Parents of schoolchildren in California, where schools have re-opened after the summer break, are restless, angry, confused and scared.
Many parents who had opted to send their children for in-person classes have now opted for independent study, and many who had opted for the Virtual Academy are not pleased with the way classes are taught.
The number of Covid-19 cases is rising each day, and schools and counties say it was anticipated that some students will get Covid.
“We anticipated when schools fully reopened there would be cases on campuses because we are in a pandemic and Covid is widely circulating in the community,” Will Harper, acting communications officer, Contra Costa Health Services Community Education & Information, told indica News.
“Some students and staff will get sick, although they face this risk outside school as well. Children are much more likely to get Covid-19 from an adult at home than from attending school. In general, research has shown children are less likely to get infected with Covid, including the Delta variant,” Harper said.
“That’s not to say in-person learning is risk-free, and we understand why parents might be nervous,” he added. “But schools following state and local health guidelines for masking, testing and ventilation are minimizing the risks in the classroom. Schools elsewhere in the US and other parts of the world have stayed open safely during the pandemic with safety measures in place. During a pandemic, there are few, if any, risk-free essential activities. And in-person learning is clearly an essential activity: Seeing classmates and teachers in person at school is critical for children’s mental health and development.”
Parents, of course, have a different view and anxiety levels are high.
“My daughter has high fever within a week after attending school,” Ritesh Tandon, whose daughter goes to Evergreen Valley High School in San Jose, told indica News. “It’s sad; even though my daughter was vaccinated she was sick.”
Tandon said he believed that Covid was spreading from one student to another and feared that once children get it there are chances of seniors and grandparents falling sick again.
“It’s like a cycle, and we are taking a risk,” said Tandon, who has been among those urging the Fremont Unified School District to offer virtual classes without missing your home school.
Tandon said his daughter’s school has no virtual options but other school districts have, with a catch. If you choose online or virtual academy, you lose your home school and if you want to again return to in-person class you are on the waiting list.
Virtual Academy is another big issue for people who have bought million-dollar houses to get the best home school.
“Losing home school is really sad and parents are upset,” Tandon said.
He said he had approached Assemblymember Ash Kalra and other elected council members “but seems no one is serious at present about students’ safety.”
Daipayan Deb, who lives in Warm Spring in Fremont, California, has opted for virtual class for his two daughters who are students at Fremont Unified School District.
“I don’t understand what kind of decision is this,” Deb told indica News, pointing to the students losing their home school. “This is a big concern.”
He asked: “What after one month, when the Delta cases come down? Here we parents pay millions to buy a home to get good schools, and now they will put us in different schools.”
Deb along with Tandon and 40 other parents met the school superintendent a week ago but drew a blank.
Deb said he has no choice, “I had to choose one side — either safety of my daughters or career, so we decided safety.”
He said virtual classes were fraught with problems, including confusion about curriculum material.
Tandon and Deb both asked why it could not be like last year when they kept the same home school and class was online.
Several mothers, who requested anonymity, told indica News they prayed every day that their child would not get Covid.
“Too much confusion for parents and kids as well,” said the mother of a fourth-grader at San Ramon Unified School District.
She said the day the parents received an email about two fourth-grade students getting Covid, more than a dozen parents withdrew their children from school.
“But the problem is you cannot stay absent for more than 10 days; you lose the admission,” the woman said.
At San Ramon, too, parents have started a petition asking to offer virtual classes but with the same home school teacher.
Denise Jennison, coordinator, communications and public information, San Ramon Valley Unified School District, told indica News that it was not possible for students to be at home and have the same teacher.
“We have only a few hundred who not want to be in-person learning. Our staffing is based on the number of online students,” Jennison said.
Asked about parents’ complaint that the Virtual Academy had mostly substitute teachers, Jennison said: “There is a teacher shortage throughout the State of California and it is one of reason we have to close the Virtual Academy because there are no teachers to hire. We do not know how many substitutes we currently have.”
Asked about Covid cases, she said: “When school started the state and county both said that we expect the positive case rate to mirror those of the county we live in. We knew there would be cases, and we are managing that by following the requirement of the state and county health department.”