The time when students report to school in the fall could be a lot different compared to the pre-coronavirus age.
California State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond said Wednesday he's envisioning different scenarios for how students can get back to the classroom, including staggered morning and afternoon shifts to cut class sizes and to give students more space to distance themselves.
“We do know that there might be some scenarios where we might need more staffing,” Thurmond said. “If you’re going to have fewer students in a class, that might mean more personnel.”
The question is whether districts can afford to hire extra staff. The numbers say no. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, California is facing a staggering budget shortfall. Public schools and community colleges may lose more than $18 billion in state funding.
“As it relates to the cost, we know that this is going to be daunting for us, but we can’t hide or duck the challenge,” Thurmond said.
The Oakland Unified School District faces another challenge: school closures. Before the pandemic hit, the district wanted to merge schools as a means to regain financial stability. The district is moving ahead with closing Kaiser Elementary School and merging it with Sankofa Academy in the fall.
“Does it make any sense to anybody to be giving up facilities at the same time when the superintendent, the governor and public health officials are saying we need more space?” Saru Jayaraman, the mother of two daughters at Kaiser Elementary, said.
Jayaraman is part of a coalition of parents and public health experts who want Gov. Gavin Newsom to stop districts from closing and merging schools during the pandemic.
"I’m terrified because we all know, we all know now that density is what causes infection,” Jayaraman said.
Distancing, disinfecting and a lot of hand washing are likely to become routine practices in schools when they reopen. Students and teachers may also have to wear masks, Thurmond said.