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Newsom Says Deal To Reopen Schools Could Arrive By Friday

Inside of a classroom at Blossom Valley Elementary in El Cajon with plastic d...

Photo by Andi Dukleth

Above: Inside of a classroom at Blossom Valley Elementary in El Cajon with plastic dividers sitting on desks, August 28, 2020.

Governor Newsom said a $6 billion plan to reopen some schools could arrive in the state legislature by Friday.

"That will allow our youngest cohorts to return safely to school starting with kindergarten through second grade," Newsom said Wednesday. "Then ultimately get cohorts up to 6th grade — at least in the first phase."

Listen to this story by Matt Hoffman.

On Wednesday afternoon around 100 San Diego parents, teachers and administrators advocated for school staff vaccinations. They argued shots are critical to support safe and stable in person learning.

"Our schools in Escondido give us an example of what happens when educators teach in person without being vaccinated," said Brandi Krepps of the Escondido Elementary Educators Association. "Just two days after we returned to in person instruction, we have roughly 100 people quarantined with classes opening just to close back down."

Tuesday night, the Oceanside Unified School District voted to return some in-person instruction for all kindergarten through fifth grade students in mid-March. District officials said parents can expect letters from elementary school principals later this week with more information.

"School is such a big part of children's lives. Not just the educational part, but it’s the social [part]," said Dr. Marsha Spitzer, a local pediatrician and past president of the San Diego chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics. "For a lot of children it’s where they get fed, where they get their mental health support."

The AAP represents 5,500 California pediatricians, and this week called for the urgent reopening of schools with proper safety protocols.

"Like wearing a mask, distancing, not being unmasked for long periods of time and we know that requires a lot of coordination but we’re confident that can happen," Spitzer said.

RELATED: San Diego Firefighters Delivering COVID-19 Vaccines To Rural Areas, Nursing Homes

Even though a deal to reopen schools is close, teachers and their unions still have some questions.

"What I’m hearing from members is they really do not feel comfortable coming to classrooms while in the purple level," said Kisha Borden who is president of the San Diego Education Association. The union represents more than 6,000 San Diego Unified educators.

San Diego County's state-adjusted case rate is still around five times higher than it needs to be to enter the less-restrictive "red" reopening tier. If and when that happens more schools could decide to open for in-person instruction. Newsom said he wants teachers to be prioritized for vaccinations, but there’s a supply shortage.

"Even if it is made available to teachers, the big question is how accessible are those vaccines... and it’s not just our school district," Borden said. "There’s 12,000 employees in San Diego Unified but there are 42 districts in our county."

Unions have also called for regular testing, and hope a deal that prioritizes the safety of teachers and students is in place soon.

"Teachers are ready to go back and we definitely want to see schools back in session — back in person in the fall," Borden said. "We don't want to see another school year like this."

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A new seniors-only vaccination site opens in San Marcos today. Meanwhile, San Diego county is working on opening the next vaccination super station at the Del mar Fairgrounds. Plus, a ... Read more →

Aired: February 11, 2021 | Transcript

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Photo of Matt Hoffman

Matt Hoffman
Health Reporter

opening quote marksclosing quote marksI am a general assignment reporter for KPBS. In addition to covering the latest news and issues that are relevant to the San Diego community, I like to dig deeper to find the voices and perspectives that other media often miss.

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