California’s Safe Schools for All Plan

The Safe Schools for All plan is California’s framework to support schools to continue operating safely in person and to expand the number of schools safely resuming in-person instruction. It was released by the governor just before the new year.

Informed by growing evidence of the decreased risks and increased benefits of in-person instructionespecially for our youngest students—Gov. Gavin Newsom is advancing a strategy that will help create safe learning environments for students and safe workplaces for educators and other school staff. The plan was developed in partnership with the state legislature, and the governor plans to propose an early action package to ensure schools have the resources necessary to successfully implement key safety precautions and mitigation measures. Components of the plan will be launched in the coming weeks.

“As a father of four, I know firsthand what parents, educators and pediatricians continue to say: in-person is the best setting to meet not only the learning needs, but the mental health and social-emotional needs of our kids,” Newsom said. “In the midst of this pandemic, my Administration is focused on getting students back into the classroom in a way that leads with student and teacher health. By focusing on a phased approach with virus mitigation and prevention at the center, we can begin to return our kids to school to support learning needs and restore the benefits of in-person instruction. It’s especially important for our youngest kids, those with disabilities, those with limited access to technology at home and those who have struggled more than most with distance learning.”

The administration’s strategy focuses on ensuring implementation and building confidence by bringing back the youngest children (TK2) and those who are most vulnerable first, then phasing in other grade levels through the spring. This phased-in return recognizes that younger children are at a lower risk of contracting and transmitting COVID-19. At the same time, distance learning will remain an option for parents and students who choose it, and for those whose health status does not allow them to return to school in the near term. Please find additional details about the rationale behind the plan here.

California’s Safe Schools for All framework to safe reopening of in-person instruction is built on four pillars:

  1. Funding to Support Safe Reopening: The budget will propose, for immediate action in January, $2 billion to support safety measuresincluding testing, ventilation and personal protective equipmentfor schools that have resumed in-person instruction or phasing in of in-person instruction by early spring.
  2. Safety and Mitigation Measures for Classrooms: To further ensure health and safety in the classroom, the administration will support implementation of key health measures. This will include frequent testing for all students and staff, including weekly testing for communities with high rates of transmission; masks for all students and staff, including distribution of millions of surgical masks for school staff; improved coordination between school and health officials for contact tracing; and prioritization of school staff for vaccinations.
  3. Hands-on Oversight and Assistance for Schools: Dr. Naomi Bardach, a University of California, San Francisco pediatrician and expert on school safety, will lead the Safe Schools for All Team, a cross-agency team composed of dedicated staff from the California Department of Public Health, Cal/OSHA and educational agencies. The team will provide hands-on support to help schools develop and implement their COVID-19 safety plans. These supports include school visits and walkthroughs as needed, webinars and training materials, and ongoing technical assistance.
  4. Transparency and Accountability for Families and Staff: A state dashboard will enable all Californians to see their school’s reopening status, level of available funding and data on school outbreaks. Additionally, a web-based “hot line” will empower school staff and parents to report concerns to the Safe Schools for All Team, which will lead to escalating levels of intervention beginning with technical assistance and ending with legal enforcement.

“These four pillars will serve as tools to safely guide our state’s return to in-person instruction and protect the health of students, educators and all school staff,” said California Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly. “As a pediatrician and father, I know schools are the best place our kids can be, and the positive impact in-person learning has on their overall health and well-being.”

“A safe return of kids to the classroom is on the wish list of countless California families, and Governor Newsom’s Safe Schools for All Plan paves the way. The plan is rooted in science, health and safetyall key tenets to any conversation about returning to in-person instruction,” said California State PTA President Celia Jaffe.

For more information about the components of the plan, please click here.

For more information about the rationale behind the plan, please click here.

For more information about the science underpinning the plan, please click here.