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Menlo Park district will apply for waiver to reopen public schools

Original post made on Sep 12, 2020

The Menlo Park City School District will apply to California's waiver program in order to reopen elementary schools to kindergarteners and first graders.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Friday, September 11, 2020, 5:56 PM

Comments (10)

Posted by teacher, MPCSD
a resident of Atherton: other
on Sep 12, 2020 at 3:56 pm

teacher, MPCSD is a registered user.

I am a primary teacher in MPCSD. Many of the teachers are extremely upset and literally shedding tears over the decision made last night. We feel like the board doesn't have respect for our professional opinion. The union asked last week for the board to wait to open school until the watchlist is lifted. We feel it is unsafe to be working in a room all day with students. They do not understand the logistics of the classroom. Also, the first grade asked that if we do go back that it be half day in the morning and Zoom in the afternoon. It's not to get out of doing work. In fact we are working harder than ever this year - many of us working 12 hour days. We just know from years of experience that staying apart and whole group teaching isn't good for our students. Imagine coming to class at age 5-6, seeing your teacher dressed in scrubs and a mask behind plexi glass, telling you NOT to come close to her or your friends, sit at your desk all day and have a lesson taught to you that is not at your level. It's not safe. It's not friendly. It's not good teaching. It's so infuriating that some parents and some board members not only don't listen to us, but make comments about us being lazy and not working when the exact opposite is true. It also would have been nice to have a plan like other districts and companies in the Bay Area who said no matter what they aren't coming back until X time. That way families and teachers could plan their lives a bit. I have never been so proud of my colleagues and so disappointed in a school board.

Posted by teacher
a resident of Atherton: other
on Sep 12, 2020 at 4:01 pm

teacher is a registered user.

Thanks a lot school board. Encinal and Laurel teachers just received an exposure notice today. And so it begins....
And to the parents who call us lazy, I and several others are at work right now on a Saturday preparing lessons for your children! We all went to graduate school for this job. We risk our lives for this job. We work long hours for this job. How dare you speak negatively of any teacher in this district. I spoke to many teachers who are in TEARS over this decision. So scary. Parents, be supportive of your child's teacher right now. Some of them are literally scared to death.

Posted by Not good teaching
a resident of Atherton: other
on Sep 12, 2020 at 4:07 pm

Not good teaching is a registered user.

Yes, Zoom teaching isn't ideal. But at least kids can see their teacher face to face and have 1:1 or small group instruction. What's worse? Coming back in a pandemic. Sitting 30 feet away from your teacher who can't walk to your desk because she can't pass the other students are rick exposure. She can't help you with your pencil grip. She says sternly to stay away from her. You can'd play with your friends. You can't meet in small groups. You can't get intensive help from the teacher or aide. The board doesn't work in the classrooms. The teachers do. LISTEN TO THE TEACHERS! Doctors don't understand that controlling one child in a sterile doctor's office is manageable. A classroom with a room of children for hours a day without less PPE than a doctor is unfair. I hope to God there isn't a break out.

Posted by concerned
a resident of Atherton: other
on Sep 12, 2020 at 4:15 pm

concerned is a registered user.

Why is this even being considered?

Web Link

Posted by teacher
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Sep 12, 2020 at 4:28 pm

teacher is a registered user.

"Some teachers" not happy? Try MOST! That's why we decided as a union to wait until the watchlist is lifted at the very least. Even when I'm on the fence sometimes on issues, I stand with my union because I want what's best for the majority of my colleagues. What's best right now is for THE TEACHERS to feel safe. Remember? Those ones that do this job?!

Posted by Brian
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Sep 12, 2020 at 9:26 pm

Brian is a registered user.

I am curious as to what difference it would make being on or off the Watchlist at this point. My understanding is that San Mateo County is only on the Watch list because they have slightly more than 7 new cases per 100,000 people. If that is the case it does not sound like being on the list is really a thing to block the school reopening. The County Health Officer would have to agree before approving the waiver and I understand that the health experts consulted by the School Board also agree that opening can be done safely. At this point I think the best course of action would be to determine what needs to be done to keep everyone as safe as possible.

Posted by Brian
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Sep 14, 2020 at 2:17 pm

Brian is a registered user.

