Board and Parents Present Competing Narratives of Return to School

2 mins read

Written by Violet Taylor and Brianna Aguayo

Illustrated by Kari Trail

At last Wednesday’s School Board meeting, the District presented its progress on the return to campuses and heard from community members impatient to return to school. Throughout the meeting, members of the Board and Interim Superintendent Crystal Leach reiterated that the District can only make as much progress as is safe, and that conditions for the pandemic are worsening. 

In her presentation, Leach dismissed notions that the District is proceeding too slowly with reopening. “High schools that claim to be open are offering supports to students just like we are,” she said. Leach stated that the District will submit a reopening plan to the County by November 28th and will make this plan public to the community.

Leach continued, “There’s a misunderstanding that the school should already be open and that we are dragging our feet. This is a pandemic; we proceed thoughtfully and with caution. We are in constant contact with the County Office of Education and the County Health Office along with state officials.” She added that although the District continues to plan for returning students to campus, “locally we are expecting conditions will worsen,” and any action is dependent on health and safety standards. 

While many community members may feel that SUHSD is operating at a slower pace than other districts, Board Trustee Alan Sarver presented data from the County Superintendent to counter this notion. “9 out of 23 districts in the County so far have submitted plans for reopening. This District isn’t way behind the curve,” he said. 

Nevertheless, during public comment from the community, many parents expressed frustration that their kids have not returned to school. Amy Heinz said, “As a parent, my voice is shaking because we don’t have another month to crunch numbers. Every day matters, and I would love to see the Board and the rest of the leadership show a commitment and a sense of urgency.”

Parent Erica Ghould stated, “Most parents are looking for more urgency and a clearer plan from the board and administration.”

To this end, School Board President Allen Weiner stated in his comments, “I have conceded that we have not done as good a job communicating to the community about what we’ve done.” 

Parent Kari Mueller organized an email-writing campaign prior to the meeting for athletes, parents and coaches to urge the Board to return sports and extracurriculars to campus beyond the current cohort model for sports. In her remarks to the Board, Mueller said, “If a student were to operate this way they would get an F.” 

Mueller told the Chronicle prior to the meeting, “Our estimate is that hundreds of emails were sent asking for athletics, clubs, and extracurriculars to return to campus.”

Although the Board acknowledged the sense of urgency from these emails, members were steadfast in defending the pace of reopening and implored patience from the community. Trustee Georgia Jack said to those urging the board to reopen faster, “You can just hold those emails because, at this point, we’ve had too many to actually even respond to.”

Trustee Carrie DuBois said that in order to reopen with more haste, like local elementary districts have, the Board should approach the issue with more collaboration with the Superintendent and among Board members. “To get kids back, I think that takes Board discussion and Board direction. I don’t think we’ve done that. And that’s what our community is asking us to do,” she said.

Nevertheless, Weiner stated that returning to school remains the Board’s primary focus. “This District leadership team is emphatically committed to getting as many kids on campus as we safely can,” he said. 

Brianna Aguayo is a senior and an Editor-in-Chief of the M-A Chronicle. She enjoys writing culture and research-heavy stories about social justice issues affecting M-A students. She also translates several articles into Spanish to make them accessible for all. Brianna manages the Chronicle's Instagram, keeping M-A students and community members on the loop for new stories. In her free time, Brianna likes to bake different recipes, read, hike, and spend time with friends and family.

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