A group of California parents filed a lawsuit against Gov. Gavin Newsom Thursday, asking him to reopen schools this fall for in-person learning.
The suit filed on July 29 by the parents, claims their children are suffering academically and psychologically after Newsom ordered that all schools - both public and private - remain closed to in-person learning in counties that are on the state's watch list of rising coronavirus cases.
All public schools in the 32 counties currently on the state's COVID-19 monitoring list, which includes Los Angeles, Orange, San Diego and Riverside Counties, will remain closed for the upcoming fall semester. Most of the state's 6.7 million students are set to return to school in mid-to-late August.
Those schools in counties that have been off the state's coronavirus monitoring list for at least 14 days are allowed to open - albeit with restrictions. Those include a requirement for all staff and students in grades 3-12 to wear masks. Younger students will also be encouraged to wear masks. Those students who don't wear masks will be asked to switch to remote learning. Physical distancing mandates and regular on-campus testing must also be part of the reopenings.
"Learning in the state of California is simply non-negotiable,'' Newsom said, adding that, "Safety is foundational. Safety will ultimately make the determination of how we go about educating our kids.''
An attorney for the parents, Harmeet Dhillon, the founder and CEO of The Center For American Liberty, said they represent the "numerous variations" of the needs of parents and their children and that the governor's plan to reopen schools should not be a "one size fits all template."
Many schools across the country have allowed students to return for in-person learning with mixed results. After a suburban Atlanta county allowed its schools to reopen amid a growing case COVID-19 case count, health officials say nearly 1,200 students and staff members in the district were ordered to quarantine just one week after reopening. That's forced one high school in the Atlanta county to close its doors until Aug. 31, with a second high school in the district also closing their doors on Wednesday.
Dhillon told NBC News that she wasn't worried about a similar situation developing in California so long "proper precautions are taken."
While health officials say the situation in California has been improving in recent weeks, they caution against reopening too quickly and ignoring social distancing protocols, lest we bring on another wave of COVID-19 infections. As of August 14th, Los Angeles County alone has seen 214,415 cases of COVID-19 and more than 5,000 deaths.
Several school districts, including Los Angles County Unified - the largest in the United States - and San Diego Unified announced they would not reopen this fall and instead would rely on a remote learning model amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Newsom has also promised more than $5 billion from the state's budget to help schools transfer to a remote learning model after requiring schools introduce "robust distance learning programs."
“Learning is non-negotiable,” Newsom said. “The virus will be with us for a year or more, and school districts must provide meaningful instruction in the midst of this pandemic. 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.”
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