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A Parent Association of North County letter states how students are struggling due to virtual learning, among other concerns. Photo by Caitlin Steinberg
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Local parent association pushes back against union’s SDUHSD lawsuit

ENCINITAS — A group of parents is pushing back against a pair of teachers unions’ attempt to overturn San Dieguito Union High School District’s recent decision allowing for a complete return to in-person instruction by late January.

The Parent Association of North County released a statement criticizing the California Teachers Association and San Dieguito Faculty Association for filing a lawsuit requesting an injunction to specifically block reopening at Torrey Pines, Canyon Crest and La Costa Canyon high schools.

Ginny Merrifield, executive director of the parent association, said the unions keep moving “the goalposts” despite the district incorporating a variety of safety measures and protective gear.

Merrifield noted only 12 outbreaks have occurred at schools in San Diego County, according to data released by San Diego County.

However, the school board held a special meeting on Dec. 28 to discuss the CTA lawsuit. Merrifield’s letter states the organization agrees with the board’s decision to resume in-person school on Jan. 27.

“A very large percentage of the students in middle school and high school are not faring well under the distance learning model that was never intended to be a long-term solution,” Merrifield said. “We have a district who has put together a thoughtful plan that has been vetted by doctors. Now, we need an administration and teacher’s union to collaborate and make it happen because our children are suffering.”

The letter states how students are struggling mentally and academically due to virtual learning, while the unions are not respecting the choice of parents and students who wish to conduct in-person learning. According to the letter, parents are concerned about an increased risk of suicide while schools are distance-learning only.

Merrifield said numerous medical doctors, including two who spoke to the board, relayed their expertise telling the board about the benefits of in-person learning while mitigating the risk of teachers and others transmitting the virus.

Additionally, Merrifield cited the recently published statistic that schools have accounted for just 12 outbreaks across the county between March and November, as first reported by KPBS.

Screenshot/KPBS

Merrifield said teachers are valued and she, along with other parents, has called for the board to develop more passionate leave policies to support at-risk teachers.

“We support teachers fully,” she added. “We’re not asking for the entire school to be open fully and forcing every teacher back into the classroom. We don’t support that, but we do, unequivocally, support a choice to back full time for students.”

The union’s lawsuit comes as San Diego County remains in the state’s purple tier of COVID-19 guidelines, with public health officials reporting 3,132 new COVID-19 infections as of Dec. 28, according to staff and wire reports. The county’s cumulative cases increased to 145,779 and the death toll remained at 1,402.

The complaint alleges the district’s reopening plan violates both Gov. Gavin Newsom’s executive orders and California Department of Public Health’s guidelines, threatening the “health and safety” of students, teachers, faculty and “community-at-large.”

“The ultimate goal for us is to not reopen while we are in the purple tier and for (the school board) to reconsider its Jan. 27 proposal,” Duncan Brown, president of SDFA, told The Coast News in a previous interview. “Teachers want to come back onto campus and they want to teach our students in-person learning, there is no question about that. Our teachers are some of the best in the county — they are passionate about what they do, they love our students. We just want to return safely.”

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