Petition to SAUSD: Return to Remote Learning Amid COVID-19 Surge

SAUSD Board Members, SAUSD Superintendent, Santa Ana Educators Association Executive Board*, and the California Teachers Association Board of Directors*

We must continue to keep the larger Santa Ana community as safe and healthy as possible. The best way to contain the COVID-19 surge is to return to remote learning for two weeks.

Petition by
Michael Rodriguez
La Habra, California

To: SAUSD Board Members, SAUSD Superintendent, Santa Ana Educators Association Executive Board*, and the California Teachers Association Board of Directors*
From: [Your Name]

The Santa Ana Unified School District (SAUSD) has some of the best measures to help prevent COVID-19 in Orange County. The district has provided air purifiers, they test students and staff weekly, and they have been responsive to the needs of the community. To this end, we are urging SAUSD to implement these three actions immediately to make the students, staff, and the community safer and to promote public health during this COVID-19 surge:

1. We are calling on SAUSD one more time to do the right thing and move to remote learning for two weeks until this surge has passed. Hospitalizations have tripled throughout the county since Christmas, droves of staff and students have contracted COVID, the flu, or have shown symptoms, and countless others have been forced to quarantine to prevent unwanted spread. Some schools have seen student absences in the hundreds and staff absences in the dozens. Schools are understaffed and substitute teachers are short in supply. It is also very unlikely that absent students are getting the instruction they need. We have been trained to successfully execute remote learning for over a year and half, so teachers are ready for situations exactly like this one.

2. Staff COVID sick days expired last month; please offer them once more so that teachers who have contracted COVID-19 or who have been told to quarantine due to exposure do not have to exhaust all of their sick days when we still have one more semester to teach.

3. In the interest of transparency, please publish an accurate COVID-19 dashboard once again so that staff, parents, and the community are aware of the extent that COVID-19 has impacted SAUSD schools. This is critical to ensure that we are keeping our students and their families safe and healthy.

We understand and empathize with the challenge that district administration is facing as you balance the pressures of returning our students and staff to schools for equity and educational benefits versus public health and safety concerns. We agree with educators and parents that the option of some in-person instruction is preferable to Distance Learning alone.

However, when determining our priorities, we have the moral imperative to protect healthy human life; it is the most essential duty of our profession. We have an obligation to aim for ZERO avoidable deaths or serious illnesses from COVID-19 transmission at any of our schools, especially since we still don’t know the extent of COVID-19’s long-term effects on individuals. If the University of California system sees the need to cancel in-person learning, then we should consider it as well. Students in Los Angeles Unified need to test negative before returning to schools; we did not have that option. Teachers in Chicago have decided to strike to close schools and keep staff and students safe. The best way to ensure that SAUSD doesn’t spread COVID-19 and to prevent further mutations of the virus is to move to remote learning.

“Covid-19 has already disproportionately targeted people of color… The unsafe reopening of the schools during a pandemic will disproportionately harm communities of color. That is not by accident, that is by design. It is American racism at its worst… Forcing people of color to send their kids back to school before it is safe is not only racism, it is attempted genocide…. We cannot let greed and systemic racism force us back before it is safe. Our government predicts hundreds of thousands of us will die… Lawsuits will rain down and [your names] will be at the top of those class actions.” – Dr. Michael Flanagan, teacher, New York.

It is obvious that district, county, state, and federal agencies are now adopting a “herd immunity” strategy by keeping asymptomatic and infected students and staff in classrooms, but at what costs? Many Santa Ana families have been devastated by this virus, and many more have been traumatized by the ill effects that COVID-19 has brought to the people around them. We need to do everything humanly possible to contain this surge. Every child, every parent, every grandparent, every family matters.