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California reaches deal to reopen schools

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GOV. GAVIN NEWSOM: “Yes, we want schools to safely reopen, period, full stop."

Speaking at a school outside Sacramento, California Governor Gavin Newsom on Monday said he reached a $6.6 billion dollar package deal with Democratic lawmakers to fund the reopening of schools for students up to second grade as the numbers of new COVID-19 cases in the state and country drop to their lowest this year.

GOV. GAVIN NEWSOM: “Things are moving in the right direction, things seem to be stabilizing. We're seeing vaccinations increase, we're seeing the positivity and case rates decrease, though, we are seeing a little bit of a plateau and one needs to be mindful of that”

$2 billion dollars would go towards paying for personal protective equipment, improved classroom ventilation and COVID-19 testing, incentivizing schools to reopen by the end of the month.

California's $6.6 billion dollar budget package marks the latest effort by a U.S. state to get school children back in class after nearly a year confined to home learning, by political leaders in the face of the coronavirus pandemic.

GOV. GAVIN NEWSOM: “Single mothers in particular, that are celebrating, I imagine, this day compared to many other previous days. So many of our kids and caregivers are celebrating this day because we all are united around coming back safely into the schools and helping with the social emotional supports that our kids so desperately need.”

But some school workers like 60-year-old Martelle Riley, a bus driver for the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified Schools District, are nervous about schools reopening.

Martelle Riley: "We're very concerned. We're ready to go back, but we want to make sure that when we go back, you know, we take our time, we should keep, you know, exercising the social distancing and wearing our masks."

Riley – whose first day back was last Tuesday, driving one special needs student twice a week - said he loves his job and is growing tired of sitting at home, but he wants reassurance that he will be safe at work.

"As classified employees we're part of the education system too. So, it shouldn't be no, like the teachers priority. We all at the same time should be vaccinated. It's very important because we, as bus drivers, we are the ones that have first contact with the students before anyone else."

The deal the Democratic governor made does not include an order for public schools to open by a certain date, and Newsom conceded that negotiations may still need to take place with teachers' unions.

The proposal would make vaccinating teachers and other school employees a priority in the state and lawmakers are expected to pass it on Thursday.

Video Transcript

GAVIN NEWSOM: Yes, we want schools to safely reopen. Period, full stop.

- Speaking at a school outside Sacramento, California governor Gavin Newsom on Monday said he reached a $6.6 billion package deal with Democratic lawmakers to fund the reopening of schools for students up to second grade, as the numbers of new COVID-19 cases in the state and country dropped to their lowest this year.

GAVIN NEWSOM: Things are moving in the right direction. Things seem to be stabilizing. We're seeing vaccinations increase. We're seeing the positivity and case rates decrease, though we are seeing a little bit of a plateau. And one needs to be mindful of that.

- $2 billion would go towards paying for personal protective equipment, improved classroom ventilation, and COVID-19 testing, incentivizing schools to reopen by the end of the month. California's $6.6 budget package marks the latest effort by a US state to get schoolchildren back in class after nearly a year confined to home learning by political leaders in the face of the coronavirus pandemic.

GAVIN NEWSOM: Single mothers, in particular, that are celebrating, I imagine, this day compared to many other previous days. So many of our kids and caregivers are celebrating this day because we all are united around coming back safely into the schools and helping with the social-emotional supports that our kids so desperately need.

- But some school workers, like 60-year-old Martelle Riley, a bus driver for the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified Schools District, are nervous about schools reopening.

MARTELLE RILEY: We're very concerned. And we're ready to go back, but we want to make sure that, when we go back, you know, we take our time, we keep, you know, exercising the social distancing, wearing our masks.

- Riley, whose first day back was last Tuesday, driving one special needs student twice a week, said he loves his job and is growing tired of sitting at home, but he wants reassurance that he will be safe at work.

MARTELLE RILEY: As classified employees, we are part of the education system, too. So it shouldn't be no-- like the teachers priority. We all at the same time should be vaccinated.

- The deal the Democratic governor made does not include an order for public schools to open by a certain date, and Newsom conceded that negotiations may still need to take place with teachers unions. The proposal would make vaccinating teachers and other school employees a priority in the state, and lawmakers are expected to pass it on Thursday.