Gov. Gavin Newsom remained hopeful Friday of reaching a deal with state lawmakers early next week to speed the reopening of public schools that have been closed for nearly a year by the pandemic.

But he also acknowledged: “We’ve been at this since December.”

So what’s the holdup? As schools across the state grope toward reopening at vastly different paces — with those serving the neediest students often furthest behind — politicians in Sacramento are struggling to craft an approach that meets the needs of districts large and small to get kids back into classrooms quickly. Teacher unions, influential in the Democrat-led Capitol, have said infection rates must fall much lower or teachers must be vaccinated first before returning to in-person instruction.

A spokeswoman for Assemblyman Phil Ting, D-San Francisco, who has led the legislative effort on school reopening, sounded less hopeful Friday of an imminent resolution.

“Sorry to say still no movement,” Ting’s aide Nannette Miranda said Friday, adding “it’s hard to say when a vote will occur” on legislation introduced Feb. 18 that Ting co-sponsored calling for elementary schools to reopen by April 15 if they are out of the state’s most restrictive “purple tier” for widespread infection rates.

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Newsom and lawmakers agree remote online “distance learning” has proven a poor substitute for in-person instruction, that schools need to reopen more quickly, that they need more money to do so and that school staff should be prioritized for vaccines but not necessarily all vaccinated before reopening.

But the two sides’ competing plans differ in whether they set a firm date and metric for reopening and on details of required safety measures and other conditions.

The governor’s “Safe Schools for All Plan” from December enticed schools to reopen quickly with promises of $2 billion in funding and guidance.

But although the plan eased the bar for elementary schools to reopen even in the purple tier if their county’s daily case rates fall to or below 25 per 100,000 people, it set no firm metric or date by which they must return kids to the classroom. Seven of the state’s largest districts — Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco, Oakland, Sacramento, Fresno and Long Beach — called it unworkable, and it hit quicksand in the legislature.

Ting had introduced a bill in December — AB 10 — that would have required schools in March to reopen within two weeks of coming out of the purple-tier infection rate, setting a clear threshold for when in-person instruction resumes. But it too stalled.

The pair of bills introduced Feb. 18 — AB and SB 86 — that would make elementary schools in counties where infection rates are below the purple tier open no later than April 15 drew immediate praise from six of the seven large districts that had blasted Newsom’s plan.

In a joint statement, they said its “clear guidelines” underscore the need to “control community spread of the virus” and recognize “the critical role vaccinations for all school staff play.”

San Diego Unified, the state’s second-largest, has since announced plans to return to in-person learning April 12, which Ting said Friday on Twitter was in part due to the legislation.

But San Francisco Unified, which did not join in the districts’ statement of support for Ting’s plan, has since been sued by the city over reopening, and districts around the state continue laboring at their own pace on reopening.

Many school administrators, trustees, education offices and districts said the proposed legislation would only make reopening harder, echoing Newsom’s earlier criticism.

In a joint letter led by the Association of California School Administrators and the California School Boards Association, they said the bills would “further complicate and undermine” efforts to reopen schools as quickly as possible and could even “force some schools currently open to close.”

Among the issues they cited was a lack of clarity over vaccines. While the bills “do not require schools to make vaccines available to school staff prior to reopening,” they don’t provide “explicit language stating vaccine access is not a condition for returning to work and providing in-person instruction.”

“Without this language,” they wrote, “we are concerned vaccine access will be used as a reason to stall reopening efforts.”

Among the more than 50 organizations that signed the letter were the offices of education in Alameda, Contra Costa and San Mateo counties and the Campbell Union and San Jose and Mt. Diablo unified school districts.

Edgar S. Zazueta, senior director of policy and governmental relations at the Association of California School Administrators, said they had urged lawmakers to “create a clear standard that when schools meet a particular health metric, they should be expected to begin the transition to in-person learning.”

But Zazueta said “the more they tinkered with more conditions and guidelines, the more complicated it was making it for our school leaders.”

“Ultimately, that is why we landed on a position of ‘do no harm’ given the momentum that we currently are experiencing to reopen more schools in California,” Zazueta said. “With that said, we wouldn’t be opposed to a mandate to move to in-person instruction for those districts that cannot seem to achieve agreement.”

The governor has resisted calls to set a firm reopening requirement and has set aside 10% of the state’s vaccine supply starting Monday for school staff.

“We can get this done,” Newsom said Friday. “That’s what we’re working on with the legislature, and I’m eager to see that happen.”