Wednesday was supposed to be the day Jessica Brown’s first-grader, Isaiah, would return to the classroom for the first time since the coronavirus shuttered schools across California last March.
It dawned instead with Isaiah outside a closed Berkeley elementary campus with his mother, sister and dozens of other frustrated parents and kids, scribbling out letters to school officials and even Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, who once attended district schools, urging reopening.
Two weeks after Gov. Gavin Newsom announced a $2 billion plan to help the state’s public schools return kids to classrooms, parents are seeing little movement toward opening the doors and patience is wearing thin, with many fearing even a fall reopening is uncertain.
“It’s a complex issue,” Brown said. “But at a certain point, people just are pulling their hair out. Enough is enough! We’ve seen solutions work in other places as well as in private schools. If they can do it, why can’t we?”
Wednesday’s demonstration was among the first in the Bay Area since Newsom announced his proposed budget last Friday, devoting significant amounts of a projected $15 billion surplus toward dealing with the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic. Los Gatos families held a similar demonstration last week.
While parents were grateful for Newsom’s extra support for reopening schools, they were disappointed when he said he would not mandate that districts open, preferring an “open hand” to a “closed fist” approach and providing “incentives for behavior we want to see.”
But Jamila Dunn, mother of a Berkeley first-grader, said “they’re not going to do anything without a mandate.”
The demonstration came on a day when the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a report adding growing evidence that schools aren’t fueling coronavirus outbreaks.
With 62% of U.S. K-12 school districts offering either fully open campuses or a “hybrid” mix of online and in-person learning, outbreaks have been “limited” and COVID-19 infections in counties where K-12 schools offer in-person education were similar to that in counties offering only online education. The agency recommended that K-12 schools be the last to close and the first to reopen due to community coronavirus transmission.
“It drives me crazy that retail stores are a priority over education,” Brown said.
Berkeley Unified School District Superintendent Brent Stephens said the current outbreak spike that began in November put Wednesday’s planned reopening of the 10,000-student district on ice. He would not guess when kids might return to class, though he said the hope is before the end of the academic year and summer break.
“Permission to reopen is tied to a number of important metrics related to COVID19,” Stephens said. “All of those metrics are trending in the wrong direction right now, and have been for many weeks.”
The district has been in negotiations with its teachers union on terms for reopening, but the two sides remain far apart. The district wants all teachers to be prepared to teach in-person except those with approved work-from-home accommodations, while teachers say only those who volunteer should teach kids in class.
The district wants to reopen when county …read more
Source:: The Mercury News – Entertainment