The Catholic Diocese of Sacramento plans to submit waiver applications to public health officials this week to reopen 38 elementary schools across seven counties, including 17 in Sacramento.

The diocese’s plan comes after the state released updated guidelines Monday, which further outline a waiver program public health officials originally announced in July. The program would allow kindergarten through sixth-grade elementary schools to reopen if strict requirements are met and the local public health officer gives the green light.

On Tuesday, the staff at St. Francis Elementary were busy cleaning and organizing. The school in midtown Sacramento is set to start on Aug. 17 with distance learning and in-person outdoor faith events. But if the school’s waiver is approved, Superintendent Lincoln Snyder said in-person instruction could resume in September.

“For our families that are looking to return to work or are our front-line responders, or perhaps families that have circumstances where it’s clear that a classroom is the safest place for their child or the best place for their child, we’re working hard to serve them,” Snyder said.

Snyder said the two main safety protocols that will be in place if schools reopen are cohorts and deliberate attention to hygiene. Additional measures at St. Francis Elementary include masks, social distancing by using the library and computer lab as a classroom to keep students 6 feet apart and upgrades to the bathrooms, like touchless soap dispensers and sinks.

“A lot of the conversation has been about risks at schools and we understand that and we’re trying to mitigate it,” Snyder said. “We also understand that there’s a real need for kids to be in school. When kids are in distance learning, that creates challenges for families.”

However, California Teachers Association President E. Toby Boyd said the state’s school waiver program is unfair to public schools.

“It shows that those that have the resources will utilize them in order to get their children back into the school system. And, the public doesn’t have the funding right now in order to do so,” Boyd said. “So, we’re actually relying on the federal government to give us funding in order to purchase the necessary things we need in order to ensure the safety of our students and our staff.”

Boyd said he has concerns about equity with the state’s waiver program.

“Our Black and Brown lower socio-economic students are not going to have that same opportunity,” he said.

Snyder weighed in on equity by saying Catholic schools are community schools.

“We do operate schools where we are very proud to serve families of lesser means,” Snyder said. “We have scholarships and financial aid available at all of our schools and again our budget per student is about half of what public schools receive from the state to educate their students… No, I don’t think we’re at an unfair advantage….”

The above comes from an Aug. 4 story on KCRA-3.