News

Guest opinion: Parents urge Sequoia district to reopen in red tier

An empty Menlo-Atherton High School campus in Atherton on March 16, 2020. Photo by Magali Gauthier.

Dear Sequoia Union High School District Board of Trustees, Interim Superintendent Crystal Leach, and Sequoia District Teachers Association president Edith Salvatore:

As parent leaders, we ask the district to prioritize the safe reopening of campuses during the remainder of the 2020-21 school year, for purposes of in-person pupil reengagement and instruction.

We are deeply concerned about the negative impact of distance learning on children. We would like to offer our help — in any way we can — to enable the safe and swift return of students and teachers to campus for in-person instruction.

We believe a commitment to returning to in-person, on-campus learning with direct instruction begins with a detailed, submitted and widely communicated plan. We understand reopening can't happen until local and state health orders allow. While high-level proposals have been circulated, they lack specificity, which raises questions about their suitability and true readiness. We understand there are concerns and constraints (such as the current capacity of available properly ventilated rooms); however, rather than posing these constraints as obstacles, a thorough examination of how to operationalize reopening, given the known constraints, should be part of the plan.

In addition, we understand all stakeholders will need, in the short term, to be creative and flexible about solutions. We know not every family or teacher can return in person and a distance learning option must remain for those who are medically fragile or quarantining from COVID-19.

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Per the district's own Dec. 9, 2020, survey results, 43% of 3,770 SUHSD respondents would like their children to attend as much in-person school as possible when the county moves into the red tier — which is expected to happen very soon. Fifty-seven percent would like their children on campus should the county hit the orange tier. And more than three-quarters — 76% — want them back if we move into yellow. It is clear the majority of families in SUHSD will want in-person instruction soon. As some proposed legislation and discussions state, schools need to be ready to offer on-campus learning within two weeks of local or state public health orders allowing school campuses to be open. We are at — or close to — that trigger.

Convincing data shows that in-person instruction is safe with universal masking, social distancing, screening measures and regular testing. We can look to Menlo Park City School District for an example of how labor representatives have worked cooperatively and collaboratively with the district to allow for in-person instruction. We are grateful for how hard teachers and staff have worked to deliver distance learning; their efforts are appreciated and recognized. But now it is time to get back to in-person instruction — the way we know students are best able to succeed, as every child deserves a chance to reach his or her own potential.

While we applaud efforts to bring extracurricular cohorts and activities back to campus, such efforts are not enough — and they do not replace nor preclude the importance of getting children back at school for in-person, on-campus direct instruction.

We have studied California's Safe Schools for All Plan and we expect a detailed SUHSD plan for a return to in-person instruction; we stand ready to help and support with its implementation and dissemination, or any other way you see fit.

Parent leaders from across Sequoia Union High School District: Tricia Barr, Jacqui Cebrian, Sarah Eisner, Becky and Aaron Cordero, Tish and Ivan Costantini, Julia and Christian Fex, Cortney and Tommy Hyland, Tina Lin, Andrea Luskin, Linda McGeever, Jeff and Jennifer Moon, Taylor Perkins, Matt and Sonia Presotto, Sarah Ravella, Danielle and John Ryan, and Julie and Rick Thall. Learn more about the group at reopensuhsd.com.

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Guest opinion: Parents urge Sequoia district to reopen in red tier

by / Almanac

Uploaded: Fri, Feb 19, 2021, 11:35 am

Dear Sequoia Union High School District Board of Trustees, Interim Superintendent Crystal Leach, and Sequoia District Teachers Association president Edith Salvatore:

As parent leaders, we ask the district to prioritize the safe reopening of campuses during the remainder of the 2020-21 school year, for purposes of in-person pupil reengagement and instruction.

We are deeply concerned about the negative impact of distance learning on children. We would like to offer our help — in any way we can — to enable the safe and swift return of students and teachers to campus for in-person instruction.

