Rallies around the Bay Area call for a phased reopening of in-person learning

The Saturday lesson plan at a rally by Oakland parents and students focusses on the importance of reopening schools.

“There’s not enough activism to reopen schools right now. And I think more people need to speak out and, more people like me, especially who are directly affected by it,” said Oakland Technical High School junior Alex Krull.

He was one of 100 people at Frank Ogawa Plaza pushing for the resumption of in-person learning by January 25.

Around the Bay and around the country, similar rallies, seeing greater collaboration between unions, school districts and politicians to allow school kids’ return to campus.

“In a country of smart, and with the many resources as the United States, we should be able to figure out how we can prioritize our schools, and get our kids back,” said Jody London, president of the Oakland School Board.

Proponents argue in addition to inhibiting economic recovery, distance learning is a ultimately a long-term disservice to students..

“So many of our students are missing that connection, that physical connection, with their classmates. With their friends. Being able to go back onto campus is definitely something that’s going to be able to change their mindset,” said education expert Yvonne Alexander. Added Megan Bacigalupi, a rally organizer with OUSD Parents for Transparency & Reopening, “We are struggling. My second grader, with the lack of social engagement.”

Mental health professionals say the year of Covid-fueled distance learning could be leaving and indelible mark on student’s psyches.

“We have research to suggest that there’s a mental health tsunami out there, with anxiety and depression and domestic issues and all sorts of problems, that are really impacting so many people,” said Dr. Thomas Plante, a Santa Clara University psychologist.

Oakland school district officials submitted a plan to Alameda County that calls for reopening schools by late January. But that county, and five others in the Bay Area, slipped back into the Purple Tier. Schools can’t open under the most restrictive health measures, without a waiver.

San Francisco Unified officials say they’ve, “…set a target date of January 25, 2021 for the first wave of schools to reopen…The SFUSD has been assessing school sites for ventilation and classroom capabilities…negotiating with labor representatives…and entered into an agreement with a provider that can conduct regular Covid-19 testing.”

Education plans by various district are subject to health orders that are becoming more restrictive, as the current covid surge threatens to impact the proposed return to in-person learning.