The Tracy Press received several responses to an invitation to comment on Tracy Unified School District's plan to reopen campuses for the 2020-21 school year during the COVID-19 pandemic. Many more responses were posted as comments on the Tracy Press Facebook page.
The following responses may have been edited for clarity.
Robert Calvillo, parent:
I would prefer that my children return to school in person and on a full-time basis. However, there are too many variables due to the pandemic that render that course of action unwise and, frankly, reckless. The plans put forth by the district and Ms. Stocking, thus far, leave a lot to be desired. The plans are simply not realistic. They are asking way too much of the teachers — specifically the teachers of the younger grades. Besides teaching and all that encompasses, they need to be wiping down and sanitizing all hard surfaces consistently, policing their students to ensure that they wear their face coverings and maintain the appropriate social distance. They have placed all the responsibility to adhere to these guidelines on the teachers and, furthermore, do not appear to have discussed this with them beforehand. Therefore, when the guidelines fail or not adhered to, it will be the teachers who are unfairly sacrificed. The survey sent out by the district is ludicrous — it is offering only an all-or-nothing proposition. Additionally, the survey is sent out the day before Ms. Stocking and the district met to put forth their plans, thus indicating that the survey was irrelevant. The district is not showing any interest in the opinions of the parents or teachers.
- Parent of a third grader and first grader
- School: South/West Park
Ashley Koch, parent:
I am writing as a parent of two Tracy school students. I understand there is concern for those who have compromised health already but sending healthy kids to school for 7-8 hours a day in a mask causes great concern for their safety. Personally I can’t even wear one for more than 30 minutes without feeling nauseous, not to mention it’s one more thing to distract them from learning or reason to touch their faces. I also believe it will compromise those who immunities our bodies are supposed to build to protect against illness going forward. I will be thinking long and hard before I send my kids back in such an environment. I think it should be choice NOT a requirement.
Wida Kohzad, parent:
I have two young kids age 6 and 4. They are too young to practice social distancing and know the importance and danger of this COVID-19; therefore this is not a good idea to open the school while the cases are on the rise. I would prefer to home-school them but not ready to send them to school. This is our kids’ life and in any cost I won’t risk their health. So please come up with the idea of home schooling and don’t put our kids’ life in danger. I’m willing to get the loads of homework and Zoom sessions and keep them home. I’m and the people in my community are against opening schools at this time.
Diya Sharma, student:
As a student, I think we should wait a little bit longer for schools to open. I understand that it is a priority to give children an education and try to keep it as normal as possible but COVID case numbers have been rising rapidly and more and more people are getting sick by the day. Even though there will be more distance between children, masks will be mandatory, and cleaning will become more mandatory, as a student I feel unsafe as this is not enough to keep a lot of children and teachers safe. I believe we should continue distance learning at least until the case numbers in San Joaquin County die down since the U.S has the highest number of cases in the WORLD.
Personally I am not a fan of distance learning because you have to teach yourself a lot more than you do in classrooms. Which can make it difficult to ask questions or understand the concept at all. Which is why I prefer being in the classroom. Although we have to be safe.
One reason opening schools early might be a problem is that having little children distance each other may lead to kids having to isolate themselves from others. Sure they are talking to people and they are outside, but they will have to keep their distance. This specifically will be more difficult for small children. Keeping them inside a classroom all day won’t be good for them either. They need to communicate and take breaks from reading, writing, math or science.
To add, some classrooms are small and tight knit making it difficult to distance. More importantly, wearing masks for nine-plus hours for five days will be found difficult because some are not comfortable with wearing masks for that long.
I don’t mean to be rude and I understand the economy will suffer. And it is only almost July so there’s about a month until school but to make this terrible time end faster we shouldn’t be moving this fast into making things “normal” again.
Kristal Ponce, community member:
I have read what they put out so far and it isn’t enough. Plans need to be made to take into account both a child’s age and the setup of the school. What works for K-3 grades is not going to work for junior high and high school students. If the classrooms are not big enough for the present classes to be 6 feet apart and you want everyone on campus five days a week, then it is time to hire more teachers and get portable classrooms in place. Cutting corners now endangers not only the staff and children, but everyone else they come into contact with. Things also need to be up and running in case of closing of the schools. They need to make the transitions from in class to online seamless so that the students can get the most out of their education.
