Gavin Newsom's Children Are Back to Private School Classrooms

At a news conference, Newsom said that his four children, aged 4 to 11, had returned in some capacity to classrooms. 

Governor Gavin Newsom said Friday his children returned under a "phased-in approach" to in-person learning while many schools across the state remain closed due to Covid-19, including virtually all public schools where the governor lives in Sacramento County. 

According to a source, Newsom's children attend a private school in Sacramento County that has a hybrid curriculum that alternates remote and in-person education before returning full-time next month. POLITICO, for privacy purposes, does not name the school. 

"They are gradually returning to school and we are gradually leaving the very difficult distance learning that we've been doing, so many parents are doing up and down the state," Newsom said Friday when asked about the education of his own children.

Under Newsom's reopening scheme, Sacramento County schools are authorized to open classrooms. But major public school districts in the city, including San Juan Unified, which serves the neighborhood of Newsom, have yet to do so. Next month, several Sacramento County districts expect to reopen elementary schools, while San Juan has a target date for January. A reopening date has yet to be proposed by Sacramento City United. 

Reopening debate: This week, members of the California assembly sought more concrete action on school reopening from Newsom and state officials, stressing testing ability. For teachers across the state who believe it's not yet safe to reopen classes, the opportunity to consistently test students and staff has been a sticking point. 

According to an EdSource report released Friday, in 21 of the state's 58 counties, all school districts are either providing some form of in-person instruction or preparing to do so soon. 

Newsom referred to $5.3 billion in state and federal school funding to respond to Covid-19 and two months' worth of PPE offered by the state to districts. 

He expressed his conviction that schools need to be opened as soon as possible, citing academic and social-emotional issues, but stressed that local districts remain responsible for the decisions. The California Teachers Association has been adamant that it is not safe to return to schools yet. 

"We absolutely believe that the social-emotional learning that takes place in the classroom is the best place for our children, certainly also the best place for their parents. And so it is absolutely incumbent on doing everything in our power to support our districts so that they can reopen safely, with emphasis on reopening safely," said Newsom.

Newsom spoke at the unveiling of a $25 million laboratory on Friday that will dramatically increase the Covid-19 testing capacity of the state, which he said could help districts reopen schools. The laboratory, designed in collaboration with PerkinElmer, a diagnostics firm, will begin processing tests next month with a goal of 150,000 tests by March. 

Political implications: The return to school of the Newsom children confirms lawmakers' fears that families who can afford private schools have a jumpstart, further increasing the disparity in achievement. This summer, the CTA criticized the governor for allowing private schools to reopen exemptions, which almost all private schools have done.

The admission that his own kids are back in classrooms could raise Newsom's pressure to do more to reopen schools. When the day goes by with low-income public school children dealing with distance learning, expect the personal case of Newsom to become a high-profile example of coronavirus educational inequities. 

What's next: The pressure is on the state to issue more prescriptive guidance for schools to reopen, as security issues are kept up by school reopening talks with teacher unions and the state's local control strategy has produced uneven plans for the six million K-12 students in California.

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