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Did Schools Reopen Too Soon? California Federation Of Teachers Says Yes

SACRAMENTO COUNTY (CBS13) — In Sacramento County, the Folsom Cordova Unified School District has already seen nearly a dozen positive COVID-19 cases this month. The district returned to a hybrid model, a mix of in-person and distance learning students, only a week ago.

Cammie Woodward's son Mason was among one of the students that returned to class in person on November 12. Woodward noticed a change in her son's personality almost immediately.

"Getting to see his spirit come back, his love for learning and love for life," Woodward said. "That means everything to us."

Seeing kids return to class was a welcome sight for the entire Woodward family. The in-person experience is worth the risk for her and for moms like Sarah Valdez. Though, Valdez still has some hesitation.

"I still have concerns. I was just thinking, what if there's one kid?" Valdez asked, referencing coronavirus cases.

The Folsom Cordova Unified School District opened one day before Sacramento County officially reverted back to the "purple tier," the most restrictive reopening tier statewide. State protocols say schools can open in the "red tier," but any school that did reopen before reverting back can continue in-person learning. Folsom Cordova went back just in time.

Though according to the district's COVID dashboard, there are already 11 positive COVID-19 cases in the month of November. Students and staff are dealing with the virus across multiple schools.

When asked about the cases, CBS13 was provided the following statement from a district spokesperson: "The health and safety of our staff and students is our highest priority … if any staff or student has concerns about having COVID or has a positive test result, we have a robust contact tracing and communication protocol in place."

Though as COVID cases climb, many people are questioning if schools reopened too soon. The California Federation of Teachers said yes.

"We have been saying this entire time, the metrics we should be having – we haven't seen the state ever meet," said Jeff Freitas, president of the California Federation of Teachers (CFT).

The CFT is calling for districts around California to reconsider reopening and return to distance learning until after the holidays when many families are still expected to gather. The federation, along with several local teachers' associations, argue districts need more PPE and more testing in place before students should be welcomed back.

"The numbers are going in the wrong direction and spiking. Since the pandemic started, these numbers are the highest ever," Freitas said. "We need to close our schools."

Though moms like Woodward said data shows schools are not considered transmission problem areas, and believes schools are and can still be a safe place.

"I think we need to trust some of that and the protocols being used," Woodward said.

In nearby Placer County, Rocklin Unified has also seen increased COVID case numbers in their district. Meanwhile, Placer Union High School District has taken extra steps to close for the next two weeks, in hopes case numbers decline in their area.

Freitas said while data may show low transmission in school, he fears of asymptomatic cases where students may bring home the virus to vulnerable members of their family, and hopes people keep that in mind.

A group of 11 Sacramento County teachers associations sent a letter to the Sacramento County Office of Education asking them to ensure proper safety measures before sending students back in person. The group is requesting a meeting once the letter has been reviewed.

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