California Parents Clash With Teachers Over Public Health

Photo: (Photo : Getty Images: Miguel Schincariol / Stringer)

California's efforts, or lack thereof, at reopening schools are failing, prompting outrage among parents who want their children back in the classroom, and the conflict has nearly reached a climax in one Sacramento suburb.

Although some classroom instruction has resumed in Texas, Florida, and New York, California's 10,000 public schools have remained closed for the most part. As most of the state's 6 million public school students hit the one-year mark of distance learning, parents are becoming more and more concerned about the impact of loneliness and excessive screen time on their children's health.

According to parents and behavioral psychologists, many school children feel helpless or stressed and need a classroom environment to improve their mental health. Last week, an enraged Gov. Gavin Newsom ordered school administrators to "pack it up" if district schools did not resume in-person classes soon.

Teacher unions have stated that they would not send their members into dangerous situations. Before returning to the school, they want all teachers to be vaccinated. 

READ: Frustrated Parents Start to Protest Against School Reopening Pace

School Reopening Status in California Counties

California has 1,037 public school districts, each empowered to make its own decision about reopening schools during the COLD-19 pandemic.

In a mostly suburban city of Roseville with a 141,500 population, one of the colleges, Roseville High, had to rapidly close after a previous attempt at reopening following winter vacation due to a COVID-19 outbreak that put hundreds of students and staff members into quarantine. Three of their district's six high schools failed to follow the recommended social distance between students.

ALSO READ: On School Reopening: Should You Let Your Kids Go Back to School? An Analyst Helps You Decide

Meanwhile, at the Roseville Joint Union High School District, comments and concerns poured in as the board meeting on the school's reopening dragged on hour after hour. Many parents were irritated.

Their children were lonely and on the verge of depression, and they were fed up with a school system that didn't encourage them to be on campus every day. The parents were insisting on school reopening.

Many of the district's classrooms were unable to comply with new state requirements for resuming secure on-campus teaching. A complete return to the physical classroom was also opposed by 4 out of 5 teachers in his union, the Roseville Secondary Education Association.

Still, their board approved a back-to-school order. Administrators were "confident that we can arrive at the minimum gap" of 4 feet between desks allowed under new California Department of Public Health guidelines released in mid-January, according to Jess Borjon, the district's interim superintendent.

Teachers have had to adapt once Roseville schools are open. If students do not feel comfortable returning to their campuses, the schools continue to provide a Zoom alternative for them to watch instruction remotely.

However, school officials said that they are gaining more students on campus with each passing week, further straining their ability to approach the state standards for a COVID-safe climate.

In rural Placer County, which stretches to Lake Tahoe and has nearly 400,000 residents, citizens have resisted health and safety protocols, with many businesses and churches defying orders to close.

READ MORE: Report: CDC's School Reopening Guidelines Could Keep 90% of Schools Partially Closed

In Sacramento, schools have been closed for nearly a year now.

Los Angeles, San Diego, Fresno, Long Beach, San Francisco, and other major school districts argue that the proposal imposes arbitrary rules and deadlines.

According to the initiative, schools can only reopen until their daily new case rate falls below 25 per 100,000 people, a level that much of California is still far from achieving, even though virus rates are rapidly declining from record highs.

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