Local School Districts Just Say ‘No’ to Physical School Re-openings

The traditional yellow school buses will be mothballed fopr this comig school year. – Photo by Terry Miller / Beacon Media News

‘Surging coronavirus cases, testing woes make opening safely all but impossible’ CFT

Last week, the L.A. County Department of Public Health and the L.A. County Office of Education (LACOE) issued new guidelines and protocols for opening K-12 schools in the new academic year. Public Health stated that, given current health data, we must all prepare to remain in a remote learning environment in the new school year. 

The California Federation of Teachers (CFT), which represents 120,000 teachers and school employees, sent a letter to Governor Gavin Newsom and the Legislature last week, before the governor announced his plans for schools on Friday, asking state leaders to delay the physical reopening of schools and provide stronger direction to counties that “have been left on their own to make the difficult decision on whether it is safe to reopen schools.”

CFT President Jeff Freitas said in a written statement, “We urge the governor to take action and delay the reopening of schools until we can guarantee our schools are safe. The stakes are as high as it gets, and we have only one chance to get this right.”

Earlier this month, White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow dismissed the difficulties of getting students back into classrooms this fall as coronavirus cases continue to rise in many states and the school year nears, during an interview on CNN.

“Just go back to school, we can do that,” Kudlow told reporters on July 10. “And you know, you can social distance, you can get your temperature taken, you can be tested, you can have distancing — come on, it’s not that hard.”

On July 7, President Trump said he would pressure governors to reopen academic institutions, claiming they want to keep them closed for political reasons, not over concerns about spreading the virus.

“So, we’re very much going to put pressure on governors and everybody else to open the schools to get them open and it’s very important. It’s very important for our country. It’s very important for the well-being of the student and parents. So, we’re going to be putting a lot of pressure on opening your schools in the fall,” Trump said.

At the time, Rep. Bobby Scott, (D-Va.), the chair of the House education committee, said the president’s push to “prematurely reopen” schools ignored health experts and is “dangerous.”

“Even before the pandemic, our nation’s public schools were chronically underfunded,” Scott said. “Reopening schools now, without more investment, presents serious risks to the health and safety of our students and educators.”

According to reporting from ABC News, “Republican leaders on Capitol Hill have signaled they are in lockstep with the president in calling for schools to resume normal teaching in the fall, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has signaled there is a way to exert federal influence through the latest coronavirus relief package under negotiation. McConnell has specifically stressed the importance of securing liability protections for schools.”

In a press briefing Thursday, White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany’s diatribe included the following: “Science should not stand in the way of” schools fully reopening. Asked about the president’s message to parents as some districts announce plans to go fully online, McEnany said “the president has said unmistakably that he wants schools to open.”

Monrovia Unified School District (MUSD) recently held a series of webinars for parents and stakeholders regarding the district’s school reopening plan. The webinar discussed the possibility of having students attend school, but not in a traditional manner.

“The spike of COVID-19 cases in Los Angeles County correlated positively with the steady increase in the number of parents opting for distance learning in the most recent survey of Monrovia’s parents. The district had begun formulating plans for a modified in-person instructional model that would reduce the number of students in class by half and added safety measures to mitigate risk. The surge in COVID-19 cases, combined with parent preference, caused the Board to reconsider bringing students back and led to the difficult decision to focus solely on one model: 100% distance learning,” Monrovia Unified School District said in a written press release issued July 16.

MUSD’s first day of school is Wednesday, Aug. 19.

In response to the feedback from a survey, Pasadena Unified School District (PUSD) will offer a 100% online option in the core curriculum for K-12 students during the upcoming school year. “This online option will vary from the emergency remote learning model that was temporarily in place for Spring 2020 and have increased live interaction as a foundational feature,” PUSD officials said.

“We cannot and will not take chances with the health and safety of our students and staff. Pasadena Unified will open in a 100% distance learning model on Aug. 17,” Superintendent Brian McDonald said.  

The Arcadia Unified School District has been planning multiple contingencies for their reopening plan that will allow the district to flex and adjust plans as guided by Public Health and LACOE.

On Thursday, Arcadia Unified School District announced it will be utilizing distance learning to start the year. Their full update is on the district’s Facebook page and website

Major school districts across California including Oakland, Los Angeles, and San Diego, have already announced they will begin the fall term online with distance learning.

One county supervisor, Janice Hahn, has proposed a motion to use parks and libraries as alternate places of learning for the 2020-2021 school year. The motion would apply to unincorporated areas of Los Angeles County.

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