Governor outlines plan to start getting state going again, but it is still weeks away

California schoolchildren could return to their classrooms as soon as late July, though likely with modifications, Gov. Gavin Newsom said Tuesday as he outlined plans for easing stay-at-home orders amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Newsom said no official decisions have been made, but he acknowledged there have been “learning losses” as parents have sought to teach their kids from home since most schools and classrooms closed in mid-March to slow the spread of the coronavirus. School districts and families have struggled to adapt to at-home learning and the deficits have been even greater in homes without technology or where parents are essential workers who are not at home to do home-schooling, he said.

"That learning loss is very real," Newsom said. “If we can maybe start up the school year a little earlier, maybe we can help close that gap."

But schools may look radically different than before, said Sonia Angell, the state's public health director. She and Newsom provided few details on what education would be like.

Newsom previously said schools may launch with staggered start times to limit the number of students in the school at one time and make changes to recess, lunch and other school gatherings that draw large groups of students together. And school districts will have leeway in implementing the changes, which will need to be worked out with the teachers' unions.

The Kern County Superintendent of Schools said in a statement, "Kern County school districts already begin in late-July to mid-August, earlier than many districts throughout the state that start after Labor Day. All Kern County school communities share the governor’s goal of re-opening our schools as quickly as possible to serve our students. The decision to alter the academic calendar will ultimately be made by local school boards after careful consideration and input from parents, staff, local health experts and other local community stakeholders."

Newsom on Tuesday outlined a four-phase plan to gradually reopen the state when hospitalization rates due to coronavirus begin to stabilize. Still, California remains focused now on obtaining more protective gear for essential workers and increasing testing and tracing of the virus.

In the next phase, likely just weeks away, parts of the economy such as retailers and manufacturers will begin operating again, possibly through curbside pickup at stores. Childcare and summer schools along with parks, trails and other outdoor spaces may also be allowed to reopen.