Reopen LGUSD Schools

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Dear LGUSD and Superintendent Paul Johnson,

The purpose of this petition is to regain our rights to choose, as parents and taxpayers in Los Gatos, CA, to send our children to school utilizing the traditional classroom setting.

On 6/4/20, the LGUSD School Board sent out a survey to families regarding 3 possible options for the 2020/21 school year - remote learning, hybrid, and full reopening. On 7/2/20 an email was sent out to families from the Superintendent stating "After careful consideration, we are currently moving forward with resuming some form of in-person instruction for the 2020-2021 school year.” On 7/15/20, parents received another email from the Superintendent confirming that schools would begin remotely but that their “plans for reopening are strong.” The email also included an arbitrary timeline for a hybrid schedule starting with Phase 1 on Sept. 8th and Phase 2 on Oct. 12th, etc. 

On 7/23/20, CDC Director Dr. Robert R. Redfield released a statement saying “it is critically important for our public health to open schools this fall.” A sentiment he has repeated several times since, and which is echoed by Dr Fauci, among others

On 9/10/20, parents were asked to take another survey to determine support for in-person learning. Nearly 70% of parents voted in favor of returning to in-person school.  On 9/20/20, parents were informed that “The earliest that students could return would be during an Oct. 12-29 window.” Yet inexplicably, on 10/5/20, the LGUSD Superintendent, Paul Johnson, informed parents of his arbitrary decision to delay the hybrid learning option until at least January 2021, despite overwhelming parental support in favor of hybrid/in-person learning, and in defiance of the county and state guidelines, not to mention locally decreasing transmission rates.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, “We recognize that children learn best when physically present in the classroom. But children get much more than academics at school. They also learn social and emotional skills at school, get healthy meals and exercise, mental health support, and other services that cannot be easily replicated online…”.  Additionally, the current AAP recommendation for screen time per day is limited to 1 hour or less.  Virtual learning far exceeds this medical recommendation and is in fact about to get worse for our middle schoolers. A new schedule is being rolled out on Oct 26th, whereby middle school students will be on zoom calls from 8:30am - 10:55am with just a 5-minute break in between periods (and after 70 minutes of solid screentime). For those students who have electives after "lunch", they will, on two days a week, have calls from 8:30am - 12:35pm with just two "breaks" - 5 minutes and 20 minutes (ostensibly for lunch). 


Virtual learning is not conducive for the students, the teachers, or the parents. Nor is it meant for long-term learning. Often the responsibility lays with the parents to ensure their children are following the schedule, sorting out technical issues, providing extra academic support, etc. Even more so with the lower grades. With many parents working, this pressure on parents is unattainable. Students are suffering immensely - emotionally, socially, and academically, and these are likely to cause long-term effects. They are feeling lonely and anxious, isolated, and depressed and are falling behind academically. Many students also report feeling demotivated - we worry that the damage will be irreversible.

After nearly 8 months, they were looking forward to returning to the classroom. Los Gatos is fortunate enough to have some of the lowest transmission rates in the county, and with the county/state mandates of temperature checks, social distancing, and face masks, the chances of transmission are minimal.

Furthermore, we pay hefty taxes for the privilege of being in one of the best school districts in the Bay Area, with some of the best teachers.  We, as parents, whether working from home or outside of the home, are not qualified, trained, or educated in the way these teachers are, and cannot provide the quality of instruction and education that the classroom setting does. It is truly detrimental to the children's education experience and will set them back academically, emotionally, and mentally for the coming years. 

We strongly feel that the decision to delay the return of face to face learning, leaving only the remote virtual learning choice, is a one size fits all approach in which only one viewpoint is accommodated.  It simply works for only those who want it this way. However, an overwhelming majority of families do not want to continue with virtual learning for their children, given the impact on their mental health, and learning loss. There are innumerous well-respected press articles quoting prominent child psychologists, scientists, and education experts agreeing that it is essential for students to return to in-person school without further delay. Indeed most studies have also found no link between re-opening schools and increased transmission rates. As parents, we can not stand by and allow our children to continue to suffer when there is no justifiable or legal reason to continue with the school closures.

For the reasons stated above, we, the Parents, petition to reopen our schools for face to face learning without any further unnecessary delay.

UPDATED TO INCLUDE THE FOLLOWING FOR ADDED CONTEXT: 

- Under the guidance of the California Department of Public Health, K-12 schools may open for in-person instruction when a county has been in Tier 2 (the Red Tier) of the State’s Blueprint for a Safe Economy for 14 days. As of September 22, 2020, Santa Clara County remained in Tier 2 for 14 days. K-12 schools in Santa Clara County were therefore allowed to resume full in-person instruction on September 23, 2020. On October 13, 2020, the County of Santa Clara moved into the State of California’s Orange Tier (Tier 3). For context, the Orange tier allows: 

--Outdoor gatherings of up to 200 people and indoor gatherings of up to 25% capacity or 100 people, whichever is fewer. This includes movie theaters, churches, cultural ceremonies. 
--Indoor dining up to 25% capacity or 100 people, whichever is fewer.
--Indoor museums and zoos up to 50% capacity
--College sports activities without fans following County and State requirements
--No capacity limitation for malls and other retail businesses.

In LGUSD's reopening proposal, they have confirmed that:

--families will have the choice to stay as remote learners from home, or return to-in-person school. 

--plans have been put in place for students and teachers to be socially distanced at all times on campus (including in classrooms), as well as the strict maintenance of small cohorts.

--all those on campus (students, staff, and teachers) will be subject to daily temperature checks, mandatory face covering (unless medically exempted/eating), and encouraged to hand wash frequently.

The chances of transmitting the virus under these strict, but necessary, safety measures are minimal. We are aware that the risk is not zero but it is unlikely to be zero for several years to come, if ever. Our community rates are low and steady and there is no reason for further delay. They have already been without school for over 7 months.

People are able to eat inside restaurants (no masks) and host indoor gatherings and yet children are not able to return to school despite the mandatory strict safety measures proposed. How must it feel for our kids to know they are not a priority? That their education, their socioemotional development, their mental health are not important enough? We should be moving heaven and earth for our children. And as long as it is deemed safe to do so, we, as parents, will fight for their rights.