Alison Yin/EdSource
Many private schools, as well as schools in other states and countries, have reopened during the pandemic.

Citing campus closures’ “devastating effect on students’ learning, mental health, physical health and social and emotional well-being,” a coalition of more than a dozen parent groups has launched a public campaign to pressure the state to reopen school campuses as soon as safely possible.

Open Schools California includes parent groups in Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego, Richmond and other cities who say that distance learning has been a disaster for most students, and the state needs to push harder for safety measures that would allow campuses to reopen for in-person instruction. The group announced its formation Monday.

“There were all these separate parent organizations, but we realized we’d have a much larger impact if we worked as a unified group and lobbied at a statewide level,” said Megan Bacigalupi, an Oakland parent of two elementary school students and an organizer of the group.

Organizers decried what they said was a lack of input from parents on statewide reopening plans. School administrators, teachers’ unions, state officials and public health authorities are providing the primary guidance, “but the parent voice is missing,” Bacigalupi said.

“Since March (when campuses closed) we’ve been an integral part of our children’s education, but right now we don’t have a seat at the bargaining table,” she said.

There are over 6 million children in California’s public schools, and it is not known how many of their parents are participating in the newly formed group.

Parents in the group points to private schools, as well as public schools in other states and countries, that have already reopened, and said California should follow their lead, adopting safety measures they say have been successful in keeping teachers and students from contracting or transmitting the coronavirus.

The formation of the group comes in the wake of Gov. Gavin Newsom’s “Safe Schools for All” plan that is intended to prod schools to open elementary school classes for in-person instruction, beginning in mid-February. As an incentive, Newsom wants to allocate $2 billion to help cover a range of costs districts might incur. But the plan has run into criticism from multiple sources, including the tight timeline to submit applications to participate. Some also object to the requirement in Newsom’s plan that local staff and teachers’ unions approve of the reopening plans.

The Open Schools California group supports Assembly Bill 10, authored by several prominent legislators, which is intended to speed up the campus reopening process.  The bill would put more pressure on school districts to approve a reopening plan within two weeks of their counties entering the red, orange or yellow tiers on the state’s monitoring list. Currently, all but four counties in the state are in the most restrictive purple tier. But the bill still only would require school districts to reopen “to the greatest extent possible,” only for some students, and after the state has approved a “common state public health standard for safe campuses.”

The parent group plans an email and social media campaign to draw attention to the issue. They’re also collecting video testimonials from parents and students about how the school closures have impacted them.

Thomas Green, head lecturer in the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Education’s Principal Leadership Institute, which works with public school administrators in California, said the primary hurdle to reopening schools has always been the safety of teachers, students and staff.

“These parents are absolutely right to advocate for their children,” he said. “But what I see often missing from efforts like this is concern for the working conditions of teachers. It’s not like teachers don’t want to go back to school — of course they do. They are devoted to their jobs. It’s a question of how to do it safely.”

Protective equipment like masks and gloves, social distancing, cleaning protocols, testing, contact tracing, vaccinations and air ventilation upgrades should be in place before school campuses reopen, he said.

Ross Novie, a parent of two teenagers in Los Angeles, started L.A. School Uprising— one of the groups that’s part of Open Schools California — in November, after learning that the spring semester for his children would be online.

Distance learning had turned his children from “engaged, interested” students into “depressed, sad” students who struggled academically, he said.

At his own workplace, a television station, staff returned to work a few months into the pandemic following negotiations between his union and employer.

“I saw that that was not happening in the education sphere,” Novie said. “That was not happening with the teacher unions and the board of education. They weren’t finding ways to go back safely, creatively.”

Novie emphasized that parents should have a choice about whether their children attend schools online or in person.

“I knew that I couldn’t just sit by and let this happen without some sort of pushback,” he said.

To get more reports like this one, click here to sign up for EdSource’s no-cost daily email on latest developments in education.

Share Article

Comments (12)

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked * *

Comments Policy

We welcome your comments. All comments are moderated for civility, relevance and other considerations. Click here for EdSource's Comments Policy.

  1. Chantal Andree Berclaz 5 months ago5 months ago

    Time to stand up for children dragged in our mess, partisanship and lies.

  2. Jay Ash 7 months ago7 months ago

    My grandchildren in Sacramento are starting back to school this week, at least K-2 are. They are going back to a sate and county adopted cohort program which is 2 days in person 8:30-11.30. 2 days distant learning from home from 11:30-3:00 and 1 day full distance learning. Yet private schools in our area are back to full schedule since Oct 2020. This doesn’t follow any logic or fact and further promotes fear and disservice … Read More

    My grandchildren in Sacramento are starting back to school this week, at least K-2 are. They are going back to a sate and county adopted cohort program which is 2 days in person 8:30-11.30. 2 days distant learning from home from 11:30-3:00 and 1 day full distance learning.

    Yet private schools in our area are back to full schedule since Oct 2020. This doesn’t follow any logic or fact and further promotes fear and disservice in our children. I am circulating a petition and was hoping that there was something else I could do.

