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Vista Unified School District teachers rally over reopening plan

Posted at 6:01 PM, Oct 15, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-16 20:17:02-04

VISTA, Calif. (KGTV) — A group of teachers with the Vista Unified School District rallied Thursday against the district's current reopening plan.

The district's Board of Education voted late Thursday to finalize a plan to bring students and teachers back to in-person learning on Oct. 20. The group of teachers say there's now a chance they hold a vote over whether to vote of no confidence in the district's superintendent on Monday.

"We now face a rush to open without the protocols in place to ensure the health and safety of all stakeholders. School board members’ openly dismissive behavior toward educators and their safety concerns is hurtful and disappointing to every committed educator who calls VUSD their professional home," said Keri Avila, president of the Vista Teachers Association.

"We are extremely disappointed in the lack of concern expressed at last night’s board meeting for the health and safety of students, teachers, and staff. We have scheduled and emergency executive board meeting to determine next steps."

The board heard from parents and teachers on both sides. Some said they are for the full reopening, while others said bringing students back at normal capacity is too risky.

Many teachers have expressed concerns that the plan just isn't safe enough during a pandemic.

"I think it's reckless, I think it's misguided," said Craig Parrot, an eighth-grade science teacher at Roosevelt Middle School. "There are entire schools in our district that don't have windows that open, kids are coming in without temperature checks."

Parents that want to keep their students in virtual distance learning may do so.

While many school districts have limited the number of students returning in-person, Vista Unified's website states, "It is important to note that while many health and safety precautions are in place for the Vista Classic learning model, all classrooms will have the normal amount of students enrolled. This means that while we will be following social distancing procedures, student seating arrangements will be less than six feet apart."

Parrott said he was able to continue with distance learning because a colleague who teaches the same subject will return in-person.

"The kids are too close, we have desks that are 6 inches or 12 inches apart," said Parrott.

The Vista Teachers Association (VTA) sent ABC 10News pictures showing what they call a lack of spacing in between desks in some classrooms.

Members of the VTA worry about the spread of COVID-19 as teachers and students return to school. Avila started a petition demanding that the Vista Unified Board of Education Trustees modify the reopening plans.

"We want our district to mitigate the 'Four C's', that is close, closed, crowded and continuous," said Avila. "They're going to be in crowded conditions especially if we have 38 kids in a room at one time."

The district's Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Matt Doyle, sent the following statement to ABC 10News.

We care deeply about all of our teachers and staff in Vista Unified. We have been committed to working in partnership with our employee groups to make the necessary preparations for a safe school reopening.

On September 10, 2020, the school board approved a memorandum of understanding with the Vista Teachers Association for school reopening. This MOU was developed collaboratively with the VTA leadership. This MOU contains the details of the school reopening plan, including the definition of "as practicable." We will continue to listen with understanding and empathy to teachers and staff.

We have a board meeting scheduled for this evening. Our Board President has agendized the school reopening plan in a proactive effort to make sure that all members of the community, including teachers, have the opportunity to address the board.

Our school district has a dual obligation to fulfill during these challenging times. Our first obligation is to ensure a safe and healthy environment. To this end, we have carefully followed all of the requirements outlined in the California Department of Public Health guidelines. Our second obligation is to ensure that all students have access to a high quality learning environment and grade level standards. To that end, we are committed to following the requirements outlined in the Senate Bill 98 that specifically states that districts are required to provide classroom-based instruction where ever possible.

Finally, our district is grounded in four values: trust, respect, collaboration and equity. These values define how we behave and treat each other.