March 25, 2021
State Superintendent Tony Thurmond Joins Educators and Experts to Discuss Strategies for Sustaining Safe In-Person Learning
SACRAMENTO—State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond hosted a statewide webinar today for school leaders and other educational stakeholders designed to help schools successfully navigate the challenges of not only returning students to the classroom, but safely keeping them there for the long-term.
The webinar, “How to Keep Classrooms Safe for All: Lessons and Successes from California Schools,” featured school superintendents, health experts, and leaders in the field presenting on successful strategies for sustaining safe in-person learning in the months ahead, including available state resources for ventilation upgrades, implementing robust COVID-19 testing, and more.
“We’re at a pivotal moment for our schools. With vaccination rates increasing, and COVID-19 cases declining, it’s encouraging to see more and more classrooms welcoming students and educators back to in-person instruction,” Thurmond said. “There are many schools that are still figuring out how to make this transition, and we’re all learning this together. I am proud to continue connecting our schools with the science, support, and strategies needed to not only open classrooms, but keep them safe moving forward.”
Thursday’s virtual event was an opportunity for school districts across California to gain a deeper understanding of how phased, multi-layered safety measures applied effectively and consistently—masking, distancing, proper ventilation, COVID-19 testing, and more—can keep students, staff, and school communities safe during the pandemic. Participants heard from schools in Napa County, for example, where students have had options for in-person learning since the fall.
One critical issue is the importance of proper ventilation at schools to help reduce the risk of transmission. Schools have new resources through Assembly Bill 841, which created the “School Reopening Ventilation and Energy Efficiency Verification and Repair Program.” The bill directed upwards of $600 million in energy efficiency funding to test, adjust, and repair heating, air conditioning, and ventilation (HVAC) systems in public schools over the next three years. Even prior to the pandemic, poor ventilation in schools posed a significant health risk to students. UC Davis researchers recently found 85 percent of California classrooms lack proper ventilation.
Another strategy to sustain in-person learning is robust COVID-19 testing. Earlier this month, the California Department of Education (CDE) announced a plan to deploy millions of COVID-19 antigen tests at no cost to select California school districts. Many of the tests will be delivered to school districts in regions hardest hit by the pandemic and serve greater numbers of high-risk students and families, such as households in poverty, farmworkers, and communities of color.
“Being able to quickly identify who is positive and who is not will be critically important for day-to-day operations on a school campus and will help protect not only students, but teachers and support staff,” Thurmond said.
Today’s webinar included the following speakers:
- Dr. Barbara Nemko, County Superintendent, Napa County Office of Education
- Dr. Rosanna Mucetti, District Superintendent, Napa Valley Unified
- Chris Ruch, Director of Training at the National Energy Management Institute
- Natalie Lee, Deputy Director of the California Energy Commission’s Renewable Energy Division
- Paula Villescaz, Assistant Secretary, California Health and Human Services
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Tony Thurmond —
State Superintendent of Public Instruction
Communications Division, Room 5602, 916-319-0818, Fax 916-319-0100