Governor Newsom, local politicians must urgently act to safely reopen schools, prioritize wellbeing of children
Today, a group of parents from across California announced a new grassroots statewide movement, Open Schools California, focused on safely reopening public schools for in-person education. Most of California’s 6 million public school students have not been in the classroom since the COVID-19 pandemic forced school closures and remote learning last March.
The closures have hit low-income, English-language learners, and children with disabilities particularly hard, widening the achievement gap and creating additional physical, developmental and emotional struggles. After nearly one full school year of remote learning, parents are urging Governor Newsom and their state and local leaders to make reopening schools the top priority and to work with school districts to safely reopen schools.
“Keeping schools closed poses a major risk to kids’ health and wellbeing. It is wholly unfair and inequitable to make children pay the biggest price during this pandemic when medical professionals agree that schools can be safely reopened for in-person education for both teachers and students.”Megan Bacigalupi, a parent of two elementary school children in Oakland and advocate with Open Schools California.
Open Schools California believes:
- School is an essential and fundamental right for each child, no matter where they live
- School closures are having a devastating effect on students’ learning, mental health, physical health, and social and emotional well-being
- Distance learning is not an adequate substitute for live, in-person instruction
- Science and data show that schools can reopen safely for students AND teachers when strong mitigation measures like masks, distancing and hand washing are in place
- School closures are disproportionately impacting marginalized children, including those with disabilities, English-language learners, and Black and Latino children, who make up a large proportion of students in underfunded urban districts
- Schools across the country have safely reopened—meaning this is not an issue of whether it can be done, but rather a lack of political will in California
“California has betrayed the students and parents of the state by failing to reopen schools whenever possible, going against the recommendations of medical experts and the practice of the vast majority of cities and nations who have deemed it safe and reopened,”Ross Novie, parent and founder of LA School Uprising.
“California leaders must urgently prioritize getting kids safely back in school now,” said Ted Lempert, president of Children Now, an Oakland-based research and advocacy organization. “The pandemic has disproportionately impacted kids of color, kids living in poverty and youth in foster care, resulting in learning loss and a lack of preventative health care that threatens a generation of our most vulnerable children.”
Several studies, including a recent report by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), conclude that schools can reopen safely. The CDC even went as far as recommending that K-12 schools should be “the last settings to close…and the first to reopen.” Further, a study from Tulane University from early January found that in communities with relatively low hospitalization rates, hospitalizations appeared to go down after schools reopened.
Schools across the United States and Europe were open for in-person education throughout Fall 2020, and very few outbreaks were reported. Most children attending private schools across California, including Governor Newsom’s children, returned to the classroom months ago.
“Research from around the globe proves that children can safely go back to school for in-person education. Studies also show that the long-term impact of social isolation on children can lead to post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, anxiety, and other behavioral disorders,” said Dr. Jeanne Ann Noble, Director of UCSF COVID Response, UCSF Emergency Department.
Open Schools California
Open Schools California is a group of parents from across California who are committed to public education and believe their children should have access to safe, in-person education. Open Schools California believes in following the science—and the consensus by public health experts and medical and mental health professionals—which all tell us schools can be safely reopened with measures in place to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.