Megan Phippen, parent:
As a mother to soon-to-be fourth and second graders at Jacobson Elementary, I am HIGHLY skeptical of the idea of our children going back to full classrooms come August. San Joaquin County as a whole is jumping up rapidly as far as confirmed cases go. These are OUR children. In addition, they are not high school aged, or even middle school aged; this is the age where they are the dirtiest, they do not understand the concept of “hands to ourselves” because they are so excited just to be around their friends, the first thing most will do is hug them. There are far more teachers than children, and on an average scale of 25:1 students to teachers, how can we assure that our kids are keeping distant? Keeping their masks on? Not touching one another? What is the district’s plan to keep elementary aged kids 6 feet apart? It is not physically possible. I believe by doing this, we are not only putting more people at risk, but we are putting our children on the front lines, and I am NOT OK with my children being the districts experiment to see how this actually works out, which under the circumstances, is EXACTLY the case. We don’t know much about the virus, but we do know this:
• It travels fast and is highly contagious — packed classrooms with 25 kids or more.
• COVID-19 typically presents zero symptoms for the first two weeks — no way to know if you should be taking your child out of school if they have no symptoms but could be positive and actively infecting other students/teachers/faculty and possibly (more than likely) another child who could be immune-suppressed or -compromised.
• We have opened the city/county/state back up in waves, and numbers have doubled this second wave across the U.S. and QUADRUPLED in Tracy alone.
Our kids are not who we should be experimenting on. California public schools are severely overcrowded. In a global pandemic such as this, is the school district willing to play roulette with our children’s health, or possibly their lives? Because that is what this has now come down to. Is independent studies for the first semester ideal? No, none of this is. But giving it some time to let the spread of this die down, or giving them a little more time to secure a vaccine, is absolutely doable, and should happen.
Dolores Cubillos, parent:
I’m a parent/volunteer of four kids that are enrolled in three TUSD schools. My concern is what if a child does not want to keep his or her mask on? Also how will lunch and breakfast be when they return? Will fingerprinted parent volunteers still be allowed on campus?
Colleen Keenan, teacher:
I teach in Tracy Unified and have for 28 years. You need to ask to go into a classroom, a regular-ed classroom.
There is no way we can get 32 kids into rows that are 3-6 feet apart. The math simply does not work. There is not enough space in most classrooms. The square footage is just not there.
As for the masks, any student can lose a mask before the end of first period. Also, if parents won’t provide pens, pencils and paper, or check to see if their student has those supplies, you think they will be checking for a mask?
TUSD is making decisions based on what makes life easier for parents, not what is good for the staff or the students.
Nadia Cordae, parent:
I am writing in regards to your article about reopening Tracy schools. I am a parent and I would really like it if TUSD would look into the hybrid model or what is considered part-time on-site schooling with distance learning on the non-on-site school days. The kids are not learning enough with distant learning, but I also do not want my children going to school if it’s at max capacity with COVID still surging. Please continue to write about this in the newspaper. There was talk that a hybrid option would be available and I along with many other parents are definitely more interested in that. In the survey TUSD sent out it only offered two options; full-time on-site or online/distant learning. Hopefully they can find a happy medium until COVID is gone.
Gabriela Rodriguez, parent:
The Tracy district must NOT open schools. The virus is not yet controlled and there is no safe vaccine, there are NO hygienic measures necessary to open, there are children who do not understand about the “distancing” or what they need to take. To say that even having cleanliness there can be infected children. Contagions and deaths are increasing every day. Tracy should teach online and appeal to families with more than two children, Other districts are using computers and Tracy says no, that there are no funds, that Tracy is small. Excuses are superfluous, but I know that if it is possible, there are districts that do it with a computer borrowed clearly so that they continue their studies. There are families that have more than two children and they cannot connect at the same time because there is only one computer at home. Tracy should ask the governor for support who said he would help the children to have classes at home with the necessary help. Where’s that help?
Or does Tracy expect children to get sick? And start the demands?
In my opinion, the district of Tracy ARE NOT DOCTORS who assure us that something bad will not happen and not even a doctor can assure it. Are there children who have health problems and are they going to risk it? Wow. As a mom I will NOT send my children to school, I would rather have them late for a school year than lose a child, because there was not the necessary care.
Ali Rashid, parent:
I am a parent of two kids from the Art Freiler School.
Honestly I don’t feel good sending my kids to the school when there is not a vaccination or an exactly treatment method for this virus. Our doctors are doing the best, but this virus is very aggressive and every human body reacts in different ways which turns this virus in the most dangerous so far, and since this virus still leaving us without a real cure, I think is high risk for our kids.
