California Governor Gavin Newsom released a $2 billion plan on Wednesday for as many schools as possible to re-open for in-person instruction by this spring.

All of the details are still unclear — including if the plan definitely includes students beyond sixth grade and all the way up to 12th grade. The plan is basically two-fold: To continue to get as many younger students — and disadvantaged students — into the classroom by the spring. And continue to make sure students and teachers can safely return to the classroom. The goal of the plan is basically to have more schools reopened as soon as February.

The biggest concern raised by teachers when it comes to returning to the classroom is to make sure there's enough testing and contact tracing. The $2 billion plan Newsom unveiled addresses that issue.

District administrators are still fleshing out the details of the plan, including if eventually students in 7th through 12th grades will be allowed to return to school.

The plan also allows for families to continue with distance learning if they choose. But the importance of returning students to the classroom for their mental and academic health has been stressed for sometime now.

And schools have already been allowed to apply for waivers to bring students in grades K-6 back to the classroom. Students in grades K through 6 have returned to the classroom at many Tulare County schools.

But with the stay-at-home order that has been issued, the waiver process has been placed on hold for schools that have yet to have their waivers reviewed by the state. Tulare County officials have asked the state to at least allow waivers to be approved for grades K-2 and Newsom's plan seems to be heading in that area.

Newsom stated students in grades K-2 would be the first ones to return to the classroom in his phased-in plan. The plan on the Governor's website then says students in other grades would then return to the classroom.

Disadvantaged students such as special education students, foster students, homeless students, students who don't have access to technology and students having the most difficulty with distance learning would also be the first ones to return to the classroom.

But state guidelines already allow for those students to return to the classroom with smaller class sizes in what's known as a cohort system.

The general consensus is it's safer for younger students to return to the classroom and the spread of the COVID-19 virus isn't as great with younger students. But the consensus is also it's still unclear just how great the threat of the spread is with older students.

That seems to be the case in Tulare County's experience, county officials state. County officials stated the spread of the virus has been far less with younger students in schools that have been able to reopen through the waiver process as opposed to classrooms that have reopened with older students through the cohort system.

And in the Governor's plan, counties must still have a case rate that's below 28 per 100,000 residents over a 7-day period. Tulare County's case rate is far from that as its adjusted rate as determined by the state is 55.3 per 100,000.

As far as meeting safety standards, Newsom said schools that reopen but don't meet those standards will be sanctioned.

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