SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) – It appears California is now getting its students fully back into class.
Today, two of the state’s largest districts, San Francisco Unified and Los Angeles Unified, began a return to face-to-face learning.
After months of intense back and forth, dozens of preschools and elementary schools opened their doors in San Francisco.
What lessons have we learned and where do we go from here? We had a special guest with us at Getting Answers, California State School Superintendent Tony Thurmond.
RELATED: Some SFUSD students are returning to class for the first time since March 2020
That return to school for SFUSD and to Los Angeles was such a struggle. California was one of the last countries in the county to reopen schools. Why do you think this took so long here in San Francisco and across the state, and what ultimately helped solve this problem?
“You know you can look for a lot of reasons, but I’d point it out if we think about what we were just a few months ago. We had some of the highest rates of COVID-19 infection during the winter,” Thurmond said. “So much so that many of our counties had absolutely no hospital bed capacity. We have suffered more than 60,000 deaths and more than three and a half million COVID-19 cases. We have been in a difficult position. But lately where we have now gotten a clear picture how to use rapid COVID-19 testing and ventilation, and other resources, will enable us to keep our schools open safely, besides that, we now have a way our schools can be opened and stay open, safe and us are working with 1,000 school districts across the state to make this happen. I think we’re at 9,000 out of 10,000 of our open schools that will be open soon, so obviously things have really turned in a different direction. “
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Now the vaccination authorization is open from this week for people aged 16 and over. State law requires that public school students receive the vaccines they need. What’s your plan for the COVID-19 vaccine?
“Yeah, it’s exciting that we’re going to see this week that 16 years and older, like you said, can get the vaccine,” Thurmond said. “Look, I am aware of your discussions with the FDA and CDC about the ability to distribute vaccines to young people younger than 12. Some have asked some manufacturers and we are monitoring this and for sure I don’t think it is It is possible to really get into a conversation about the requirement of the vaccine until we have heard from our top health and safety staff whether the vaccine can be safely made available to young people, and we are monitoring and looking forward to it to learn more about what we could do next. “
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He mentioned the importance of public information in clearing up uncertainties about the vaccine, which is why webinars helped create confusion.
“I did a webinar last week to focus on how we can get more vaccines in the Latino community, you know, how we get over fears,” Thurmond said. “On Wednesday we’re running a similar webinar on vaccines for the African American community. I think there are people with concerns from all walks of life, and we’re trying to get a message across that vaccines are safe. You know, I’m proud to say it was painless and quick. And I think we’re in a place now where we’re trying to help everyone see the benefits of vaccines. “
We have to ask about this developing situation in Knoxville. Several people shot at a local high school, including a Knoxville police officer. Obviously, that’s way out of your reach. But we saw school shootings here in the state, back in November 2019 in Santa Clarita, just before the pandemic. In this regard, what steps can you take to make hallways safer for the safety of students and parents?
“It was so heartbreaking to learn about the Nashville shooting, and obviously our hearts go out to these families, those who were affected,” Thurmond said. “You know, as you say, we worked with schools before the pandemic to prevent shootouts, and we work with programs like the Mental Health First Aid program, which trains teachers and educators to recognize someone Who it could be I support what President Biden is calling for about how we get these guns off our streets and look to these communities for the memento of the executive branch. “”
RELATED: Knoxville School Shootout: Student Killed After Firing On TN School Officials
The CDC director said just last week that she does not foresee that schools will have to be closed again for security reasons for these new COVID-19 variants. However, new research shows that they may be much more prevalent in schools than initially thought. What is your idea about it?
“The most important thing I can say is that people have to keep wearing face masks and using social distancing,” Thurmond said. “It’s scary to hear that all of these other states, you know, Utah, Texas, have all of these places that said you don’t have to wear a mask.” I think they miss the point. Even with the vaccine, a person can transmit COVID-19 and so we need to think about it. I think the research is mixed, but I trust what Dr. Fauci said. Dr. Fauci has said we are seeing a plateau of falls, but at a much higher rate than predicted, which tells us that there is a chance that it may have to be shut down again. I think we can control our own destiny. “
Social inequalities in education only got worse during this pandemic, and we got clear signs of how. Distance learning, internet access, parents who have multiple jobs, etc. How is your office working to resolve this at the state level?
“You know I am grateful,” said Thurmond. “This was the system that had to go into distance learning overnight, and our system wasn’t designed for it, and that also means we discovered nearly a million children with no access to high-speed internet who got caught in the pandemic, many, too without a computer. Although a lot of our teachers and educators are really ajar, our students and parents have been resilient, even though people have leaned to try to get our distance learning to work, there have been some inevitable bumps and the same learning gaps that we tried to close many of these loopholes exacerbated during the pandemic. “
RELATED: Parents, Students, who are excited to see SFUSD Schools Reopen for In-Person Learning
What about the psychological side of things? It is clear that this is a crisis for so many teenagers and young adults.
“I think the number one thing we should look out for when students are just returning to campus is how well their mental health is working and where they need support.” said Thurmond. “This is so different, they’ve been gone for a year, many of them don’t have direct contact with students and their peers. And so we’re working on a number of mental health programs right now, including medical and other I have a national coalition on mental health Health working with our psychologists and others to support our students. The number one social-emotional well-being of our students is the number one thing to look out for right now, and how we can support our students, and we are doing it. “
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