Reopening California: State considering July school start sparks controversy, backlash

CONCORD, Calif. -- Gov. Gavin Newsom sparked quite a bit of backlash online when he spoke about the upcoming school year in a Tuesday press conference.

Newsom suggested the possibility of starting class in late July.

"Concerns me because I know it's not gonna work," says Sabrina Tijerina, who is a parent of three and a teaching assistant at Silverwood Elementary School in Concord in Northern California.

She is worried over recent talk of an early school year start, and specifically concerned about the comments made Tuesday by Newsom.

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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.

Duardo says a summer start would be conditional and require safety precautions to be in place. And, the state's superintendent of schools says physical distancing may require smaller classes and the possibility of hiring more teachers and staff.

"We are considering the prospect of an even earlier school year into the fall as early as July or early August," the governor said on Tuesday.

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It's those words that had parents and teachers sounding off online, with many concerned over how social distancing will be implemented

"Hearing July kinda threw me off a little bit," Kelly Amerlan McMahon, a parent and teacher in Santa Rosa, said on Facebook.

Tijerina says her classes are large and social distancing would be impossible.

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"There's close to 30 students in there and we all sit so close together," she said.

Not everyone, though, is against the idea. Erin Reeder lives in Richmond and her 4th-grade daughter has been busy studying away on their dining room table.

"They missed the last three months of school as much as they're trying hard and studying I don't think they're really learning," Reeder said. "We have to get back to life this cannot go on for years and I don't think it's going anywhere."

McMahon believes they would have a better chance at catching up if they dropped state testing next year. That would give them an additional three weeks.

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.


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