Rapid COVID testing will be key to opening more schools, state superintendent says

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- California State Superintendent Tony Thurmond said he knows how the state plans to move forward with in-person learning.

Thurmond said he believes rapid COVID testing will be the key to expanding in-person learning for more schools and grade levels.

Companies like Abbott Binax are offering tests that provide results in just 15 minutes. Several Central Valley school districts were part of a pilot program funded by the California Endowment that brings rapid testing to staff members and students with parental permission twice a week.

RELATED: Some Valley schools part of rapid self-COVID test program

Vaccinations will also be a significant factor. On Wednesday, Thurmond said about 400,000 educators had received their vaccines so far.

"We appreciate all that our students and their educators and our families are doing in distance learning. People really leaning in and doing all they can to make the most of a situation where it wasn't safe to be in person and we needed to resort to distance learning," Thurmond said.

"Our systems weren't built to deliver education in this way, and we moved into distance learning, overnight, literally a year ago," he added.

Gov. Gavin Newsom has been under intense political pressure to get California's 6.2 million students back in classrooms. He told reporters Tuesday that 9,000 of the state's 11,000 public schools "have committed to reopening or have already opened," which he attributed to the state's $6.6 billion plan to urge more school districts to reopen classrooms.

RELATED: Scholars believe timing of possible Newsom recall election may be beneficial to governor

He didn't say how many schools are actually open or how much instruction they are providing. Critics say that the state has failed to define what "open" means, giving schools the ability to bring back students for one day a week and still tap the state funding.

"This is dynamic it's moving very, very quickly," Newsom said at a school in Alameda County.

He said that 400,000 teachers and school staff had been vaccinated as of Tuesday, helping to fuel the reopening momentum across the state. Lack of vaccine remains a problem, though, with demand far outstripping supply.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Copyright © 2021 KFSN-TV. All Rights Reserved.