I’m the concerned grandparent of two elementary school children in your district. I’ve watched them and their parents doing their best this past year with online classrooms, in the interest of health and safety. It has been difficult and frustrating at best, with both parents juggling their demanding full-time jobs while trying to monitor and assist with their children’s’ education, support them emotionally and attend to ongoing technological needs. Of all the stresses of the pandemic, this has been the most consistently gut-wrenching and overwhelming over the long haul, and the cumulative damage to the children and their families is incalculable.
It is imperative that you pull your heads out of the sand, stop kicking the can forward, and take advantage of the substantial public health and funding support now available to get your schools back on an in-person classroom track. Teachers are lining up to be vaccinated ahead of many other needy and vulnerable groups; their prioritization is due to the reasonable assumption that they will be returning to the classroom this spring. Steps can and must be taken to open the schools, with necessary precautions taken to minimize risk and maximize the quality of a modified in-person experience for the children of South Bay.
I have two grandchildren in a different community who have been back in the classroom for quite a while, and the difference is night and day. With imagination and hard work by educators and parents alike, adjustments in class size and scheduling are successfully protecting the safety of all involved. I can personally attest that children in classrooms even part time are happier and learning at much faster pace than those still learning virtually at home full time, like the students in your district. There is no question, though your board and teachers’ union seem oblivious, unconcerned, even defiant of the facts: the children in your district are slipping behind, suffering from the hours of impersonal and inconsistent screen time, and desperately missing the social interactions which are so important to healthy childhood development. Parents are angry, exhausted and completely disheartened by the refusal of their public officials and apparently some educators to even pretend that getting back to the classroom is their primary objective. You have abdicated your responsibility to those who elected you, and I suspect they are not going to forget your indifference to their voices during this crisis.
You are public servants. Like boards all across our county and the country, do your jobs and figure this out, sooner, not later. Funding is available. Parents are willing to help. There are many creative, dedicated, committed teachers who are anxious to get back to some level of normalcy. Your community’s children are your primary responsibility, and they deserve so much better. They deserve your best efforts, not inaction driven by fear and inertia.