SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. - Governor Gavin Newsom sat in a tiny chair, chatting with students at Juanita Jones Elementary School about their first pets (his was a river otter, in case you were wondering).
The San Bernardino school is one of the district’s 73 campuses that brought back students for brick-and-mortar learning this week. Each school adhered to California's statewide mask-wearing mandate that Gov. Newsom talked about, as he touts a $23.9 billion public education budget.
The timing Is critical. As the Sept. 14 recall election approaches, Newsom is crossing the state, selling his accomplishments to anyone who will listen.
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On Friday, he is at a school that can surely benefit from the extra money for school counselors, mental health funds and classrooms with smaller student-to-teacher ratios. The budget includes money for universal pre-k by 2025 and adds funds for college saving accounts for students, among other things.
After school, many parents tell us they have yet to make up their mind about who to vote for on the recall, though, as happy as they are about the extra funds for education.
Most are happy about their children wearing masks, but some are not.
Other school districts, like Orange County, are suing over the mandate, to which the Governor says he expects every district to abide.
He paints the people running against him, and those backing them, or the recall, as pro-Trump "ultra right" fanatics who would "take the state off the COVID cliff."
Yet, many parents here tell us they have yet to make up their mind about the recall, adding that they are not necessarily Republicans, let alone fanatics.
Quite a few lost their jobs when businesses closed during the pandemic closures. Others seem unsure about politicians making health decisions for them or their loved ones.
San Bernardino school officials say that 95% of the district families opted for in classroom learning, with about 2,100 remaining in the virtual model. Masks are mandated, but no one is being asked about vaccination status.
No testing is required, unless one of the new COVID-19 Liaisons at each school identifies someone fitting the parameters of symptoms. Then that student is isolated, the family is contacted, and contact tracing follows. The rest of the class is not automatically quarantined, only those students testing positive.
Since classes began Monday, two of 47,000 students across the district have tested positive.