SEIU Local 99 Executive Director Max Arias issued the following statement on the safe reopening of schools:

“The health and safety of students and staff must be at the center of all decisions regarding the physical reopening of schools. SEIU Local 99 members have set-up these Principles for Reopening Our Schools that are guiding how we approach our conversations on resuming classroom instruction with school districts.

Unless Governor Gavin Newsom and the state legislature take immediate action to dedicate additional funds to school districts to implement social distancing protocols, proper PPE for all, training, testing and other safety measures, it will be almost impossible for classroom instruction to safely resume in the fall.

If it becomes necessary to continue distance learning, we must recognize and address the problems with access to technology and instructional support that disproportionately impacted Black and Brown students before COVID-19 and were only exacerbated by the pandemic.

Regardless of where teaching is happening, we must focus on creating the conditions that students need to learn.  Increased supplemental support from teacher assistants, special education assistants and other educational aides will be necessary to address learning loss and provide direct support for distance learning. School communities will need to do more to communicate with and engage parents and ensure that all families have the necessary technology as well as affordable access to the web. In the case of continued distance learning or hybrid models, it will require that we address the need for child care for parents returning to work without the support of schools.

As we’ve seen throughout this pandemic, schools are a safety net for families and communities. School food service workers, custodians, IT assistants and other essential school workers have been on the frontlines providing meals to struggling families, disinfecting schools and ensuring students and staff have the necessary equipment and support for distance learning. This essential work must continue whether students resume learning online or at home. As we move forward, it will be critical that school districts consider the needs of the entire school community in decisions regarding the reopening of schools.”