The Coast News Group
Emanuele Rimini
Emanuele Rimini, a junior at Canyon Crest Academy, holds a sign on Dec. 17 protesting the San Dieguito Union High School District's resolution to return to in-person learning by January. Photo by Steve Puterski
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Students, teachers voice opposition to SDUHSD reopening plans

ENCINITAS — The San Dieguito Union High School District board’s controversial resolution allowing in-person instruction by January has motivated students, faculty and teachers unions to voice their opposition to the district’s plans.

Tracy Yates, a founding faculty member and teacher at Canyon Crest Academy, described the mood among teachers as “defeated.” Yates said she only knows of one teacher who is in favor of reopening campuses to in-person instruction.

Describing a complicated situation in which the administrators at Canyon Crest are supportive, “making every effort to make the best of the situation,” while the SDUHSD district School Board themselves, Yates is worried.

“We’ve been such a collaborative district for so long,” Yates, who has taught in the district for over 20 years, added. “I think we’re just all blown away by the fact that none of our voices are being heard anymore. It feels like [faculty and the school board] are moving from battle to battle.

“It seems the days of working together as a team are all but gone and it is terrifying as an educator in this district to see how detrimental this will be to our students’ and schools’ futures,” Yates said.

According to Yates, the consequences of such conflict between the district and faculty association will not only negatively impact future enrollment numbers but also reduce retention of full-time staff and substitute teachers.

The Coast News was unable to find a teacher willing to speak publicly in support of reopening campuses to in-person instruction.

Students have also joined in protest of the district’s reopening plans.

In response to comments made on Dec. 15 by newly-appointed Trustee Mike Allman ascribing the value of student input as “near zero,” Canyon Crest Academy students Omid Fouladpouri, Andrew Gao and Emanuele Rimini organized a socially-distanced protest outside the district’s Dec. 17 meeting at Earl Warren Middle School in Solana Beach.

The students opposed the district’s“unsafe reopening” plans which they believe will put both faculty and students at risk and called on board members to better integrate students’ opinions into the decision-making process.

During the meeting, Allman clarified his previous statement.

“I value your input, I truly do,” Allman said. “I hope you will see that it has always been my input to work hard so you and the 13,000 students have the best possible district and the wonderful education you deserve.”

However, Fouladpouri, Gao, and Rimini view Allman’s retraction as “performative.”

“The board serves the community and the students,” Gao said. “They should take our interests and opinions into account because they are representing us. We go to these schools and our teachers are the ones at risk.”

According to Rimini, following Allman’s comment on Dec 15, the number of students involved and interested in how the board makes decisions has spiked.

“If you’re making decisions for a party of people, you might want to get their opinions, no matter how young, old or educated,” Rimini said. “We are humans who can think of ourselves and if we disagree, [the board] should be working with us to teach us the nuances of their plan, but they just aren’t and then they call us ‘too young.’”

All three students acknowledged the challenges of distance learning and the pandemic’s negative impact on mental health, however, they suggested the district fund other creative solutions addressing students’ emotional and psychological well-being.

“We must also, after this whole situation passes, ask ourselves, why were we in this situation in the first place,” Fouladpouri asked. “How can we prevent this from happening again by allowing teachers and students a real voice in decisions made by the district?”