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Opinion: A nice scare from the governor

If you heard jaws drop all over the state last Tuesday, you weren’t alone.

When Newsom said during an evening press conference that he doubted California”s K-12 schools — nearly 99 percent of which have closed in response to the coronavirus pandemic — would reopen before summer vacation, my jaw dropped, too.

Newsom: “This is a very sober thing to say, and I can’t say this with certainty, but I can say this quite learnedly: Don’t anticipate schools are going to open up in a week,” Newsom said. “Please don’t anticipate in a few weeks. … I don’t want to mislead you. I would plan and assume that it’s unlikely that many of these schools — few, if any — will open before the summer break.”

Newsom said parents should be prepared to home-school their children as schools transition to online learning, CalMatters” Ricardo Cano and Laurel Rosenhall report. The state Department of Education on Tuesday published a list of online learning resources for schools and families — as well as resources to help teachers learn how to conduct virtual lessons. The state will also submit a waiver to the U.S. Department of Education to forgo standardized testing.

But many questions remain. Will summer school be available to make up for lost learning? Will students have to repeat their current grade next year? Will public schools continue to feed the approximately 6 in 10 students who participate in free or reduced-price meal programs, as Newsom said they were planning to do? But how will working parents adapt to prolonged school closures and still hold onto their jobs?

Also on Tuesday, Newsom announced a no-gathering advisory for the entire state, calling it “common sense. “This came hours after Monterey and Sacramento counties adopted the strict “shelter in place” order already in effect in seven Bay Area counties. The order, which carries the force of law in Monterey and the Bay Area, directs residents to stay at home as much as possible, avoiding even small social gatherings and only making essential errands to places like the pharmacy or grocery store. Exercise and walks outdoors are permitted as long as people remain 6 feet apart.

The governor shied away from ordering a statewide lockdown or official “shelter in place,” but raised the possibility that California could eventually move to military control if people don’t follow the guidance to stay home.

“We have the ability to do martial law,” Newsom said. “Things like that, layer new requirements and authority. If we feel the necessity to do that, we will do that.”

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