Our Readers Write: School reopening, beetle infestation

San Diego Unified School District headquarters
The San Diego Unified School District isn’t being clear on what is going into its plan for reopening schools, parent Dana Gabriel writes.

Letters to the editor:

SDUSD needs more transparency about school reopening plans

The lack of transparency on the part of the San Diego Unified School District and the teachers union on school reopening plans shows a lack of respect for the parent community and is a breeding ground for resentment and toxicity in our schools.

At no point during this pandemic have any parents I know tried to place people in harm’s way, but rather have tried to show their support for the safe options that do exist — going as far as to submit official proposals for outdoor classrooms complete with all logistics involved, pledging countless hours and whatever it would take in terms of volunteerism to make a personalized approach for each individual school site.

However, no matter what parents have asked, suggested or invented, they have always been told “We are too big” and “When we deem it safe.” Meanwhile, we in SDUSD have been watching public districts around the county and the nation go back in many forms safely and successfully with protocols in place that the science is proving are successful.

These questions were posed at a time when county and state restrictions were such that schools were allowed to open. In raising these questions again, I realize that current conditions do not allow for reopening. However, parents are still asking: If, and when, we reach coronavirus case rates that allow for reopening, will SDUSD reopen?

Addressing the San Diego Unified School District’s decision this month to hold off on setting a date to reopen campuses, a district official spoke during the La Jolla Cluster Association’s Jan. 21 meeting about the need for coronavirus testing, vaccinations and a lower rate of infections before such a date can be identified.

When we pose this question, it still goes unanswered, even though experts have said SDUSD campuses are ready and protocols are in place and proven to work.

SDUSD constantly refers to documents they wrote back in July — we know that the science is evolving daily. For the first time, on Jan. 21, we heard a district representative say they would now “think about revisiting those documents with updated science.”

We asked simple questions back in the fall that went unanswered, but these questions are still relevant today when trying to plan for the future:

1. Who is on our reopening committee? Are any parents included, and if not, why not? The district LCAP [Local Control and Accountability Plan] refers to parent think tanks and focus groups. I do not know of a single parent in my cluster involved in one of these activities.

2. Why is SDUSD setting higher, if not unattainable, standards than other districts? Equity is always an issue, but perhaps even more so now as some students don’t even have access to a screen while others in the county are able to be in their actual classroom. Distance learning is heightening these equity consequences.

3. If campuses are ready to open, why are we not opening? (This question was originally posed when daily case rates were below 500.) You say when it is “deemed safe” — who is “deeming”? Please just come clean with what are the remaining hurdles. I just want to know the hurdles, even if I don’t like them.

4. Why are clusters not being given more autonomy to make decisions based on their local situations, i.e., using outdoor areas, social distancing in cafeterias, gymnasiums and other areas?

I realize this has not been the way it has been done before, but these are not normal times and all sorts of new rules are being made/allowed, e.g., eating in the streets. The district should recognized the size it has and see that if they implement programs by cluster, they will result in a more individualized and perhaps safer approach. Current science proves there are safe ways to offer in-person instruction.

My questions are simply questions, not demands. I am a taxpayer, a mother of four and an alumna of purely California public schools (Silvergate Elementary, Correia Middle, Point Loma High, UC Berkeley and UC San Diego) and I don’t want a boilerplate answer. This is not a boilerplate situation — it demands flexibility and unprecedented concessions and policies.

In short, I am pleading for more transparency on what exactly is going into the plan. Other districts have parents on their reopening committee. We are a powerful asset to the district — we want to offer support and help in any way we can, but we are being shut out and having the full story withheld from us.

Dana Gabriel

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Palm tree beetle infestation must be a priority

Palm trees in La Jolla appear to be dying due to a weevil infestation happening throughout San Diego.

My thoughts regarding the beetle infestation of local Canary Island palms (“Date palm trees dying in La Jolla due to South American weevil,” Jan. 14, La Jolla Light):

1. The city of San Diego will have a huge budget shortfall: San Diego finance officials project a $154 million deficit, about an 80 percent increase over the $86 million projected in November. Mayor Todd Gloria has asked each city department to propose budget cuts, some up to 8 percent.

2. La Jolla and all of San Diego is having a Canary Island palm beetle infestation crisis that is going to grow.

3. Dead trees have to be removed; they could fall and kill pedestrians or cause property damage.

4. The city needs to treat with pesticide all Canary Island palms, not just sick trees, which is already too late. Without treatment, the financial damage will be much greater than leaving dead trees.

Barbara Baxter

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What’s on YOUR mind?

Letters published in the La Jolla Light express views from readers about community matters. Submissions of related photos also are welcome. Letters reflect the writers’ opinions and not necessarily those of the newspaper staff or publisher. Letters are subject to editing for brevity, clarity and accuracy. To share your thoughts in this public forum, email them with your first and last names and city or neighborhood of residence to Letters without the writer’s name cannot be published. Letters from the same person are limited to one in a three-month period. ◆