On Wednesday, July 22, the bishops of California urged Governor Gavin Newsom to develop safe procedures to reopen schools for the 2020-21 school year. The governor announced July 17 that schools in the state would begin the school year with distance learning due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Below is an excerpt of their statement:

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the Catholic Church in California has supported and cooperated with public officials’ efforts to contain the spread of this deadly disease, including closing our schools and suspending public worship. We took these steps, not because the government issued orders, but because our God is love and he calls us to love for our neighbors. That means working for the common good and protecting the sanctity and dignity of human life, taking special care for the poor and elderly, the sick and vulnerable.

In the wake of the coronavirus lockdowns, our schools made a remarkable transition to distance learning. Within days, all of our state’s Catholic schools were up and running teaching students online.

On Friday, the 17th of July, Governor Gavin Newsom announced that all K-12 schools in California will be held to new requirements for resuming in-person instruction. As a result, schools in 33 counties across the state of California will begin the new school year with only distance learning.

We understand that the threat of the coronavirus is real and ongoing in our state. And we understand the legitimate concerns that teachers, parents, and elected officials have about the safety of returning to the classrooms this fall. At the same time, we are deeply concerned about the broader health and development issues for our children if the state presumes to rely only on distance learning until a vaccine is developed.

In-person learning, especially at the lower grades, provides emotional and social skills and supports that are crucial to early childhood development and the overall wellbeing of children which simply cannot be replaced.

What our children will lose by “virtual” education — in terms of emotional development, skills and learning and achievement — will have a significant impact. In the name of protecting their health in the short-term, we may very likely be risking their long-term growth and potential.

The public-health science suggests that elementary-age students can return with low risk of infection or transmission of the virus among students or between students and teachers. So, we are urging Governor Newsom to continue the dialogue on this crucial question of how to reopen our schools safely.

Full story at Angelus News.