That’s why I think that will be good to have the opportunity to continue an online method like the one launched when this situation started. Where was a great asset to deliver homework through emails and dropoff locations also plus the online tool as Zoom for the teacher interactions in the weekly basis during the peak days on this pandemic.
I understand that is not easy to get this done and execute in time manner but for the good of our kids will be good to have this alternative for the parents. Because believe me, this virus is highly aggressive and one kid or adult could be asymptomatic … but in other bodies could be totally opposite.
Brittany Ibarra, parent:
I am a parent to three school-aged children. In August, my daughter is scheduled to start kindergarten and my sons are entering the fifth grade. Being forced into distance learning when COVID invaded has been difficult on everyone. While I agree that the health and safety of our children is of the utmost importance, I believe that we cannot stop living life because we are fearful of what may or may not happen. The lack of socialization and physical activity that has been implemented due to school closures has and will continue to negatively affect the mental health of our youth. I am all for schools reopening as planned, and will continue to instruct my children to be mindful of their hand-washing, but encourage getting back to business as usual.
Tiffanie Heben, parent:
Here are my thoughts about the school reopening plans for TUSD:
I want TUSD schools to reopen in August. My son wants to be in school. I just want TUSD to (1) make schools as safe as reasonably possible (and I absolutely understand that they can’t remove all the risks) and (2) increase the quality of instruction offered to those students who choose to do their education at home.
I feel there are two main issues to be considered:
1. Safety protections. What state or county authorities say are the guidelines for a safe reopening of schools establishes a minimum, not a maximum for what the TUSD school board can require. Before the state required masks, our school board was not planning to require them. If the state removes the requirement, TUSD should make an independent decision about what to require at our schools. If they cannot provide adequate social distancing (which the District has said that it cannot), the District should continue to require masks until our county has consistently lower numbers of COVID cases.
Personally, I think the district should start the school year with a hybrid approach to allow for more social distancing. Options include an A/B schedule (where classes are split in two, half the class comes two days, other half comes two days) or block scheduling for high schools (where classes are longer, kids take fewer classes each day). The District should do this in the short term, until we see how things go. I don’t imagine there will be a lot of regular teaching going on in the early weeks of school while schools figure out who is actually coming to class and we all deal with learning new rules. Once the bugs get worked out, then we could assess if schools could manage with 5-day-a-week instruction.
2. Quality of “independent study”. AB 77 is the state’s education funding bill. It requires kids to be taught in person as much as possible. There’s some debate about whether that means the District is prohibited from offering independent study to kids whose families don’t want them to go back yet. The bill might also set standards for what distance learning looks like. That part is key. I think that TUSD should offer distance learning for individual kids, but it should be much better than one hour of instruction from a teacher a week (as proposed) and the rest of the time be independent study. According to the District at the last school board meeting, over 1000 students were already asking to be able to get their education while staying home temporarily. The District should be able to come up with ways to group same-grade students for regular online classes and also allow kids in specialized programs (IB, space & engineering) to join in-person classes remotely via zoom or some other online platform.
Sean Thompson, parent:
We are parents of an incoming seventh grader and twin fifth graders. While sheltering in place did present some initial disruption to the last part of the school year, we all adjusted quite well to distanced learning and were able to complete the year without difficulty. We believe that everyone must adhere to physical distancing, not attending gatherings, and always wearing a mask if we find we have a need to be around other in the public space (our kids do not join us for all necessary outings). Unfortunately, we have noticed that more and more people are NOT following these habits and our concern about case spikes in our area is growing. It is difficult to accept that TUSD will be able to implement a plan that both effectively physically distances teachers and students while also promoting an optimal learning environment. I think I can speak for most, if not all, parents when I say we are concerned each and every school year about our kids being exposed to a variety of illnesses already when they are back around others who may or may not be following through on simple measures such as washing hands. In the current environment, this exposure can be potentially deadly. As a result, if our school that is within the TUSD does not offer continued distanced learning as an option to being on site, we will have no choice but to pull our children out and explore home schooling options. We are fortunate to work for employers in a capacity that allows us to work from home, so this would not be a difficult choice for us. TUSD needs to take into account a very probable second wave of this virus — especially considering the rise in cases that has occurred in California and other states immediately after allowing businesses to reopen — and continue to offer distanced learning as an option. Otherwise, I do not think we will be the only parents pulling their children out of class.