Fresno, Clovis leaders call on Gov. Newsom to allow in-person classes at local schools

Fresno city councilmembers Garry Bredefeld and Mike Karbassi released statements saying, "the well-being of our children is at stake," if schools do not reopen.
FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- It's a battle over the classroom.

City leaders with Fresno and Clovis stood together on Thursday calling on California Gov. Gavin Newsom to allow Valley students the option for in-person education in the fall.

Governor Newsom announced almost two weeks ago that counties on the state's watch list would not be allowed in-person instruction.

His announcement drew mixed reviews, but people are in agreement about one thing there is no 'one size fits all' solution.

Catherine and Jason Peters were among a handful of parents at the Fresno City Hall Thursday, standing in solidarity with city leaders, urging the Governor to allow schools to reopen.

"I am in limbo right now about whether or not I'm going to be needing to leave my job in terms of staying home and facilitating them on their online schooling," said Peters.

Councilmembers Garry Bredefeld and Mike Karbassi are passionate in wanting schools to reopen as soon as it's safe to do so, partially because of the support systems in place on campus.

"We cannot live in fear and watch our children be destroyed and that's what we're witnessing right now.... Child and sexual abuse has gone unreported. Substance use, depression, suicidal ideation are also detected in school but not happening now," said Bredefeld. "The available evidence provides reason to believe in-person schooling is in the best interest of the children."

The governor's guidelines that students in counties on the state's watch list should stay at home came as school districts were proposing reopening plans.

"I'm here today because a librarian helped me when I was a student," said Karbassi.

Valley Children's Hospital CEO Todd Suntrapek said he doesn't argue school is the best place for kids - in ordinary times.

"The discussion we need to be having is how do we create the safest space for kids in extraordinary times," he said.

City leaders cited the AAP and CDC's guidance, noting CDC's website says children appear to be at lower risk for contracting COVID 19 compared to adults.

But, the science behind whether schools are ready to reopen isn't settled. Doctors admit they do not fully understand the effect COVID-19 has on children.

New guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) claimed extended closures could be harmful to children's mental health and education, especially low-income and minority students who need specific resources schools provide.

However, the CDC also said school administrators should consider the level of COVID-19's transmission rates in their areas before making a decision on reopening.

Fresno, Kings, Tulare, Madera, and Merced counties are all on the state's watch list for increasing COVID-19 transmission levels. Hospital and ICU capacities have also been overwhelmed, local health officials reported, including at Valley Children's Hospital.

Last week, with coronavirus cases continuing to surge in Central California, doctors at Valley Children's Hospital said now is not the right time to be reopening schools.
RELATED: Valley Children's Hospital warns of dangerous COVID-19 complications in kids

18% of COVID-19 patients at Valley Children's end up in intensive care.

"Kids that are 10 - 19 in age have an infection rate of over 18% which would suggest they have the ability to transmit the virus at the same rate as the adult population," said Suntrapek on Thursday.

Several school districts have outlined proposed plans for what safely returning to school will look like.

For more news coverage on the coronavirus and COVID-19 go to ABC30.com/coronavirus
Copyright © 2020 KFSN-TV. All Rights Reserved.