Cupertino parents petition governor against school amid Covid


Parents in California are desperate to recall their children from in-person classes with Covid surging.

Finding no solution from the school administration even after repeated requests, parents of students at Cupertino Union School District protested at the CUSD’s Sunnyvale office on September 1.

Parents have also started a petition asking California Governor Gavin Newsom to take action, even as they despair that he seems to be not serious about the crisis and is busy in the recall election.

The petition, which has received over 17,935 signatures, can be accessed here.

Srinivas Ponnala, whose two children are students at CUSD, told indica News that parents had been knocking on the doors of the school even before school re-opened on August 16, in vain.

The parents, Ponnala said, are urging the governor to allow both distant learning and in-person options until Covid vaccines for those younger than 12 are available.

The CUSD has had 16 covid cases since the school opened on August 16. On September 1, more than 40 families protested outside the superintendent’s office. Ponnala pointed out that though the parents were are all vaccinated and wearing masks, the superintendent was concerned and maintaining social distance.

Then how you are expecting students to be safe?” Ponnala asked.”They sit in school the whole day and are not vaccinated; even many teachers are not vaccinated.”

Another parent, Manish Malhotra, said: “This rule needs to be rethought and the online/hybrid option should be brought back. The decision made by the state to reopen schools was taken three months back, and now with Covid’s Delta variant spreading younger kids are getting impacted.”

He also lamented about the vaccination rule followed by the CUSD.

If you want to volunteer you have to be fully vaccinated but if you are an employee you don’t need to be? Even San Francisco restaurants have made vaccines mandatory, but schools can’t?” Malhotra asked.

Parents say last year when the pandemic hit the school online options were much easier and simple compared to what is on offer now.

The school has this year offered only two options, in-person learning at school or home school.

If you have opted for independent study or home school, the teacher will show up just for 20 minutes and rest of the work parents have to do with their children,” Ponnala said. “And more importantly the student loses the spot [seat] in their home school and you are on your own.

The teacher comes for only 20 minutes online to give assignments and one of the parents have to dedicate half a day with a child,” Ponnala said.

He said it was not possible for parents to work with their child because most of the parents are working.

He said to convince the school superintendent they did a survey of Cupertino school parents asking if they want in-person classes or distance learning like last year. And out of 870-plus parents who responded to the survey, 90 percent are looking for distance learning.

We sent the research data to the school and after multiple reminders finally got an email saying they cannot because the district would lose state funding,” Ponnala said.

Every day is full of anxiety sending your children to school.”

He asked when even doctors find it difficult to wear face masks for so long “how do you expect these elementary school children to wear masks the whole day?”

Erin Lindsey, director of communication, Cupertino Union School District, responded to an email from indica News that asked the CUSD why it’s hard for schools to have virtual classes.

Effective September 18, 2020, California Education Code 43503, which details distance learning was passed,” Lindsey wrote. “This legislation became inoperative on June 30, 2021, thus making distance learning and hybrid learning, as conducted last year, no longer funded by the state.

On July 9, 2021, Assembly Bill (AB) 130 was signed into law by Governor Gavin Newsom, making several changes to school district independent study requirements for the 2021-22 school year. Under AB 130, all families will (1) have the option to enroll their TK-8th grade child(ren) in Independent Study (IS) for the 2021-22 school year, and (2) the right to request a pupil/parent/educator conference meeting before enrollment in IS.

The approved Independent Study (IS) program in CUSD is Home Study,” Lindsey added.

Asked why a student should lose their spot in home school if opt for independent study, Lindsey pointed to “CUSD Board Policy” that states:”The Superintendent or designee may provide a variety of independent study opportunities, including, but not limited to, through a program or class within a comprehensive school, an alternative school or program of choice, a home-based format, and an online course. A student’s participation in an independent study shall be voluntary. Students participating in the independent study shall have the right, at any time, to enter or return to the regular classroom mode of instruction.”

The email sent to parents by CUSD on August 8 — that indica News has seen — said schools cannot do anything because they have to follow state protocol.

We really do not have the option to offer distance learning through restrictions imposed by the state, as not following state mandates risks the district losing state funding,” Jerry Liu, board president, Cupertino Union School District, wrote to concerned parents.

Normally, public schools are required by state law to provide a certain number of in-person instructional minutes to our students. Last year, because of the pandemic, the state passed a law known as AB77 which, among other items, waived the in-person instructional requirement and made it possible for school districts to offer distance learning like the program we had for the 20-21 school year.

Our plan for this coming fall is to offer both regular in-person instruction, as we’ve had before the pandemic, and this new independent study program with daily live instructions as directed by the state. We will not be offering the distance learning program we had last year, as the waiver for in-person learning requirements has expired,” Liu said.

I understand that there are concerns around health safety within the community, especially with news about the delta variant. We are requiring masks and other safety measures on our campuses as directed by the state and the county, and we continue to monitor the local health conditions and the directives from the state.”