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Commentary: A message from parents

We love our teachers. They are our neighbors, friends and our children’s heroes. We cheer from the same sidelines and attend the same performances.

Each and every teacher is important, as they are the essential workers we depend on to provide our children a quality education.

Thanks to a well-trained, professional teaching staff and highly engaged and supportive parents, North County school districts are some of the best in San Diego County.

Highly ranked quality schools are the reason most of us choose to live in this community, and our public school teachers provide access to the high quality educational experiences we all want for our children and to which they are entitled under the California Constitution.

Most teachers are doing their very best to provide instruction remotely. We fully acknowledge it is difficult. However, academic instruction is only part of the learning experience students need for social, emotional, and intellectual development.

When academic instruction is provided remotely — no matter how well — students are deprived of virtually everything else they need beyond subject matter content. While some students are faring well with the solitude of distance learning, many are not, and some are in true crisis. Most teachers know this to be the unfortunate reality.

It’s too early to evaluate the data on how distance learning will impact students long term. However, sugar-coating the effectiveness of the distance learning model by citing attendance rates and a CoVitality survey does not resonate with parents who are seeing first-hand the effects of isolation and disengagement at a critical time in their children’s lives.

Many teachers also know it is possible to reopen schools safely. With proper PPE and social distancing, elementary schools in Carlsbad, Vista and Del Mar, as well as independent secondary schools in our neighborhoods like Cathedral Catholic and Pacific Ridge School, have opened safely.

Public high schools in Orange County are open and operating on a hybrid model allowing 73% of students to attend schools in person. Many schools across the country have opened safely. Schools in other countries never closed.

The evidence is clear: Schools are not primary vectors of transmission, and positive cases can be managed with appropriate quarantine protocols. Guidance for safe reopening from the County Health Department has been available since early summer. Uncertainty about virus transmission may have been the initial reason to close schools last March, but we now know so much more.

Our schools can open safely by following well-established protocols used by many schools across the county that are offering in-person instruction without increasing community spread.

While we love our teachers, we do not love the tactics of their unions to prevent the reopening of schools. After 309 days, these tactics to keep schools closed are doing irreparable harm to our children and to the public school system we all cherish and depend on as a community.

Let’s finally put students’ needs first and find the path to restoring our school communities, not just in spite of the pandemic but rather because of it. It can be done safely. It is being done safely.

We implore the leadership of school districts and the leadership of the teachers’ unions across North County to put aside the politics and rhetoric.

You alone have the power to reopen our schools. Have the courage and the vision to do what is right for the students.

Respectfully submitted,

The leadership team of the Parent Association of North County San Diego, representing the following school districts, Carlsbad Unified, Encinitas Union, Oceanside Unified, Poway Unified, San Dieguito Union, San Marcos Unified and Vista Unified.

Jana Anderson, Melanie Burkholder, Erika Daniels, Scott Davison, Dave DeVries, Gina Fierro, Kim Fogel, Aurora Guel, Bernadette Howarth, Liz Ingle, David King, Todd Maddison, Sharon McKeeman, Ginny Merrifield, Liz Parker, Allison Stratton