Senate President Toni Atkins explains the school reopening plan. Image from livestream

Gov. Gavin Newsom and legislative leaders announced an agreement Monday to begin reopening California’s public schools for in-person classes this month

Newsom said he expects transitional kindergarten though second grade to open before the end of March and higher grades to follow soon after.

The agreement includes $2 billion to cover COVID-19 safety measures and $4.6 billion to pay for an extension of the school year or other measures to address loss of learning.

“You can’t reopen your economy unless you get your schools reopened for in-person instruction,” Newsom said at at live-streamed press conference.

The event took place at Sacramento’s Elk Grove School District, which is beginning to reopen this month.

“We want schools to safely reopen, and we believe they can safely reopen,” said Newsom. “We believe the data and the science bear that out.”

He said the agreement has been embraced by teachers unions, school superintendents and other stakeholders in public education in California.

The proposal does not order schools to reopen, but schools that fail to do so by April 1 will lose a percentage of their funds for every day they miss the deadline.

Additionally, counties that have eased back into the red tier of infection are expected to open all elementary grades and at least one middle or high school grade to qualify for the incentives.

“We created a framework that we believe is consensus,” he said, though he added that some criticism is to be expected.

That quickly came from former San Diego Mayor and now gubernatorial candidate Kevin Faulconer.

“Kids in all grade levels, in all school districts, deserve to be back in school now,” Faulconer said in a statement. “The partial reopening plan announced by Gavin Newsom today isn’t even close to good enough for our kids and teachers.”

Senate President Toni Atkins of San Diego said the governor and legislative leaders have “taken the time to get it right” and are confident that the reopening will proceed.

“The agreement announced today will provide funding for schools, prioritize vaccinations for teachers, and get more students back to in-person instruction,” said Atkins. “This agreement also helps children get back to the other interactions with teachers, friends, teammates, and classmates that are so important to students’ development and well-being.”

Assembly Speaker Anthon Rendon said the state’s public schools will soon have “the resources and the incentives that they need so that education can be all things for every child in California.”

The legislature is expected to vote on the agreement on Thursday.

Updated at 5:45 a.m., Monday, March 1, 2021

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Chris Jennewein

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.