Families call for swift action to safely reopen schools in West Contra Costa Unified School District
State metric for reopening K-6 schools was met in Contra Costa County today
February 10, 2021, WEST CONTRA COSTA COUNTY, CA – West Contra Costa Safe Open Schools (WCCSOS) – a group of parents, caregivers, students, and community members from across West Contra Costa Unified School District (WCCUSD) – called for the school district, county, and state leaders to prioritize kids and move quickly to safely open schools.
Today, Contra Costa County met the state threshold to allow K-6 schools with approved safety plans to open for in-person instruction. Other districts are reopening, and 9 of the 18 public districts have submitted safety plans to the county. However, all 28,000 WCCUSD students are still in distance learning, and the district has not completed a comprehensive reopening plan and has not set a timeline.
WCCSOS recently delivered a letter with nearly 500 signatures to the WCCUSD board and Superintendent urging the implementation of a realistic, detailed plan for reopening, developed with input from teachers, staff, administrators, families, and students. The plan must build trust, especially in the most underserved schools and communities, that facilities and protocols are being made ready to safely welcome students and staff back in person. The hard-working staff in our district need concrete evidence that WCCUSD leadership is leveraging state and federal funds to ensure schools are ready.
“Our two-parent working household simply can’t keep up with the demands of distance learning for our kindergartner and first grader. Both kids have Individualized Education Plans (IEPs), and engaging with a screen is exhausting for them despite their teachers’ best efforts. We can’t keep this up for much longer,” said Jesse Montano, a parent advocate with WCCSOS.
Distance learning has resulted in decreased enrollment and increased chronic absence within WCCUSD. The largest enrollment drops were in Kindergarten (10%), 7th grade (5%), and 9th grade (5%). Chronic absence increased by 2% overall, jumping by 19% among Black students and 18% among Native American/Alaskan students.
“My 11th grader normally excels at school and used to think about what colleges he should apply to. Now, he just hopes to have enough credits to graduate high school,” said Kellie MacLaren, parent of two and WCCSOS advocate.
West Contra Costa Safe Open Schools believes:
- Public schools are an essential service, providing necessary academic, emotional, and social support to thousands of young people across the
- School closures are having a devastating effect on student well-being.
- Science and data show that schools can reopen safely for students, teachers, and staff when strong mitigation measures like masks, distancing, and hand washing are in place.
- School closures are disproportionately impacting marginalized students, including those with disabilities, English-language learners, and Black and Latino children, who make up a large proportion of students in WCCUSD.
- Teachers and school staff should be a high priority for COVID vaccination.
Public health consensus, including recent guidance from the Harvard Global Health Institute and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), shows that schools can reopen safely. The CDC went as far as recommending that K-12 schools should be “the last settings to close…and the first to reopen.”
Unfortunately, the district’s current memorandum of understanding (MOU) with employee labor unions was negotiated at the start of the school year without any input from county health experts, relying on outdated recommendations that the
authors of the guidance themselves have since completely updated. WCCSOS urges the district to adapt to the evolving situation and revisit the MOU. Our kids should not bear the brunt of an outdated labor agreement.
“I haven’t been on campus since March 2020. I miss my friends, I miss sports, I miss seeing people, I miss being in a classroom … I also think about the kids who are homeless, in foster care, or have disabilities — how are they surviving this? Kids are frustrated. My teachers have been great but I would love to safely go back to school. We should be able to have some normalcy and memories beyond zoom,” said Leila Haile, an 8th grade student.
West Contra Costa Safe Open Schools