We believe a commitment to returning to in-person, on-campus learning with direct instruction begins with a detailed, submitted and widely communicated plan. We understand reopening can't happen until local and state health orders allow. While high-level proposals have been circulated, they lack specificity, which raises questions about their suitability and true readiness. We understand there are concerns and constraints (such as the current capacity of available properly ventilated rooms); however, rather than posing these constraints as obstacles, a thorough examination of how to operationalize reopening, given the known constraints, should be part of the plan.

In addition, we understand all stakeholders will need, in the short term, to be creative and flexible about solutions. We know not every family or teacher can return in person and a distance learning option must remain for those who are medically fragile or quarantining from COVID-19.

Per the district's own Dec. 9, 2020, survey results, 43% of 3,770 SUHSD respondents would like their children to attend as much in-person school as possible when the county moves into the red tier — which is expected to happen very soon. Fifty-seven percent would like their children on campus should the county hit the orange tier. And more than three-quarters — 76% — want them back if we move into yellow. It is clear the majority of families in SUHSD will want in-person instruction soon. As some proposed legislation and discussions state, schools need to be ready to offer on-campus learning within two weeks of local or state public health orders allowing school campuses to be open. We are at — or close to — that trigger.

Convincing data shows that in-person instruction is safe with universal masking, social distancing, screening measures and regular testing. We can look to Menlo Park City School District for an example of how labor representatives have worked cooperatively and collaboratively with the district to allow for in-person instruction. We are grateful for how hard teachers and staff have worked to deliver distance learning; their efforts are appreciated and recognized. But now it is time to get back to in-person instruction — the way we know students are best able to succeed, as every child deserves a chance to reach his or her own potential.

While we applaud efforts to bring extracurricular cohorts and activities back to campus, such efforts are not enough — and they do not replace nor preclude the importance of getting children back at school for in-person, on-campus direct instruction.

We have studied California's Safe Schools for All Plan and we expect a detailed SUHSD plan for a return to in-person instruction; we stand ready to help and support with its implementation and dissemination, or any other way you see fit.

Parent leaders from across Sequoia Union High School District: Tricia Barr, Jacqui Cebrian, Sarah Eisner, Becky and Aaron Cordero, Tish and Ivan Costantini, Julia and Christian Fex, Cortney and Tommy Hyland, Tina Lin, Andrea Luskin, Linda McGeever, Jeff and Jennifer Moon, Taylor Perkins, Matt and Sonia Presotto, Sarah Ravella, Danielle and John Ryan, and Julie and Rick Thall. Learn more about the group at reopensuhsd.com.

Comments

Boy Howdy
Registered user
Portola Valley: Ladera
on Feb 19, 2021 at 1:35 pm
Boy Howdy, Portola Valley: Ladera
Registered user
on Feb 19, 2021 at 1:35 pm

High Schoolers have been forgotten in this pandemic. Science has been disregarded. Ruled by the collective fear and strength of the teachers unions and relative weakness of our state government and school boards, California high schools have remained largely shuttered, leaving our community's young adults not only at risk, but already harmed - physically, emotionally, psychologically & academically.

While we all understand it's logistically easier to reopen elementary schools, I would argue it's more important and imperative for high schoolers. Our state & school leadership need to sharpen their pencils and oversight and get our high schools open asap. You don't even have to get that creative. A great starting point are the myriad schools across this large country who have reopened successfully and can serve as wonderful benchmarks. I find it ironic and disheartening that our public high schools schools haven't practiced the the very things they teach - science & case studies - to navigate toward solutions that are so obvious and within reach. Our comparators aren't other schools in the County or even California. Benchmark successful school re-openings, don't pat yourselves on the back for being the first in the County to submit a plan (that got rejected).

It's well past time to treat this like the crisis it is. If resources don't allow for that - put other business on the back burner for now. You say you want to reopen as much as parents do. Your words ring hollow. Show us a timeline. Put a stake in the ground with the County and tell them when you want to pilot reopening this year so you can hit the ground running next Fall.