  3. Laura 8 months ago8 months ago

    How do we fight for our kids? What group can I join? My husband goes to work everyday. Why isn’t education essential. Why!?

  4. Christopher A Ross 8 months ago8 months ago

    It is coming. Teachers are no longer going to be able to teach remote. The CDC has been saying to go back. Private schools have been open and disease free. Everyone wants to be safe. But this has gone too far at the expense of our children.

  5. Susan 8 months ago8 months ago

    Why doesn't anyone ever talk about Orange County? We essentially have the same Covid numbers locally as everyone else give or take based on population and size and pretty much all the public school districts are open even in the purple tier. Why is LA or anyone else different? Why do they continue to stay home when Orange County is doing it and it is working. We don't need to look at … Read More

    Why doesn’t anyone ever talk about Orange County? We essentially have the same Covid numbers locally as everyone else give or take based on population and size and pretty much all the public school districts are open even in the purple tier. Why is LA or anyone else different? Why do they continue to stay home when Orange County is doing it and it is working. We don’t need to look at other states. It is working right here in So Cal. Don’t get it.

    Replies

    • Chris Ross 8 months ago8 months ago

      Many parents are homeowners in San Diego and can’t just leave. Those who could afford it put their kids in private schools.

  6. Kimberly cowgill 8 months ago8 months ago

    I have 2 kids, one with an IEP one without. The IEP is being met with bare minimum. My oldest went from meeting expectations to now below standards and questioning how she passed 2nd grade. There are always technical issues; this is just not working. My oldest is shutting down, doesn’t like school anymore. I am teaching my youngest because her teacher uses YouTube videos the first part of the day and the 2nd hour … Read More

    I have 2 kids, one with an IEP one without. The IEP is being met with bare minimum. My oldest went from meeting expectations to now below standards and questioning how she passed 2nd grade. There are always technical issues; this is just not working. My oldest is shutting down, doesn’t like school anymore. I am teaching my youngest because her teacher uses YouTube videos the first part of the day and the 2nd hour she teaches math which then we have to log off and do virtual speech and OT with the school.

    When I ask why we went from missing the video that is exercise videos to now missing math she said she can’t change the schedule. So I am on my own. I am also a working parent and so is my husband – we can not afford the tutors anymore because it is breaking the bank. These kids are not retaining not even half of what is being taught. They have been out for almost a year now. If gyms and retailers and other business that are marked nonessential can be open, then why are schools not marked essential? It is considered essential, daycare centers are also open.

    So let’s get these schools back opened. The kids are already behind now. It is time to get back on track.

  7. Rachel 8 months ago8 months ago

    We have four children that are doing online distance-learning. It has been the most frustrating process we’ve ever gone through. Not only do my husband and I work 2 careers but we’ve had to pay for tutors to keep our children on target. My career has taken a backseat while I assist in the homeschooling. Our kids are slowly becoming unmotivated and feel isolated! I hate California so much and wish we could … Read More

    We have four children that are doing online distance-learning. It has been the most frustrating process we’ve ever gone through. Not only do my husband and I work 2 careers but we’ve had to pay for tutors to keep our children on target. My career has taken a backseat while I assist in the homeschooling. Our kids are slowly becoming unmotivated and feel isolated!

    I hate California so much and wish we could move ASAP like all of our other friends and family who are getting the heck out of this communist state.

  8. Grace 8 months ago8 months ago

    I am a high school teacher. The online learning is not working and there are teachers who want schools to open. If we push, change can be made. On Monday, January 25th the arbitrary stay at home order was reversed.

  9. Samantha Nussbaum 8 months ago8 months ago

    This article and others constantly point to private schools that can open. No one ever recognizes that LA County refuses to let private schools open even if they can meet all protocols. LA County is holding tons of schools hostage to the demand of local public schools and their unions. Someone needs to address this.

  10. joe 8 months ago8 months ago

    Our public school district has been open (with space and sanitizing modifications) since Labor Day. We have not had one documented transfer of COVID between students sitting next to each other OR teachers in a classroom with students who then tested positive for COVID. Masks and hand sanitizers work! Get back to school! Our teachers are committed to keeping schools open and are making it work!

  11. Andrew 8 months ago8 months ago

    In the news from rural western Colorado today, all teachers in the Montrose County School District are being provided with free rapid at-home Covid test kits allowing them to test themselves every five days, to facilitate reopening. Districts in other locales have already ensured that all of their teachers and staff are vaccinated. Yet California allowed schools to reopen several weeks ago in the NE portion of the state with no screening testing of teachers, … Read More

    In the news from rural western Colorado today, all teachers in the Montrose County School District are being provided with free rapid at-home Covid test kits allowing them to test themselves every five days, to facilitate reopening. Districts in other locales have already ensured that all of their teachers and staff are vaccinated. Yet California allowed schools to reopen several weeks ago in the NE portion of the state with no screening testing of teachers, staff or students. And no vaccinations accomplished or scheduled. Now students there are ping ponged back and forth with in-person and distance learning as the predictable Covid cases arise in school settings.