Our Readers Write: In-person learning; COVID-19; outdoor dining; computer science

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SDUSD needs to show more resolve to get back to in-person learning

This letter was addressed to the San Diego Unified School District and La Jolla school principals.

Dear SDUSD leadership,

I am writing out of concern that the coronavirus pandemic has revealed the character of the San Diego Unified School District as a behemoth entity unable to serve the needs of its constituents.

I am writing out of concern for students who have no representation or resources to supplement their education, concern for parents who cannot take time off of work to guide their students through distance learning and who distrust the teachers union (and the district and Board of Education by association), and for the professional, dedicated teachers who want to return to the classroom but whose voices are eclipsed or who do not trust the district to provide a safe environment.

I am concerned about the reputation of those teachers who, whether real or imagined, are perceived as “unwilling essential workers” and who feel it is unsafe to return to the classroom with — or without — students, and I am concerned about the divide that is going to be created between the haves and the have-nots as parents with resources supplement their children’s educations — or leave the district entirely — and that those who cannot afford to do so will fall farther behind.

And I am especially concerned that although the district has promised a return to in-person learning when it is deemed safe, we have not seen strong evidence to support this claim. As a parent, a credentialed teacher and a champion of public schools, I am beyond worried that the above-mentioned issues are going to damage the good will that has heretofore existed between parents, teachers and administrators.

I know that SDUSD has publicly declared a partnership with UCSD and that your decision to return to in-person learning depends upon receiving the “green light” from these experts, in conjunction with a decrease in certain metrics related to COVID-19. I am grateful you are following the expert advice of UCSD, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the New England Journal of Medicine and the Centers for Disease Control and are committed to returning to in-person learning in the best manner possible. I appreciate that Superintendent [Cindy] Marten has secured the necessary PPE [personal protective equipment]. I appreciate that teachers and principals are trying hard to get ready for distance learning 2.0. I appreciate that the janitors are cleaning all the classrooms. I appreciate that you are trying. But trying may not be enough.

As a parent of two healthy SDUSD students, I recognize and I sympathize with those teachers and students who are unable to return to the classroom due to preexisting conditions and/or comorbidity. I understand that and I support their right to teach and attend classes online. For the vast majority of students and teachers, however, who are healthy, willing and able to return to in-person learning, we desire to see that the district is working actively to make that happen.

We know that Superintendent Marten has said, “We are taking every step to reopen in the safest, most responsible way …[and] our schools will be ready when that time comes.” But parents are concerned that preparations to ready each of our individual schools for the eventual reentry are not happening fast enough and that, perhaps, the students will not return to in-person learning this year at all.

We also know that crisis doesn’t create character, it reveals it. And what has been revealed to us during this crisis situation is that the second-largest school district in the state, which had the opportunity to step up and lead in the elementary school waiver application process for its 117 traditional elementary schools and thousands of students, did not.

After having been told for years to practice grit, resilience and perseverance, we wonder quietly to ourselves and with our neighbors why can’t SDUSD practice the same? Why can’t SDUSD demonstrate their resolve to get back to in-person learning by preparing the classrooms now so the teachers, students and parents trust that when the “green light” is given, we can hit the ground running?

And herein lies the real problem that has resulted from SDUSD’s inability to serve its constituents. Parents and students feel abandoned by those who are supposed to love and care about them. Families feel strongly that teachers are essential workers — and indeed they were identified as such by the government — but they are also professionals, and as far as I know, labor unions were designed for blue-collar workers, not professionals.

Teachers are beloved, admired and placed by their families and students on a pedestal similar to physicians who promise to “do no harm” to their patients. And we were crushed when they did not rally or step up as professionals to fight for their students’ rights to an excellent education. The taxpaying public does not understand why teachers get a free pass while others have to go to work daily in conditions that are much more dangerous than working with students — especially elementary-age students. It borders on dereliction of duty.

Granted, teachers harbor some fear about COVID-19 — we all do! However, the teachers union is doing themselves a serious disservice by making their teachers look afraid and weak relative to the rest of the working society that has returned full time — many with pay cuts. I am worried that the previously excellent rapport teachers have enjoyed with parents will disappear, that parents will boycott the public school system or defect to the private school sector, to homeschools, charter schools or smaller school districts that are more responsive.

If there is any way the San Diego Unified School District can turn this around and make the public feel they have the students’ best interests at heart, that they are preparing classrooms and schools for in-person learning, that they do have a safe reopening plan for each and every school site, that the distance learning curriculum and schedules are in the best interests of the students and that they will receive 100 percent of their content and curriculum this year, it would generate an amazing amount of good will, as well as confidence, and would improve the declining trust parents have in the San Diego Unified School District system.

I implore you to show us you are utilizing your grit, perseverance and resilience and moving mountains to make this happen. The teachers have their teachers union to fight for their needs. San Diego’s students and parents need the San Diego Unified School District to fight for them!

Kat Peppers

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COVID-19 saliva test kits should be standard for everyone

Just as most households have a thermometer for fever, a pressure cuff for blood pressure and a pregnancy kit, all homes and individuals everywhere should also own an affordable, reliable, reusable saliva test kit that takes 30 minutes or so to read whether or not you have COVID-19.

Before leaving home to be around others, you check your saliva. If it’s negative, you’re safe in the outside world. If it’s positive, you quarantine yourself for the prescribed time and call your doctor for further instructions. This precaution is in tandem with face masks, distance and frequent hand-washing.

The saliva kit should cost $5 or less and be donated to people everywhere who can’t afford it.

We will have more pandemics in the future and we all need to be prepared not only for vaccines (which some people won’t take) but also be individually responsible for our own health and that of others.

With this strong protocol, we could conquer COVID in six months.

Natalie Moynihan

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Support outdoor dining in The Shores

Thank you, Janie Emerson, La Jolla Shores Association president, and all volunteers who worked tirelessly on The Shores outdoor dining project.

It is now up to all of us to support the restaurants involved. Wonderful food, warm weather, beautiful sunsets. We are most fortunate.

Marcia Robinson

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Computer science documentary is helpful to young women

Kudos to Meredith Hunter, the young woman who was profiled in the Aug. 20 “People in Your Neighborhood” article (“Bishop’s grad creates documentary for Girl Scout Gold Award consideration,” La Jolla Light).

Although I do not know her, the message she sends in her documentary about women in computer science is historically informative and a challenge for more women to consider a computer science or information technology career. It evoked memories of my 45-year career in computer science starting in the 1960s as an IBM mainframe computer programmer at General Dynamics in San Diego.

To the mothers, grandmothers and readers of the La Jolla Light, please encourage the young women in your family to watch Meredith’s YouTube video, “Pink Collar Project: Women in Computer Science.”

Janet Lind

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