They came with family members, colorful signs and a desire to reopen schools as soon as possible.
A crowd of about 50 parents, students and advocates rallied outside Beckman High School on Tuesday, Sept. 8, for the swift reopening of schools for an array of educational, economic and social reasons.
While more than 100 Orange County elementary schools – mostly private – have reopened their campuses using a state waiver option, tens of thousands of students have started the school year learning virtually from home.
This week, Orange County was moved by the state from the most restrictive purple tier of its monitor system for how the speed and spread of the virus is trending in each county to the red tier, which still considers there to be “substantial risk” for the virus’s transmission.
Some districts are planning for a return to at least some in-person instruction on or soon after Sept. 22 – now the earliest schools without the waiver are expected to be allowed to have students on campus, if health conditions permit. But other district are holding back, planning to watch the process a little longer or worried about hot spots in their communities. They have set tentative dates in October or haven’t announced plans at all.
The rally’s message: “fully” reopen all schools and give parents the choice on whether to send their children for in-person instruction.
“At least there (should) be an option for that – for parents to make the choice to send their kids back to school full-time,” said Kevin O’Donnell of Mission Viejo, the father of three and one of the organizers of the rally, which was coordinated Tuesday with several others across the state.
He, like many present, expressed frustration with recent changes in how the state is monitoring the virus that pushed out the timeline for when districts could consider a return to campus. “It should have already happened. It should be happening today (Sept. 8),” he said.
Tamara Ponce of Orange, a mother of six children, said she wants schools to reopen because her 18-year-old son with special needs requires in-person therapy and has struggled with distance learning.
“He gets occupational therapy, speech and vision therapy,” she said. “There’s nothing for him to do. He’s just so bored, and I’m not a therapist. I’m not able to give him what he needs.”
Cecilia Iglesias, a former Santa Ana councilwoman and founder of the Parents Union, said she believes giving parents the choice to send their children back to school would especially help the Latino community.
“Parents are feeling stressed,” she said. “Their kids aren’t learning. They’re feeling challenged with all the technological gadgets.”
She said a lot of the parent are also essential workers and can’t work from home.
“They’re out of the homes and they’re not able to spend as much time as other parents with their kids,” she said. “So their kids are just pretty much teaching themselves. They’re suffering.”
Drake Foley, a 12-year-old from Newport Beach, held the sign: “Re-open California schools and sports.” The seventh grader said he enjoys playing volleyball.
“(I’m here) so I can go back to school, see my friends again and I can socialize and actually do some sports and not just PE online, we do nothing but sit there,” said Foley, who attended the rally with his mother, Kelly.
Kelly Foley, who also has a son in high school, said she is also frustrated with distance learning, which in some school districts will soon be balanced with in-person instruction in a hybrid system to still limit how many students are on a campus at any one time.
“It’s incredible how many kids actually want to go to school,” she said. “They want to be with their friends. They want to socialize. They want to have peer-to-peer interaction. They want to do activities with their friends.”
The rally lasted about an hour on the sidewalk in front of the Beckman High campus. The school’s parking lots were barricaded before the rally because of security and safety issues, Tustin Unified spokesman Mark Eliot said.
— Dan Albano (@ocvarsityguy) September 9, 2020
Source: Orange County Register