Kristy Zacharias 0

WCSD Safe Return to School

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Dear Walnut Creek District School Board,

We realize that much time and effort has been put into how to start this upcoming school year in the safest way possible. Thank you for all that you have done to prepare and listen in these uncertain times.

As a group of concerned WCSD teachers and parents, we respectfully ask that the school district provide only 100% distance learning until the COVID-19 cases in the county fall into compliance with CTA recommendations. Currently, the county is experiencing a sustained and pronounced increase in positive cases. Contra Costa County Health announced on July 11th that the percentage of positive tests has now exceeded 8%. The pattern statewide is showing that the virus is spreading, as 26 Counties are moving to rescind previous orders and enforce stricter guidelines.

The recent uptick in case numbers causes us to be increasingly concerned for the future health of the entire Walnut Creek community. Our concerns are as follows:

First, we are concerned about the possible long term exposure in a confined area and appropriate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for both students and teachers. All of the science about the virus confirms that exposure to the Covid-19 virus in a confined area should be avoided. The safest and best way to mitigate this is to 100% deliver online instruction.

Second, we have a concern that the guidelines and distancing rules will have a significant instructional and disciplinary impact. It is a false comfort for parents to think that all children on campus will be wearing correct PPE throughout the school day, washing their hands properly at all times, and be safe while eating together with their classmates. We don’t want students to be punished for not wearing their PPE properly throughout the day, and yet teachers will inevitably spend many of their instructional minutes reminding students to put on their mask at all times and waiting for cohorts of students to wash their hands for 20 seconds each throughout the day. Distance Learning is not ideal for teachers, but it does allow for them to spend their time efficiently by delivering content online and covering more grade level standards. If the current order from the county restricts the opening of all dine-in restaurants, how is that any different from a cohort of students eating lunch in the same room, even if spaced 6 feet apart?

Third, we have a concern in regards to the impact of returning to a classroom with multiple cohorts and how that will affect the health of teachers and district personnel. In the public debate, the focus so far has been on getting children back into school and how this virus does not seem to affect children as negatively as it does adults. The teachers and district personnel need to be included in this discussion. While children may fare better, a large number of the teachers and personnel within the District likely fall into at least one high risk category for Covid.

When the conditions in the county are safe to reopen and in compliance with the CTA recommendations, the following criteria must be met at the district level:
● The school district must have appropriate amounts of PPE for students and teachers.
● The District must have a vendor that can ensure continued supplies of PPE if the pandemic worsens.
● The district must have a plan for no-cost testing for students, teachers, and District personnel.
● An educational program needs to be developed by the District to educate parents on the risks and dangers to their cohort if they are not following the same masking and distancing guidelines in all of their interactions outside of school.

We agree that it is essential for a plan to be in place when students return to school, but August 12th is too soon. Teachers are essential to learning, but can effectively deliver those essential services online during this time of high risk. They should not have to choose between staying healthy or losing their job. Teachers love their students and miss them terribly. Parents love and appreciate the teachers who give countless hours of their time providing an engaging learning experience for their children. Because of this mutual love and respect for each other, we are asking that you help to keep us and our families healthy during this unprecedented time by delaying the return to classroom instruction until it is safe to do so.

Concerned Stakeholders of Walnut Creek

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