Reopen Gilroy Schools

Reopen Gilroy Schools

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Advocating for Gilroy students started this petition to Dr. Deborah Flores and

Dr. Deborah Flores
Superintendent
Gilroy Unified School District
7810 Arroyo Circle 
Gilroy, CA 95020

As parents of Gilroy Unified School District Students we are requesting the Gilroy Unified School District and its board of trustees begin to reopen schools within our district for in person schooling.  We are making this request based on the preponderance of scientific evidence that with mitigated measures in place the benefits of in-person schooling outweigh any risks. Dr. Margaret Honein, a member of the CDC’s Covid-19 emergency response team said there is little evidence that schools contribute to increased transmission in communities. There is also a growing consensus among leading educators and public health experts that schools should be the last to close and first to open when shutdowns are necessary. On January 26, 2021, the Journal of the American Medical Association published an essay which outlined studies of schools that have reopened for in-person instruction in both the US and internationally, concluding that schools were not associated with accelerating community transmission. One of their studies was of 11 school districts in North Carolina with more than 90,000 students and staff and during the 9 weeks of in-person instruction they found zero cases of student-to-staff transmission. The CDC released a report on January 26, 2021 with data from 17 Wisconsin schools with high mask adherence and found that the COVID-19 infections in the community were higher than those found within the schools. Federal Health Officials at the CDC have called for children to return to classrooms as soon as possible and with mitigated measures, we are asking the same. There is also growing evidence that children have lower levels of ACE2 in their nasal tissue and therefore not as likely to catch or transmit Covid-19. Morgan Hill Unified School District noted the lower levels of ACE2 in children in their return to in-person instruction plan presented at their January school board meeting. The amount of scientific evidence supporting the safety of in-person instruction is overwhelming and therefore should reassure the district, board of trustees, teachers, staff, parents and community to move forward with a plan to reopen Gilroy schools. 

Matthew Snape, a pediatric researcher at Oxford University said “There is clear evidence that shutting schools harm students directly, in terms of both their education and their mental and social health.” Many parents in this community have witnessed the decline of their children’s mental health. Local emergency rooms have said the number of suicide attempts and calls for help among our youth have significantly increased. Liz Siliato, director of San Francisco’s Edgewood Crisis Stabilization Unit said “Now with kids at home and experiencing school throughout zoom, they’re less likely to be able to reach out and those opportunities are kind of missed opportunities. And so, I think kids are going more into crisis,” The opportunity Ms. Siliato is referring to is the opportunity for children to have access to school counselors.  Additionally, UCSF has experienced a double in the number of patients hospitalized for eating disorders. Studies also show family violence has increased as well as the number of child abuse reports. It is a well know fact in the education community that for some children school is the only safe place, both physically and mentally. Research and parent testimonials paint a picture of children in crisis during this time of digital learning. On December 16, 2020 the American Academy of Pediatrics published a study of suicidal behaviors in youth during school closures, noting a higher rate of suicide-related behaviors and distress during school closures. The same study also noted 48% were Hispanic/Latino. Gilroy Unified has a Hispanic/Latino student population of 70.3%. 

Additionally 53.7% of Gilroy Unified’s student population receives free and reduced lunch. These households are historically single parent households, essential workers and others that cannot choose to work from home and must work outside the home. These families in our community are suffering greatly from the effects of distance learning and having to choose between educating their children and providing a living. Reducing the opportunity for them to earn an income is also reducing the opportunities of their children and therefore keeps them in poverty. Over the past 11 months parents in our community have quit jobs, declined job offers and promotions because they have no available childcare or in-person learning opportunities for their children. Some parents are also forced with the undesirable option to leave young children alone or in the care of older siblings. The burden being placed on our families specifically Hispanic/Latino and low income families is unacceptable when all the data and research point to a safe and viable solution. 

Local teachers have also voiced concerns about long term distance learning. Many of our Gilroy teachers are saying they are working harder than ever and and longer hours. They have also made statements about feeling the physical strain from all the hours on zoom. This is not healthy or sustainable for our teachers or children. 

Gilroy Unified School District must work towards planning for the reopening of its schools. After almost 11 months Gilroy Unified has failed to provide a plan to reopen in-person instruction. The school district’s current position is they will develop a plan “if and when” certain data thresholds are met. The data presented by Dr. Flores at the last school board meeting made no mention of the CDC recommendation to reopen schools or the scientific evidence to support the safety of in-person instruction. The data she presented was fear based, outdated and only showed a partial picture of the reality in this community. It is unacceptable to have spent public resources working for months on a plan to develop a plan. In order to create a safe environment for the teachers, students, staff and community, Gilroy Unified School District must take action to be a solution to this problem immediately. Failure to act is gross negligence on the community you serve. We ask for Gilroy Unified School District and its board of trustees to create an immediate plan for  the reopening of in-person instruction.


Respectfully,

Advocates for Gilroy Students 

cc: Gilroy Unified School District Board of Trustees

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