California schools made national headlines this week for finally allowing students inside classrooms for the first time in over a year, but did they really reopen?
Students, parents, teachers, and community members, who rallied outside the San Diego Education Association headquarters this week demand a real return to school.
“Going to school and not being able to work with other kids and do hands-on is not real school,” Addison Basquez, a San Diego seventh grader, said of her return to the classroom this week. Her classroom time is limited to two days a week, four hours a day.
“I had to go to science class and watch videos of a popsicle melting, instead of just doing it hands on,” she added. “That is school for me, every day, Monday and Tuesday.”
Basquez is just one in the growing list of students feeling the toll – educationally and mentally – of continued school closures. Increasingly, researchers are finding that students forced to learn over Zoom or some other online platform are falling behind in core subjects like math and reading, and are experiencing loneliness, anxiety, and stress from the lack of engagement with their peers.
This while evidence shows schools can safely reopen, and in fact, many are doing so across the country.
So why, if students are suffering at home and science confirms a full reopening can be done safely, do California’s largest school districts remain shuttered? Teachers Unions – including the San Diego Education Association – that continue to put their own demands above student needs.
“The teachers’ union does not care about our kids,” said Cecilia Iglesias, executive director of education and community relations at the California Policy Center and founder of the Parent Union. “All they care about is themselves and what’s the benefit for them. It’s time that we as parents and community members tell them, ‘enough is enough. Get out of our way, we want our kids to be in full-time instruction, five days a week.’”
Other rally participants echoed Iglesias.
“When the going gets tough – and boy, did this pandemic get tough – the tough get going,” said San Diego Education Justice Warriors member Michelle Anderson, reflecting on the ways community members and organizations have stepped up over the past year to help their neighbors. “And then there was the SDEA. When the going got tough, they just dug in their heels and negotiated (a memorandum of understanding) that benefitted themselves at the expense of children and families.”
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Chantal Lovell is the communications director at California Policy Center.