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“Please, Dad, no more Zoom school.”  : California leaders reject distance education

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“Please, Dad, no more Zoom school.” : California leaders reject distance education

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“I’m very, very sensitive to that, to the learning opportunities that are lost because kids aren’t safe in school, to the challenges of going online,” Newsom said, interviewed this month. on distance learning. “My son, we’ve had meltdowns and going away, he’s going back and forth to school, said, ‘Please dad, no more Zoom school.'”

“I hear that resonating all over the state of California,” he continued. “It’s really a top priority for us to keep schools open.”

The City of Sacramento Unified School District released a statement on Friday calling on local residents to “step up and be a hero” by earning an emergency substitute teacher designation. Palo Alto schools have turned to parent volunteers for food service, office assistance and other jobs on campus.

Nationally, the memory of extended school closures has made the public wary of distance education, according to a Suffolk University/USA TODAY poll conducted in late December. The poll found that about 66% of respondents — including 52% Democrats — opposed changing schools online. California parents were particularly beleaguered, given that schools typically didn’t reopen until March or April in the state, more than a year after they closed.

“If schools had been more responsive to reopening as soon as we had real, good data, it wouldn’t be a problem at the moment for them to walk away for a week or two,” Michael Creedon, whose children attend the Davis Joint Unified School District, said in an interview. “But they squandered that trust. It’s that institutional inertia, isn’t it? Once it closes, it’s really hard to get it to reopen.

There are significant differences with Covid compared to a year ago when almost all California schools were closed. Most teachers and teenagers have been vaccinated and school-aged children aged 5-11 had access to a Covid vaccine in November. Although Omicron spreads faster than any previous variant, parents and political leaders are aware that it has resulted in less severe illness for most people, especially those vaccinated.

Democratic leaders’ refusal to address the idea of ​​remote learning extends beyond California’s borders to cities like Chicago and Columbus, Ohio, where politicians have opposed union calls for temporary virtual classes.

It starts from the top. President Joe Biden has stressed the need for children to stay in the classroom, saying in-person learning can be done safely and his administration has provided districts with the resources to keep schools running. Earlier this month, the White House appeared to side with Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot in her battle against the teachers’ union.

“We’re not going back to lockdowns,” Biden said Wednesday. “We are not going back to closing schools.”

Two weeks into winter recess, however, the unified Democratic stance is beginning to show cracks as Omicron sends staff and student absences to unprecedented levels. A handful of big-city mayors, like Michelle Wu in Boston, said they were willing to consider short-term transitions to remote learning due to staffing shortages. New York City Mayor Eric Adams indicated last week that he was open to a temporary remote option, though he dialed it on Tuesday, saying he would only allow it for college students. insulating at home with Covid.

Meanwhile, a Harris poll taken last week found that 70% of respondents who identified as Democrats said schools should move away to avoid exposure to Covid.

However, none of California’s big city or state department leaders have so far shown a willingness to consider switching to homeschooling plans as an option.

The realities of on-the-ground staffing in many California districts have been compounded by the slow delivery of promised rapid tests and confusion over whether schools that are closing will still receive funding. This has forced superintendents and school boards to begin to consider the possibility of short-term travel to distance programs.

Hayward Unified School District became the first in the state to test those limits by moving to remote learning for a week after more than 300 teacher absences and 500 positive tests among its roughly 20,000 students. The district resumed in-person learning on Tuesday.

April Oquenda, chair of the Hayward school board, said it was unclear whether the district had the authority to shut down completely and instead decided to give parents the option of enrolling in independent study or send their students to learning centers, where they would receive lessons on their laptops under the supervision of staff.

George Drapeau, the parent of a Hayward kindergarten, called the district’s plan “painful” but said it was “absolutely the right decision” based on the test data. He said teachers and students at Hayward did not receive their state rapid tests until the start of the semester, and most parents were supportive of taking it remotely as the number of cases began to rise.

“We didn’t have very good data last year, so we relied too heavily on risk avoidance and closed all schools for months,” he said in an interview. “This year, we have the ability to get much more useful information faster, cheaper, and more frequently, so we don’t have to shut down for months at a time.”

Hayward officials acknowledged that their move could have cost them $2.5 million a day in funding if the California Department of Education determined it was in violation of state law. A bill passed last year threatens to punish districts that don’t provide students with access to in-person learning — and it was written that way to deter districts from using virtual instruction in large scale.

The move to independent study gave the Hayward district time to distribute rapid tests and N95 masks to all staff, said Mercedes Faraj, president of the Hayward teachers’ union, who supported the move. Faraj said no district or union wants to move away from in-person learning, but argued a line must be drawn to protect students and staff. She said state leaders should provide clear thresholds for the number of staff and student absences that should trigger campus closures.

In Chicago, teachers returned to classrooms last week after Lightfoot agreed to measures that would close individual schools if teacher absences or student cases reached a certain level.

Still, local and California health officials say the situation does not warrant closing campuses. Alameda County education officials advised Hayward against its week-long closure, but Oquenda said the board approved the plan in hopes that state officials would provide wiggle room. The Milpitas Unified School District announced a similar approach this month to ease pressures on staff, but reversed course after Santa Clara County officials said it had no authority to do so. To do.

Troy Flint, chief information officer for the California School Boards Association, said these types of scenarios are expected to increase in the coming weeks until the spread of Omicron slows significantly. He said the CSBA is in touch with districts that may experience staffing shortages of nearly 30% and expects principals to make the choice between walking away or closing altogether.

“We’re talking to schools across the state, of all sizes, urban, suburban, and rural, and they’re just trying to hang on,” Flint said. “They’re not looking for excuses to go to distance learning, they’re barely surviving.”

“Please, Dad, no more Zoom school.” : California leaders reject distance education

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