California students could return to their classrooms as early as July, though there likely will be modifications, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Tuesday.
SAN FRANCISCO (KABC) -- Gov. Gavin Newsom said Tuesday the next academic year could start as early as the end of July or beginning of August, though there will likely be some modifications.
The governor made the announcement with "cautious optimism" as the state looks toward easing statewide stay-at-home orders within the next few weeks, instead of months.
Newsom said the possibility of pushing up the next school year comes amid ongoing concerns of "learning losses," though a decision on start dates has not yet been made.
The governor acknowledged there have been significant difficulties as parents have sought to teach their children from home, some of which did not have the necessary technology for "distancing learning."
The California Teachers Union says closures have been hard on everyone involved, adding that when students return to class, public health must be at the forefront of all decision-making.
Most schools and classrooms have been closed since March, when Newsom issued the statewide stay-at-home order to try to slow the spread of coronavirus.
Districts and families have struggled to adapt to at-home learning. Starting the new school year earlier would make up for some of that lost time, Newsom said.
But schools may look radically different than before.
Newsom previously said schools may launch with staggered start times to limit the number of students in the school at one time and make changes to recess, lunch and other normal school gatherings that draw large groups of students together.
Los Angeles County Superintendent of Schools Debra Duardo said she has convened a task force of superintendents from across the county to consider plans for reopening campuses in the summer or fall.
The task force will meet regularly, beginning Wednesday, to establish guidelines on how the county's 80 school districts can safely reopen.
The fifth point in the governor's six-pronged plan to ease restrictions also involves redrawing floor plans at businesses, schools and childcare facilities.
Newsom reinforced hopes of reopening the state, noting that changes are expected sooner rather than later.
State officials also outlined a four-phase approach to the eventual restart of the state's economy, when conditions allow:
Stage 1: Everyone is either staying at home or a member of the essential workforce. This is the stage we are in now, and will stay in until a modification to the statewide stay-at-home order.
Stage 2: Reopening lower risk workplaces, including:
Stage 3: Reopening higher risk workplaces, which require close proximity to other people, including:
Stage 4: Ending the stay-at-home order, which would allow for the reopening of:
The plan for reopening businesses is already in the works as Newsom said the state is now in the first phase, which is building up hospital capacity and supplies of protective equipment, while developing guidelines for the various business sectors to ensure companies have adequate protections in place for workers and customers.
"I want to caution everybody, if we pull back too quickly and we walk away from our incredible commitment to not only bend this curve but to stop the spread and suppress the spread of this virus, it could start a second wave that could be even more damaging than the first and undo all of the good work and progress that you've made. ... The virus has not gone away. It's virulence is still as acute. Its ability to be transmitted still is dominant. We by no stretch are out of the woods.''
The second phase would be a reopening of lower-risk businesses, such as retail establishments with curbside pickup, manufacturing and offices.
Following in the third phase would be higher-risk companies such as hair salons, movie theaters and religious institutions.
Last would be the "highest-risk" operations, such as stadiums, convention centers and concert venues.
"Politics will not drive our decision making, protest won't drive our decision making, political pressure will not drive our decision making. The science, the data, public health will drive our decision-making," Newsom said.
Newsom said Monday the state's "individual collective behavior" will play a key role in the success of stay-at-home orders, referring to Californians flocking to beaches over the weekend amid the first heat wave of the year.
The governor said images showing thousands of people at Orange County beaches "are an example of what not to see'' and "what not to do'' during the coronavirus pandemic.
"The virus is as transmittable as it's ever been...It is ubiquitous, it is invisible, and it remains deadly. Ask the 45 families who lost a loved one in the last 48 hours," he said.
He emphasized that people need to continue to adhere to physical distancing guidelines regardless of the weather, noting, "This virus doesn't take the weekends off.' This virus doesn't go home because it's a beautiful sunny day around our coasts."
New research revealed many Californians are apparently more anxious to leave their homes, venturing out despite stay-at-home orders.
The study tracked smartphone data of more than 100 million Americans over a six-week period. Researchers found more people are venturing more than 1 mile from their home every day.
Nationwide, researchers are seeing 10% fewer people staying at home, and every state with the exception of Rhode Island saw a decrease in maintaining physical distancing. Experts are blaming a month of quarantine, warm temperatures and a false sense of security of flattening the curve.
Last week, Newsom announced that hospitals statewide will be able to start scheduling surgeries amid the ongoing coronavirus emergency.
The governor did not, however, offer a specific timeline for when the state's economy will begin reopening or when widespread restrictions will be lifted.
"The pressure to answer that question is very real. I wish I could prescribe a specific date. There is no light switch and there is no date," he said.
The gradual modification will allow for scheduled surgeries to resume in order to treat conditions such as tumors, heart valves and other non-coronavirus medical procedures. The governor stressed the importance of being able to reintroduce capacity across the health care delivery system, while also ensuring that it doesn't "overload the system."
Before making any decision on reopening the state on a wider scope, Newsom said he'd continue to evaluate the state's progress on six key criteria.
Earlier this month, the governor described a six-pronged framework of parameters and tools that are needed before the state can implement major changes to the state's stay-at-home orders and other COVID-19 interventions:
1. A widespread expansion of coronavirus testing;
2. "Vigilant" protection against infection of California's most vulnerable residents;
3. Manage surges at hospitals, enable development of infrastructure and distribution of personal protective equipment, or PPE;
4. Engage researchers in academia, including the University of California, and at health and technology companies on the front lines of the pandemic;
5. "Redraw floor plans" at business locations, schools and childcare facilities with physical distancing in mind;
6. Determining when to re-institute certain measures, such as stay-at-home orders.
The Associated Press and City News Service contributed to this report.