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Whittier parents rally for school reopenings

WHITTIER – A protest was held outside of the East Whittier City School District on Monday with a clear message: let parents decide if students return to school.


As the nation continues to try and navigate its way through the coronavirus pandemic, schools have had to try and maintain effective education through a remote, online format, while also preparing for an eventual transition back into classrooms.


However, it seems some in the EWCSD have said that enough is enough.


Armed with posters in hand, a group of parents and students gathered in front of the district office during the morning hours, calling for the reopening of campuses.


Jennifer Mir – who has three children in the district – said that the situation is “very frustrating.”


“We really feel that our families need a choice,” said Mir. “We were told in the summer that we would have a choice between hybrid and distance learning”


“We understand that every single family has a different set of needs. For some, distance learning really is the right option and they need that. For some families such as mine, I really would like to have a hybrid option, because I believe my children should be in school.”


Mir added that she was “incredibly proud of the work that the district has done to prepare for people to be in school safely,” however expressed that her kids shared her frustration.


“They are on-screen five hours a day trying to learn,” said Mir. “They miss their friends; they miss their community.”


“I’m mostly concerned about their mental health. They’re smart kids; they’ll catch up. I’m more concerned about their engagement with other people, especially in a time when children have so much opportunity to be on-screen and disconnected. Taking them further away from their social interactions I think really impacts them negatively.”

 

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Kate, age 5, protests outside East Whittier City School District on Monday. Photo by Alex Dominguez


Another parent in attendance at the gathering – Justin Blythe – says that he sees the effects on both students and teachers; his spouse is a teacher in the district.


“My daughter, she cries quite often because things don’t go right,” said Blythe. “She can’t stay connected; the teachers can’t stay connected. It doesn’t make sense when you try to transfer an in-person curriculum to an online classroom. The teachers don’t even have the tools they need to properly monitor what the kids are actually doing the right way.”


“Then I see my wife who is doing everything she possibly can to make sure the kids are still having fun and enjoying this time, and I can see her frustration. She’s trying to teach these kids, and the problem is they still aren’t getting it, and she doesn’t even know the ones who aren’t getting it. Most of the time those are the kids who don’t have parents at home that can be there with them, or sometimes they just have a grandparent with them that doesn’t understand the technology as well, and that creates other problems.”


Superintendent Marc Patterson met the crowd and spoke with parents. According to him, it’s just a matter of receiving the green light from the powers that be.


“We have a plan in place that we are ready to go back when we are allowed to go back,” said Patterson. “Right now, we’re going to be sending a survey out to parents on November 13 in order to determine how many people want to go to in person instruction, and how many people want to remain in distance learning.”


“Our plan is to go back to school– pending the public health order – on January 11.”


At that point, it will be a matter of choice.


“We’ll them staff classes based on if parents want in-person instruction or online instruction,” said Patterson.


He added that when the time comes, the district has a robust, multi-page plan to manage the safety of students and staff.


“We’re confident that we meet the thresholds of what we’re being told by the county public health office,” said Patterson. “We’re confident with that part.”


“We want kids back in school; we’re doing everything we can to do that,” said Patterson. “We just want kids back to a sense of normalcy so they aren’t feeling the social, emotional distress that they’re feeling right now.”

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