This isn't rocket science. It's just science.


Amy H
Registered user
Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
on Feb 19, 2021 at 1:37 pm
Amy H, Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
Registered user
on Feb 19, 2021 at 1:37 pm

It is vital that we speak up for our children and get them back in the classroom where they belong. We have passed the Covid safety threshold of the CDC (in terms of positive cases) and are almost in the red tier which is the state's threshold for a safe reopening. How is it that we have no approved plan when our district has had 6 months to figure things out? Please keep fighting for our kids until the school board, superintendent, and Sequoia District Teacher's Association (our local union) know you by name.


Tracie
Registered user
Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Feb 19, 2021 at 5:54 pm
Tracie, Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
Registered user
on Feb 19, 2021 at 5:54 pm

Our teenagers are the ones who have been forgotten and ignored this past year. At an age when their social interactions are so important to their growth, our kids have been banished to an online world that we tried so hard to keep them out of a year ago. An astronomical number of them are suffering from depression. They are lonely and withdrawn and their grades are suffering. As parents, we have to decide whether to argue with them about their classwork or just let it go because our relationships with our children are more important right now than whether they turn in their work or get good grades. Most of us have decided to preserve our relationships; it is the only constant our kids have right now.

Our high schoolers have become a political casualty as our board, teachers unions, county and state leaders argue about things that have little to do with our children's educations or proven science.

The schools are ready to go. We've been shown, by the example of many districts similar to ours, how to put the plan in place. It is time to show our kids that we care about them and that the schools are there for THEM.

OPEN IN RED!


Matt S
Registered user
Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Feb 19, 2021 at 5:59 pm
Matt S, Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
Registered user
on Feb 19, 2021 at 5:59 pm

It is heartbreaking to hear stories of this lost critical time in these teens' lives. High school is such a formative period in people's lives. As a community member, I support this effort of opening our high schools. It is great to hear that Palo Alto will likely open soon. I sure hope Sequoia Union School District schools can follow their peer's example and demonstrate the leadership to make this happen for this future generation. Of all the communities, our community should be able to make it happen and do it safely. Let's get to RED and follow the CDC guidelines and science so students can be back on campus! OPEN IN RED!


JT
Registered user
Menlo Park: University Heights
on Feb 19, 2021 at 6:55 pm
JT, Menlo Park: University Heights
Registered user
on Feb 19, 2021 at 6:55 pm

Commenting as a parent and physician, I wholeheartedly agree with the previous commenters that we need to get our high school students back. We, you, our teachers' union, our school district, our state... are all failing our kids. Their mental health is deteriorating as each passing day of isolation goes by. You may not see it, but it's happening. The recent NYT article about Clark County, NV was devastating to read (Web Link). Those parents had no idea how much their teens were suffering. Are we going to wait until we lose someone in our community? To our local teachers' unions, please follow the science and allow our schools to re-open in red


Melissa, local resident
Registered user
Portola Valley: Ladera
on Feb 20, 2021 at 9:24 am
Melissa, local resident, Portola Valley: Ladera
Registered user
on Feb 20, 2021 at 9:24 am

It's time to bring our kids back to campus for in-person instruction. The CDC has stated that it's safe to do so with the proper safety protocols. Adding teacher vaccinations only furthers that argument. Schools all over the country are open and are not reporting outbreaks. Please, for the same of our kids, REOPEN IN RED. Our kids are suffering and the time is NOW.


