Parents push for full-time return to school

Posted at 5:30 PM, Dec 15, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-15 20:30:02-05

San Diego, CA (KGTV) - Parents of students in the San Dieguito Union High School District are rallying ahead of Tuesday evening's school board meeting.

A small group gathered in the parking lot of a Solana Beach middle school to watch the meeting online.

They want students to return to campus full-time in January.

"It's been such a terrible travesty for these kids," said Lori Larocque.

The Carmel Valley mom has twin boys at Pacific Trails Middle School.

At one point, one of her sons was doing remote learning from campus.

Even though it was a modified version, she says the difference was dramatic.

"It was really surreal to see them. They have the same classes and the same teachers," said Larocque.

She said once she sent her other son back to campus, the improvement was immediate.

"He just went from being sort of despondent and sort of frustrated at home and his spirits lifted, and he stood taller, he was excited to put his backpack on and actually step on campus," said Larocque.

The California Teachers' Association sent the district a cease and desist letter. The union says having students and staff return to campus while the county is in the purple tier is not safe.

Duncan Brown is a school counselor and the president of the San Dieguito Faculty Association.

"It doesn't make sense to open up on January 4th, seventy-two hours after New Years Eve, with no baseline testing of students coming in. We have two weeks of winter break where we know families will be traveling extensively, and it just doesn't make sense to come back immediately after those holidays," said Brown.

No one from the superintendent's office would comment ahead of Tuesday's meeting, but district spokesman Miquel Jacobs sent 10News the following statement.

"Our schools remain open and will continue to provide targeted support for small priority groups of students to ensure our most vulnerable students can access in-person teaching and learning. School sites will also continue expanding access for groups of students to be on campus. We continue to closely monitor state guidance and continue to work with local public health, and update our Safe Reopening Page. Our plans remain focused on a safe return to campus for all students, and we will continue working towards the goal of providing a one day of week in-person option as well as continue to offer an online option for students beginning the week of January 4, 2021.

The number of students throughout San Diego County participating in full-time in-person learning, hybrid learning, and distance learning is available at the San Diego County of Education School Reopening Dashboard [], including the numbers in each category for all 10 schools within SDUHSD. "

Brown said the district has not offered any alternatives to teachers who may be at high risk for getting COVID-19.

"The district has maintained that if they are able to teach virtually, then they're able to teach in the classroom in front of students," said Brown.

Union leaders estimate that roughly 10% or sixty teachers won't return if they have to teach in person in January.

"They would be required to make the choice between health and safety or their livelihood. The district has made very little provisions as far as any distant learning opportunities for them," said Brown.

Michael Allman, a newly elected trustee, will ask the board to approve a five day a week return to campus by the end of January.

Larocque is all for it.

"I'm hoping that they will advocate for a swift, and of course, safe return to full-time campus learning for those who wish to come back."

According to the California Department of Public Health, once a county falls back into the most restrictive purple tier, school sites that were already operating in some capacity would not be required to close, but schools that had not opened yet, would not be able to do so.