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Torrey Pines Elementary School parents and students rally in support of COVID-19 safety measures

Torrey Pines Elementary parents and students participate in a rally Feb. 23 to show support for COVID-19 safety protocols.
Torrey Pines Elementary School parents and students participate in a rally Feb. 23 to show support for COVID-19 safety protocols.
(Carol Mintevera)

Groups of students and their parents rallied in front of La Jolla’s Torrey Pines Elementary School before classes Feb. 23-24 to support masking and other COVID-19 safety measures in schools.

They held signs reading “Spread love, not germs,” “Masks save lives,” “Get vaxxed” and more, waving at drivers and pedestrians as they entered the school grounds.

The demonstrations came as schools in San Diego County have encountered increasing pushback from some parents opposing continued indoor mask requirements, which the state has kept in place for schools at least until next week, when officials plan to issue an update. On Feb. 17, a few La Jolla Elementary School parents had their children unmask in class and refuse to comply with the policy.

In addition, the San Diego Unified School District, which operates La Jolla’s five public schools, is in a legal battle over its COVID vaccination mandate for students 16 and older and has delayed implementing it until next school year.

Jen Burney, who has one child attending Torrey Pines Elementary and another at Muirlands Middle School, organized the two rallies, which were attended by about 30 people Feb. 23 and 60 on Feb. 24.

“We wanted to show how profoundly grateful our community is for our teachers and staff,” said Burney, who added that more rallies may occur. She also expressed gratitude for San Diego Unified officials adhering to pandemic health protocols.

She said some parents driving by waved to those attending the rallies and honked their horns to show support.

TPES Principal Nona Richard did not have an immediate comment.

Burney said students also deserve recognition for “functioning with minimal disruption during the pandemic.”

“Everyone’s exhausted by the pandemic,” she said.

But she said she hopes the rallies encourage people to “keep on keeping on … adhering to the rules, even though they’re hard, and keeping each other safe.”

Students and parents supporting COVID-19 health protocols gather outside Torrey Pines Elementary School on Feb. 23.
Students and parents holding signs supporting COVID-19 health protocols gather outside Torrey Pines Elementary School on Feb. 23.
(Tania Rivera)

Alexis Conroy, who has two children at TPES, said she and her kids attended the rallies because they “felt strongly we needed to support the district.”

“We’re a science family,” Conroy said. “We understand that even though [some] might say it’s safe to take masks off, the [COVID-19 case] numbers are still fairly high.”

Conroy said her priority is keeping students in school. She added that it would be “a terrible combination” for younger children who are unable to get vaccinated to be unmasked in school.

“I know we’re not going to influence policy, but it’s nice to [counter] all the negativity,” Conroy said.

Nadir Weibel, who has two children at TPES and another at La Jolla High School, said he participated in the rallies because he and his wife, both of whom are scientists, have been “strong supporters of having safe schools throughout the pandemic.”

“Mask mandates and vaccination requirements have been really successful in keeping [COVID] cases down,” Weibel said. “Things are getting better, but it’s not yet time to relax, though we want to.”

He said children younger than 5 and those with underlying health conditions “are still at risk” of severe infections. “With a small sacrifice, we can keep school safe for everybody.” ◆