S Z
Registered user
Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Feb 20, 2021 at 9:39 am
S Z, Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
Registered user
on Feb 20, 2021 at 9:39 am

Thank you Sequoia Union High School District parent leaders for posting this Open Letter. I’m not sure our community as a whole is aware of what has happened/is happening right under its noses. Enough is enough and I applaud you for calling for the prioritization of the reopening of our schools - exactly what our elected/compensated state and local leaders should have done almost a year ago! It’s time to put politics aside. It’s time to stop allowing the Unions to hold our public school children hostage. It’s time to allow families who want to return to in-person instruction to do so. It’s time to REOPEN IN RED. Public health officials, including the CDC, have concluded that the reopening of our schools is essential for the long term health and well-being of our nation’s children AND it can be done safely. It’s hard to understand how so many other states and countries have been able to do so, but we have not. As adults, we can no longer sit by and watch our kids suffer. Rhode Island’s Governor Raimondo said it best when she addressed the schools in her state that chose 100% distance learning, "To the superintendents out there who've just decided to go virtual I want you to look yourself in the mirror and ask yourself if you can try a little harder. Because I think the kids deserve better." We must ALL TRY HARDER. Our children definitely DESERVE BETTER.


Sara Leslie
Registered user
Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Feb 20, 2021 at 9:47 am
Sara Leslie, Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
Registered user
on Feb 20, 2021 at 9:47 am

I have never in my life felt less agency than I do today.

We, the people of the SUHSD, elected the school board and compensate Ms. Leach to serve the needs of our students. Right now, it seems they only serve the needs of the Teachers' Union. If this is not the case, we would have a plan--today--as to how we can reopen immediately. Instead, time passes and SUHSD continues to say a plan is coming "soon". But"soon" is not a timeline or answer.

The CDC has said it is safe to open, even without the vaccines.
Why does the Union get to decide otherwise?

I can appreciate that no one signed up for the situation. But waiting for a no-risk environment (something that is impossible in any period) is not a suitable tactic.

Families feel we are being held hostage by a group that neither represents all teachers or serves the needs of anyone other than themselves.


Menlo Park Voter
Registered user
Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Feb 21, 2021 at 7:25 pm
Menlo Park Voter, Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
Registered user
on Feb 21, 2021 at 7:25 pm

Dear MA Student Leaders: You have a LOT of power. EXERCISE IT!
Focus on putting economic pressure on the adults.

The teachers have their union.
Fearful of systemic retribution against their children, parents stay quiet.
Who's advocating for the children?
Where are the pediatricians? The AAP doesn't even mention Covid school closures in its advocacy positions.

A lost year in the life of a 40-50-60 year old making these policies has little impact on their life outcome. Derailing a youth as they navigate from high school into college is likely to have a significant long term impact.

Other parts of the country have lower hospitalization and death rates though they have less draconian measures. The causal relationship between the restrictions and the course of the pandemic remain murky at best. Many, many private schools and colleges all over the county remain open throughout the pandemic, including Duke University.

- Rally at the school board members' homes late into the night.
- March down El Camino disrupting the lives of the adults just as your lives are being disrupted. Block traffic but remain peaceful.
- Go to the pediatricians and say, "This is a health issue. We need your authoritative voice. Speak up now or we will never step foot again in your office."
- Create a read-only Google doc of pediatricians that support your efforts and those that remain silent.
- Rally your younger sisters and bothers to refuse to go to pediatricians that remain silent. If you don't go to their office, they can't bill your parents' health insurance.
- While attending Zoom School, you have the time and freedom to organize. Don't rally on campus where you could be disciplined by the school administration which is controlled by the teachers union.

Your future is sacrificed on the alter of petty self-interested politics,
while your leaders send their children to in-person private schools.
You are being slow-walked into yet another lost year.

ACT NOW BEFORE ITS TOO LATE!


Michael
Registered user
Menlo Park: The Willows
on Feb 22, 2021 at 10:46 am
Michael, Menlo Park: The Willows
Registered user
on Feb 22, 2021 at 10:46 am

We are weeks away from getting vaccine in the arms of everyone who will take one. Stop the union bashing and costly recall efforts, this is still a very real health crisis not a political ploy.


Joseph E. Davis
Registered user
Woodside: Emerald Hills
on Feb 22, 2021 at 12:31 pm
Joseph E. Davis, Woodside: Emerald Hills
Registered user
on Feb 22, 2021 at 12:31 pm

Union bashing is richly deserved - this is one of many examples of the disgraceful behavior of public sector unions.


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