FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
SAN DIEGO, CA – February 19, 2021
Yesterday the Legislature introduced SB 86, the Safe and Open Schools (SOS) Plan. Rather than a life raft to rescue students from the endless sea of Zoom school, the “SOS” Plan leaves students to tread water longer while prioritizing the needs of educators at their expense. California schools must reopen IMMEDIATELY FOR ALL GRADES before more students drown under the social, emotional and academic toll of prolonged school closures.
SB 86 falls short of this goal to return students to on-site instruction in several critical ways. It ignores the scientific consensus from the CDC and countless public health experts that it is both safe and necessary to open all schools in all grades for in-person instruction, irrespective of the community case rates.
1. The bill sets a date two months in the future (April 15, 2021) for on-site learning for vulnerable cohorts of students only. This leaves 70-80% of students with no plan.
2. The bill sets the Red Tier + April 15, 2021 as a start date for grades K-6. This is the opposite of CDC guidance, which allows K-6 to operate in all tiers, while fluctuating mitigation strategies depending on the level of community spread. As the CDC Director stated last week, “there is more spread that is happening in the community when schools are not open than when schools are open.”
3. The bill is absent a framework to return students in grades 7-12 to in-person learning this school year.
4. The bill does not require school districts to offer in-person instruction 5-days per week to every student, allowing schools to permanently maintain hybrid learning models which are logistical nightmares, prohibitively expensive and not proven to reduce learning loss any more than distance learning.
5. The bill requires labor Union approval of a district’s COVID-19 safety plan.
6. The bill doesn’t mandate in-person learning. It says districts must offer in-person learning “to the greatest extent possible”–keeping the language in current law that we know many have abused.
7. The bill provides for all teachers to be vaccinated ahead of seniors and other high-risk individuals while still allowing any teacher to refuse to return to campus, requiring school districts to hire a second teacher as a classroom monitor while the teacher continues to provide remote instruction. As the CDC guidance confirmed, teachers are not at risk in school settings and do not need to be vaccinated in order to return to the classroom. This is morally wrong and wrong on the science.
SB 86 is reflective of the continued failure of Sacramento to protect students and families and take real steps to open all public schools in California. We hope that Governor Newsom will push the legislature to guarantee that all students will be back in school well before April, especially with the one-year anniversary of school closures only days away.