, so we teach 4 days a week in person, kids attend 2 days a week in person. This is to social distance in the classes. I teach high school.. Everyone wears masks, Period. There are … Read More

        Hello,

        I am not sure if the district is sharing what we are doing but I can briefly summarize: kids have a choice between fully online or hybrid, which is basically classes reduced to 15 or so kids twice a week, so we teach 4 days a week in person, kids attend 2 days a week in person. This is to social distance in the classes.

        I teach high school.. Everyone wears masks, Period. There are only classes, no sports, dances, rallies, lunch periods etc. Kids sanitize desks when they enter and leave and custodians sanitize daily and nightly. I actually feel safer at school than in my community. There have been multiple Covid cases in my classes but it is due to off campus activities, as they have not spread to the larger campus. Of 2000 kids we have had maybe 20 cases. It has worked about as well as one could hope for, even with pushback from some teachers and quite a few parents during surges, but I generally support what the district is doing. Kids need to be in school.

        • Marco 4 months ago4 months ago

          Thank you Charles. It is heartbreaking and infuriating that every district is not trying its best to do the same. This year will not reflect well on district and union leadership.

        • Lori 4 months ago4 months ago

          Thank you Charles! In Laguna we went with the hybrid learning model of trimesters. 12 weeks of instruction for each class (APs, honors, PE). We are not back. What hydrid learning model did Irvine go with? Trimesters are not great and we are standing by to see of we will be served up a repeat for next year….

  15. Rebecca 4 months ago4 months ago

    Heck No!! School has already been closed for close to a year already. They have had more than enough time to get a plan in place. Open schools!

  16. JudiAU 4 months ago4 months ago

    It is obscene that teachers demanded and have given the means to jump the vaccine line and are now objecting to returning in person., which is the basis of the privilege.

    Replies

    • Sofi 4 months ago4 months ago

      My thoughts exactly!
      And if not returning to schools, why should they get vaccinated before people who are at real risk?

  17. Bonnie 4 months ago4 months ago

    Parent groups are forming now, and many have agreed to pull their kids away from virtual learning if schools don’t open in February. I’m already on campus and I will not get the vaccine. I feel healthy, safe, and comfortable.

  18. Sean Mitchell 4 months ago4 months ago

    If following the science masters, then reopen schools as parents watch the long lasting effects of distance learning destroy their children’s life’s. Who is standing up for our children as the unions don’t care what happens to them.