Reopen San Diego Unified School District

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Distance learning in K-12 schools since school closures mid-March 2020 was a failure of which the district later acknowledged as "crisis teaching- not distance learning". What we learned in the Spring, is that the distance learning model for most K-12 students does not work and is not a sufficient replacement for in-person instruction, regardless of the technology available. As surrounding school districts created reopening plans and private schools sought waivers, the San Diego Unified School District has been silent since the start of the 2020/2021 school year.

Parents of children in the San Diego Unified School District are weary of waiting for the next update and insist that the district provide options for learning that give  parents the choice of hybrid learning models, distance learning, and in-person instruction. Additionally, we demand transparency regarding the processes and data that guide the current school reopening schedule. 

The current provision of distance learning in the 2020/2021 school year is causing severe and irreparable harm to our children's social, emotional, mental, and physical health, while diminishing their future potential. Excessive screen time, coupled with, social isolation, increased stress on parents, and lack of access to mandated reporters, has led to major increases in suicidality, anxiety and depressive symptoms, higher incidences of child abuse, widening gaps in academic performance, and learning loss (especially among vulnerable populations). 

Numerous studies outline the dangers of excessive screen use, including, but not limited to, poor academic performance, obesity, disruptions in sleep, permanent changes to the brain (premature thinning of the cortex), increased behavior problems, and loss of social skills.The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no more than 2 hours of screen time per day for children over 2 years of age. Per the San Diego Unified Guide to Back to School, "The robust online learning experience" includes 360 minutes of screen time through synchronous and asynchronous learning -that amounts to 3x the recommended daily amount. 

As of today, there have been 5,608 positive COVID-19 cases for all school age children between the ages of 0-19 in San Diego County. This number represents 0.17% of the total County population (3.3 million). It is believed the transmission rate from children to adults is low, particularly when protective measures are in place. The CDC suggests "extended school closure is harmful to children" and "the available evidence provides reason to believe that in-person schooling is in the best interest of students". Given the low risk of viral transmission and the potential for severe harm to our children associated with distance learning (according to local data and the CDC), denying families the choice of in-person learning is unnecessary, reckless, and inconsistent with CDC recommendations.

In-person learning needs to be a choice for every student, not just for our neighboring school districts. San Diego Unified School District must act with a sense of urgency to create a plan for returning to campus. While we understand that modifications need to be made and budgets considered, such things cannot be prioritized over the education and well-being of our children.

We expect Superintendent, Cindy Marten, and the San Diego Unified School Board to vote in favor of a plan that offers in-person education closely resembling school prior to March 2020. We also expect our state and county leaders to encourage, not discourage, in-person education options.

Lastly, we wish to remind the school board members they are elected officials and can be recalled or voted out of office. Please respect your constituents.

In-person instruction should be deemed an essential service.Together let's fight for our future generation. Thank you.

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