August 25, 2021
State Superintendent Tony Thurmond Hosts Discussion of Latest COVID-19 Science, Safety, and State Assistance for Schools
SACRAMENTO—State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond brought experts in the fields of public health and education together on Wednesday for a wide-ranging discussion of COVID-19 data and mitigation efforts that have resulted in the safe reopening of thousands of schools across California.
The Safe and Successful Schools webinar was developed in partnership by the California Department of Education (CDE), the California Department of Public Health, the State Board of Education and the Office of Governor Gavin Newsom.
Dr. Naomi Bardach of the Safe Schools for All team and State Board President Linda Darling-Hammond shared information on California’s robust and multi-layered approach to COVID-19 prevention, which has resulted in no school reopening delays thus far in the fall semester. Bardach and Darling-Hammond shared data that demonstrates how state-supported COVID-19 testing programs, on-site vaccine clinics, universal masking and detailed quarantine guidance have helped keep California students in class and learning despite the troublesome rise of the Delta variant. A recording of the webinar is available on the CDE Facebook page .
“In-person instruction is so important for our students to be close to their peers and to have access to their educators, I want to commend all of our school districts that have opened and those that are preparing to open in the next few days,” said Thurmond. “We know that what you have done is incredible in supporting our students and we also know that it comes under very challenging circumstances as we watch the Delta variant continue to create challenges. But even so, by following all the COVID mitigation strategies, we can keep our schools open and keep our kids safe. Vaccines, wearing masks, and regular testing continue to provide a great quality education opportunity for our students. Today is the first of many conversations that we hope to have with our educational leaders, parents, and partners about how we do this and how we can keep each other safe and supporting students.”
Thurmond cited the webinar as another important effort in the state’s ongoing message about how getting every person who is eligible vaccinated will be critical for schools and communities.
“Research validates that we must keep schools open to promote the mental, social-emotional, and academic well-being of students,” Bardach said. She explained that new data shows the Delta variant is more than two times more contagious as the previous variants and those who are unvaccinated are more than 11 times likely to test positive. Bardach said vaccines are effective against Delta and walked through key layers for safe schools that include vaccines combined with testing, masking, ventilation, and staying home when sick.
Darling-Hammond encouraged local education agencies (LEAs) to plan and prepare for continued elevated cases, but said California is in a better place due to vaccines and masking. “We are nowhere near the winter surge in California, there are no delays in California due to COVID,” said Darling-Hammond. She explained how LEAs can access school-located clinics, receive grants to become vaccine providers, and how independent study can be used as a short-term and long-term option to make sure instruction is continuous during quarantine. “If we get vaccine clinics going, especially at middle and high schools, we'll be in a very different place in a few months,” Darling-Hammond said.
Before ending the webinar, Thurmond acknowledged the resilience he’s witnessed first-hand on his recent visits to schools across the state. “COVID-19 is the toughest challenge I think most of us will experience in our lifetime,” said Thurmond.
“We can’t control what the coronavirus does, but we can control what we do and how we respond to it—we’re all in this together and as hard as it is, it can be done and the reward is great: giving students the opportunity to have in person instruction.”The Safe and Successful Schools webinar includes American Sign Language interpretation service and may be found on the CDE Facebook page . Slides from today’s presentation (PPTX) are available for download on the California Department of Public Health website. To find a vaccine clinic near you, visit the My Turn - California COVID-19 website .
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Tony Thurmond —
State Superintendent of Public Instruction
Communications Division, Room 5602, 916-319-0818, Fax 916-319-0100