I hate to say this but the fact that there has been no follow up on this combined with the pseudonyms and the same community for 4 of the posters "Atherton: other" leads me to believe that this is a single unhappy person, maybe not even a teacher, that has made these posts.

I am looking forward the the parent meeting on the return to school of Kindergartners and First graders. I would also like to hear from teachers and staff if the precautions that are being taken are sufficient and what else, short of not returning, could be done to make them feel safer.

Posted by kblocker
a resident of Portola Valley: Westridge
on Sep 14, 2020 at 4:02 pm

kblocker is a registered user.

I have family members who are teachers so I do understand the dilemma they face. But I have yet to hear when the teachers will be willing and happy to return to the physical classroom. At some point everyone will have to take a deep breath and go forward. Sorry to say that I think some teachers may have to rethink their career path and resign or be fired. I realize we are all waiting for a sure fire vaccine, but when???

Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Menlo Park: Park Forest
on Sep 14, 2020 at 4:56 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

In my opinion the key to safe in-person classes is the ability to test every student, teacher and staff member every day and have the results available within minutes.

That technology exists but the federal government has utterly failed to make it widely available.

Without such testing in person teaching becomes a dangerous game of random chance.

We don't ask blind people to fight wildland fires because you cannot fight something that you cannot see.

Without rapid response testing we cannot see the outbreaks of the virus.

Posted by parent
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Sep 14, 2020 at 5:15 pm

parent is a registered user.

I am a parent of older elementary school kids in Menlo Park (not in kindergarten or first). I am supportive of the district's decision, which I'm sure was difficult. I have a niece in kindergarten in a different district, and distance kindergarten is very difficult. Much more difficult than distance learning for my kids in older elementary grades (not like it's a cakewalk for us!).

I understand that in-person school will be challenging as well, with the new requirements for masks and distancing, but I have been surprised by how well young children have been, for the most part, very compliant with mask requirements in preschool and daycare contexts. The kids seem to be adjusting better than many adults.

Teaching is an important and hard job, and I appreciate the wonderful teachers at our Menlo Park schools. The kindergarten and first grade teachers who taught our kids are heroes in our household. As much as I understand that individuals are worried for their health and the health of their families -- we all are -- being an elementary school teacher is an in-person job that is an essential function in our society.

Many people are working in person right now because they provide important services to our society: day care providers, bus drivers, doctors, nurses, physical therapists, dentists, orthodontists, grocery store workers, factory workers, mail and delivery services, firefighters, police officers, and the list goes on. Some of these services did close down right at the beginning, such as dentists and many day cares. But they have reopened since (a) we've been able to improve safety, even though still not as much as we would like; and (b) we've determined that we need to have an functioning society even while navigating the ongoing risks that covid poses.

One of the teachers commented indicated that doctors aren't taking risks as much as teachers are. I can't tell if this teacher knows how mistaken this is -- maybe the post was written by someone who hasn't been going to medical appointments, or not with kids? Doctors, nurses and dentists are interacting just as closely with people -- or more -- as the teachers would in their classrooms. We've visited multiple health care providers in the past months. Parents and kids sit in very small rooms together with medical providers for long periods of time, and patients open their mouths for both doctors and dentists. The medical providers we've seen have been wearing ordinary surgical masks, which are commonly available. And the medical providers are seeing many different people every day in these small spaces.

I don't have data on this, but my sense from friends and relatives is that more parents of kindergarteners and 1st graders are seeking alternative sources of childcare than are parents of older children. I know of several preschools in the Bay Area (in a different district) that are offering extended months of preschool for kindergarteners. More friends are sending their kids to Newton or Growfit if they have younger kids. Or hiring babysitters/pod tutors for the younger kids. The important in-person work of teaching and caring for these young students will happen by someone -- and some health risk will be taken by that person -- and it would be of better quality, and probably safer, if provided by the teachers through the local schools.

These are hard choices, and I'm sure that the school board and district weighed them carefully. None of us wants to be making any of the choices we're all being forced to make during the pandemic. I wish things were different -- that we had a coordinated national response led by a responsible president, more testing, more individual responsibility not to have social gatherings, etc. But we are where we are. And given our choices available for the young learners and educational professionals, all of which are bad in different ways, this seems like the least bad choice to make.

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