Prioritizing the safe reopening of schools | February 12, 2021 | Almanac | Almanac Online |


Viewpoint - February 12, 2021

Prioritizing the safe reopening of schools

by Sequoia district parents

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

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Posted by Trish Heald
a resident of Portola Valley: Central Portola Valley
on Feb 12, 2021 at 1:17 pm

Trish Heald is a registered user.

My understanding is that Woodside High School has enough San Mateo County Public Health certified classrooms (80ish) to have 900 students on campus daily; more than enough space to accommodate the existing demand for in-person instruction. Where is the plan to fill those spaces with students and teachers when our county hits the red tier? The slow pace of district decision making and negotiations with unions continues to prolong the academic learning loss and social-emotional suffering of our public high school students. Please watch Numb, a short film by Liv McNeil on YouTube to see the heartbreaking damage: Web Link
335 days now.
How much longer SUHSD Superintendent Leach? How much longer Edith Salvatore (Sequoia District Teachers Association President)? How much longer Nancy Magee (San Mateo County Superintendent of Schools)? How much longer Assemblymember Marc Berman? How much longer Senator Josh Becker? How much longer Governor Newsom?

Posted by Melissa, local resident
a resident of Portola Valley: Ladera
on Feb 12, 2021 at 8:34 pm

Melissa, local resident is a registered user.

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.

Posted by Amy H
a resident of Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
on Feb 13, 2021 at 5:48 pm

Amy H is a registered user.

The evidence is overwhelming. It is not only safe to open schools with the safety measures SUHSD has put in place, it is necessary. The CDC's guidance is that with 5-19 new cases per 100,000 + a positivity rate of 3-4.9% + 5 safety protocols (masks, distancing, hand hygiene, cleaning and contact tracing), schools are in their "green" (as in GO!) tier to open safely. We all knew this based on the science coming out of all of the countries, states, private schools, and California's leading public schools, but now the CDC has declared it. What are we waiting for? I pray it isn't more suffering at the expense of our kids.

Posted by JT
a resident of Menlo Park: University Heights
on Feb 16, 2021 at 11:31 am

JT is a registered user.

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.

Posted by Pepper
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Feb 16, 2021 at 11:42 am

Pepper is a registered user.

Thank you for the push to get our kids back to school safely. The CDC, Fauci, reports vaccines are not a prerequisite, and every effort has to be to get kids into classrooms. Vaccines are coming soon in San Mateo County for educators as well. This can be done. It's being done in other districts. The thought that we "just can't" do what Palo Alto, private schools, San Mateo, Marin et al are doing is lazy.

Something is really wrong with our priorities when sports are back, but not distanced, mitigated classroom attendance. Yes, sports kids are masked (sometimes, but not necessarily - see last track meet) but basketball players are also right up on top of each other, unlike kids sitting in math class. It's so backwards.

Posted by anna b
a resident of Portola Valley: Portola Valley Ranch
on Feb 16, 2021 at 11:51 am

anna b is a registered user.

We need to get the kids back in school, safely and soon.

The CDC, and the available scientific studies, agree: we can safely reopen schools (see: Web Link and Web Link

We need to stop the ignoring of available data, moving the goal posts, and insisting on zero risk. There's no transparent evidence of a systematic plan for a safe return to in-person school.

The result? Educational inequalities are exacerbated, and the solidarity and good will of the community is eroding. I know several kids who are clearly deteriorating--and whose parents are furious that their kids don't seem to matter to SUHSD.

Posted by Sara Leslie
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Feb 16, 2021 at 12:26 pm

Sara Leslie is a registered user.

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.

Posted by S Z
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Feb 16, 2021 at 4:12 pm

S Z is a registered user.

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.

Posted by Paige
a resident of Menlo Park: University Heights
on Feb 16, 2021 at 4:52 pm

Paige is a registered user.

Please listen to the parents and open the schools safely. Too many of our children are suffering and we have not had a voice at the bargaining table when decisions are made regarding re-opening. For parents who have decided at lower schools to keep their children back (mine included), we have not been assured their safety was made as important as the demands of staff and professionals. At the high school, transparency of discussion has been missing and the school is completely closed. As a result, most of my children are completely suffering in 100% distance learning. It is a disaster for their learning, their emotional, and their psychological well being. My two teen-aged boys are becoming increasingly sullen and withdrawn. 20 hours a day, they are on their screens, trying to learn and interpret instructions for learning over the barrier of a computer. They have never met their teachers. The line between video games and school is blurred, but video games are much more enjoyable. It is becoming increasingly difficult to engage the kids through distance learning. I have worked 12 years to support our public schools. This year, I have been chastised by the school for being over involved and overbearing (because I am trying to keep my kids on the screen and off video games). The school blames me for my children's problems. However, I am in an impossible situation - I have to intervene or they are not engaged. The situation is incredibly stressful for my family as well. Please bring the kids back to school.

Posted by Michelle Avila
a resident of another community
on Feb 16, 2021 at 5:06 pm

Michelle Avila is a registered user.

We're closing in on a year that our students have been forced to do distance learning. Now is the time to support allowing students and teachers the choice to return to campus. Those students wishing to continue distance learning will have that option. Multiple studies have shown that it is safe to reopen schools, and it is being done safely and effectively all across America. Despite what the union, some teachers/administrators and the school board want the public to believe, a large percentage of students are yearning to go back to school. These educational leaders want the public to believe there is a small percentage of parents who are "squeaky wheels" that are pushing to reopen SUHSD, but that is far from the truth. There's tons of us! Please support Reopen SUHSD because our students deserve the right to an in person education. Kids have been home long enough and it's time to get them back to school where they belong. No more excuses!

Posted by Tracie
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Feb 16, 2021 at 5:37 pm

Tracie is a registered user.

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.


Posted by Matt S
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Feb 16, 2021 at 8:57 pm

Matt S is a registered user.

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 give students the choice to be back on campus!

Posted by E. Harrison
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Feb 16, 2021 at 11:39 pm

E. Harrison is a registered user.

The time has come to reopen our public high schools safely and sensibly for in-person instruction. Our students have paid the price long enough, and educators need to fulfill their commitment as professionals and as essential workers to meet the needs of their students.

Online classes, no matter how noble in their intent, do not substitute for face-to-face instruction. Sadly, virtual school has failed our children in countless ways: many students don't log on at all, attendance and participation are dismally low, many are failing classes, disinterested, now suffering from vision and attention problems caused by excessive screen time. Worst of all the social isolation experienced over a year of zooming has caused mental health problems and frightening risk for our teenagers.

Schools can reopen and function safely, but careful planning and innovation are required to make it happen. Teachers and students alike need to learn the new way of operating with distancing, hand washing, and masking. I have taught at a public school in person since September and there have not been Covid transmissions at my school or district thanks to our careful adherence to safety protocols.

Recent news stories tell of school principals and superintendents across the country (Florida, Rhode Island, Nevada) who have made the brave decision to bring students back to campus, mostly because their conscience would not allow them to carry on with empty schools and growing crises in their community.

Let's put the work in the middle and OPEN SUHSD IN RED!

Posted by Boy Howdy
a resident of Portola Valley: Ladera
on Feb 17, 2021 at 9:39 am

Boy Howdy is a registered user.

High Schoolers have been forgotten in this pandemic. 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 creataive. 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, not 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.

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