Tags: Coronavirus | Trump Administration | newsom | virus

California School Closing Brings Parent Angst and Economic Worry

California School Closing Brings Parent Angst and Economic Worry
Newsom (Getty)

Friday, 17 July 2020 07:47 PM

Students across most of California won’t be able to attend school in person this fall, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Friday, dealing another setback to efforts at restarting the world’s fifth-largest economy and possibly spurring similar orders nationwide.

The move sets up a likely fight between California, a juggernaut of the nation’s economic output, and the Trump administration, which sees reopening classrooms as an economic linchpin in an election year. It also leaves millions of parents in a bind and some of the country’s largest school districts struggling to extend remote-learning plans just weeks before in-class instruction was to begin.

The closing of public schools could be devastating for the economy as those parents scramble to find child care, said David Shulman, a senior economist at the UCLA Anderson Forecast. “It’s going to be very hard for families with children to make arrangements for their kids so they can go back to work.”

“California is about 15% of the U.S. economy, so if it’s just California I think things will muddle through. I think things will be fine,” he said. “But if it gets to be much more than California, then we have a problem.”

Dramatic Surge

Newsom’s order comes as California has seen a dramatic surge in new virus cases, driving up the number of deaths and patients needing hospitalization and ICU beds at an alarming rate. That forced Newsom earlier this month to scale back reopening and to order indoor dining and bars closed. He also halted indoor activities at gyms, hair salons and places of worship in most of the state.

“The virus will be with us for a year or more, and school districts must provide meaningful instruction in the midst of this pandemic,” Newsom said Friday. “In California, health data will determine when a school can be physically open -– and when it must close –- but learning should never stop. Students, staff, and parents all prefer in-classroom instruction, but only if it can be done safely.”

California reported 9,986 new virus cases Friday, an increase of 2.8%, and another 130 deaths. Of the state’s 58 counties, 33 are on a “monitoring list” that have showed troubling trends. Schools in counties on that list must not physically open for in-person instruction until their county has come off the list for 14 consecutive days, Newsom said Friday.

California’s lockdown this spring forced many parents to adopt a kind of second job -- turning into de facto tutors while scrambling to perform their regular work at home. They learned how to make do, even if the situation wasn’t ideal.

“My ex-wife and I would say that quite often, we felt like we were failing in both our jobs and parenting in all this,” said Joshua Room, a father of two boys in Berkeley.

As a lawyer for the California Attorney General’s Office, he can work from home and keep an eye on his sons, ages 12 and 14. But he worries about other families. “Parents of kids with special needs, or essential worker parents who don’t have the luxury of staying home -- I really feel like all districts need to start some kind of in-person learning as soon as possible for those families.”

Trump Threats

The question of when to reopen schools has cracked a new rift in the politics of the pandemic, with President Donald Trump threatening to withhold eduction funding from districts that refuse to open.

“The ideal scenario for holistic health and ideal learning is to have students in school,” Trump Deputy Press Secretary Judd Deere said in an emailed statement identical to one issued after Los Angeles and San Diego schools announced remote learning for the fall. “We are encouraged that the vast majority of school districts are on a trajectory to open with students in person -- hopefully California can get there soon as well, as that is what is best for children.”

In states like New Jersey and New York, officials have crafted complicated hybrid in-school attendance systems that have only portions of the student population on campus at any given time and the rest remote learning. Some states, such as Arizona, where cases are surging, have delayed opening by a few weeks. In Texas, where cases are also rising at an alarming rate, state officials said districts can delay opening classrooms for as long as four weeks.

Officials in Los Angeles, San Diego and Sacramento -- three of the biggest districts in California -- had already decided they would offer only remote learning this fall. The Orange County Board of Education this week voted to recommend that students return to campus, with no masks or distancing required. The board, however, has no authority to impose that recommendation on any of Orange County’s school districts, and several chose to disregard the board’s vote.

Under the new California guidelines, when classrooms do reopen, all staff and students in third grade and above will be required to wear a mask or face covering. Students in second grade and below are strongly encouraged to wear a face covering.

“People are feeling like they’re screwed and there’s just not a lot of solutions,” said Elizabeth Gulliver, co-founder of Kunik, a membership-based online community for working parents. “Ideally, you’d be putting a nanny and a tutor in every home. That’s not going to happen.”

© Copyright 2020 Bloomberg News. All rights reserved.


   
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Students across most of California won't be able to attend school in person this fall, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Friday, dealing another setback to efforts at restarting the world's fifth-largest economy and possibly spurring similar orders nationwide. The move sets up a...
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2020-47-17
Friday, 17 July 2020 07:47 PM
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