California Governor Gavin Newsom said he expects all schools in the state to be prepared to return to in-person learning by the next school year. More than 9,000 of the state’s 11,000 schools have already returned to the classroom or have announced dates to do so, he said Wednesday. 

“This is a challenging transition, but we’re finally at that point,” he said. “We can do this. We must do it. We must do it sustainably, and we must prepare now for full in-person instruction come next school year.” 

Newsom does not have the authority to force schools to reopen, as each individual California school district sets its own rules. The governor encouraged school leaders to reimagine the calendar, such as by extending the length of the school day and year.

“We’re in a farming community, which I know well, but, we no longer need to be tied to an agrarian calendar,” he said. “Who says you have to end on June 1 or June 15? Who says that? We’re not saying that. We’re saying the opposite.” 

Newsom acknowledged that teachers have been working under “challenging” and “incredibly difficult” circumstances during the pandemic. 

He noted that California lawmakers earlier this year approved $6.6 billion in funding to help schools reopen, and federal funding would also be available. 

The Democratic governor, who is facing a recall effort and has been criticized for the pace of the state’s reopening, announced earlier this month that businesses can reopen while still following safety precautions, such as mask-wearing, on June 15.