In the interest of health and safety in our schools and communities with the Novel Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) pandemic, California Teachers Association today recommended the closure of all public schools statewide.
“The health and safety of our students, educators and all their families are our top priority as we grapple with this rapidly changing situation and the spread of COVID-19,” said CTA President E. Toby Boyd. “We know these are not easy decisions and there are many ramifications. To protect students and educators, we believe closing all public schools would be one of the safest measures to help mitigate further spreading of the virus right now. At a minimum, we support giving school districts the full authority to make school closure decisions themselves.”
Along with other state education organizations speaking as a unified Education Coalition, CTA today asked state leaders to: hold districts harmless from any financial penalties for loss of instructional days; provide support to allow meal service to continue to students during the closures, suspend all state testing this year; provide support for custodial services and staff; and provide additional support for school nurses and counselors.
“The Education Coalition’s goal is to ensure that schools have the necessary support and recognition as we meet the needs of our students and make sound decisions with the focus on the well-being of students and staff,” the coalition said in a statement. “The Education Coalition is committed to working with the Governor and legislature to ensure that our students and employees are safe during this pandemic. We appreciate the administration’s and legislative leaders’ efforts to prevent a massive outbreak of COVID-19.”
CTA supports measures to help workers and families as we deal with the crisis in our communities, including additional sick leave days and paid time off for those who do not have sick leave days; unemployment waivers and paid family leave for COVID-19 illnesses; eliminating economic barriers for COVID-19 testing; and internet access for students while at home. CTA also supports the recent waiver the California Department of Education received to continue feeding students during school closures and the Gov. Gavin Newom’s actions to waive the one-week waiting period for unemployment insurance and state disability insurance.
With more than 1,000 public school systems and one out of every eight students nationwide, the California public school system is the biggest in the country. The sheer size of the state, coupled with the number of rural districts, requires massive coordination for any system-wide effort. With school districts deciding locally how to react thus far, CTA has been supporting chapters in their efforts to protect students, educators and the school community.
With school closures in more than 90 school districts as of March 13, COVID-19 has already made a major impact in communities statewide. Today, Los Angeles Unified, San Diego Unified and Oakland Unified school districts, as well as all districts in Santa Clara County, were among those who announced closures over the coming weeks. There are 252 confirmed cases of the coronavirus in California as of March 13, and four deaths caused by the virus.
CTA is providing multiple resources for educators, students and families at www.cta.org/covid-19. CTA urges educators, students and their families to follow the sound guidance provided by the California Department of Public Health and believes state and local officials should coordinate with school districts and county offices of education to ensure uniform messages are provided to students, families and staff.
“It is our collective responsibility to do our part to minimize the spread of this disease. Each one of our actions, whether proactive or careless will have an effect on those around us especially the elderly and those among us with underlying health conditions,” Boyd said. “Please take the necessary steps to become familiar with the preventative measures such as effective health and safety practices. We owe it to each other.”
Stay Updated on Coronavirus Situation
CTA and NEA continue to update resources about coronavirus for educators. For information on your community, visit your local public health department’s website; for state updates, the California Department of Public Health; for national, visit CDC; and for global information, visit the World Health Organization.