Calif. proposes $6.5B deal to reopen schools by early April

FILE - In this July 13, 2020, file photo, a gate is locked at the closed Ranchito Elementary School in the San Fernando Valley section of Los Angeles. After weeks of tense negotiations, California legislators agreed Thursday, Feb. 18, 2021, on a $6.5 billion proposal aimed at getting students back in classrooms this spring following months of closures because of the pandemic. (AP Photo/Richard Vogel, File)

FILE – In this July 13, 2020, file photo, a gate is locked at the closed Ranchito Elementary School in the San Fernando Valley section of Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Richard Vogel, File)

OAN Newsroom
UPDATED 10:22 AM PT – Saturday, February 20, 2021

California lawmakers proposed a multi-billion dollar bill aimed to reopen schools by mid-April.

On Thursday, San Francisco Assemblyman Phil Ting introduced the Safe and Open Schools Plan, which would allocate $6.5 billion in additional funding to the $6 billion in federal funding for school reopening. $2 billion of that budget would provide funds to kickstart in-person learning by mid-April, while the remaining $4.6 billion would be directed towards learning recovery.

The legislation would require elementary schools in red tier counties and below to offer the option for in-person learning to all students by April 15.

“Foster children, English language learners, homeless children, those folks that are really suffering the most under distance learning,” Ting said.

Additionally, all schools would need to rollout COVID-19 safety protocols by April 1. School staff will be offered vaccines before returning to the classroom, however it is not required to reopen schools.

“We are ready for our children to be back in the classrooms,” parent Stacie Bernard said. “We can do this safely.”

Parents pushing for schools to reopen cited their children’s declining mental health, adding they’re falling behind due to the struggles of remote learning. A San Francisco children’s hospital reported a 66 percent increase in emergency room visits and a record number of children reporting suicidal thoughts.

Lisa Brizendine, president of the Oakley Elementary School District Board of Trustees, resigned after she mocked parents in a virtual board meeting that herself and other members thought was private.

“They want to pick on us because they want their babysitters back,” Brizendine said.

Another trustee used expletives to explain how she would respond to a parent who confronted her about schools reopening.

“Shame on you for saying those things about people, shame on you for belittling us,” parent Claudine Zambrana said. “That’s how most parents that I know feel right now, its a slap in the face.”

If passed, the bill would not force schools to reopen, but it would give the incentive of extra funding to those that do. The assembly expects to vote on the proposal Monday, but will require Gov. Gavin Newsom’s (D-Calif.) signature to pass.

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