SAN JOSE (CBS SF) — Over the objections of many teachers, the San Jose Unified School District will require them to begin the school year teaching from empty classrooms.
The first day of instruction in the district is Aug. 12 and under an agreement between the district and the San Jose Teachers Association, teachers will be required to report to their respective classrooms while students will remain at home.
“It screams disrespect,” Jodi Disario, a drama and English teacher at Willow Glen High School with underlying health conditions, told the San Jose Mercury News. “We work very hard to do what’s best for our students, and we don’t feel like someone is working very hard to do what’s best for us.”
The district’s current plan is to begin the new school year with distance learning with students at home and teachers reporting to their respective campuses next week. The district says the plan insures the highest quality of online instruction by providing teachers with all the technology and tools they need — computers, cameras, high-speed internet connections.
Many parents, however, say if in-person, hands-on instruction is not an option, they don’t really care where the teachers are physically located.
“No one should be forced to do something like that. They’re risking their health. They’re risking their family’s health. I mean after here, they have to go home,” says parent Carmen Monsivais.
Some students feel online instruction might be improved if teachers were in a traditional classroom and able to demonstrated experiments for laboratory science classes for example.
“They can do hands-on experiments. And it’s better for them to show us than do it virtually on the website,” says Gia Giron, a sophomore at Willow Glen who admitted she struggled with the transition to online learning in the Spring.
Teachers say they want the option of teaching from home.
“By not giving teachers a choice, they don’t value us as professionals,” says Disario.
Santa Clara County is currently on the state COVID-19 watchlist and can’t reopen schools for in-class instructions. At his Monday news conference, Gov. Gavin Newsom was asked about teachers being required to return to school buildings. He was lukewarm to the idea.
“We give a lot of discretion to local — what we call LEAs — local education authorities,” he said. “I don’t believe anyone should be forced to put their life and health at risk. Period. Full Stop. If people feel their lives are being put at risk and their health is being out at risk — It is incumbent upon us to call that out.”
Other districts have considered a similar plan as San Jose, but have as of yet not gone through it including the state’s largest district — Los Angeles Unified School District.
Meanwhile, the California Teachers Association, which has been lobbying to keep teachers out of classrooms until it’s safe, said some other districts and teachers’ unions across the state are still negotiating the issue.
On Monday, the state released new guidance for youth sports and the process for elementary schools to resume in-person learning.
For youth sports, the state is allowing some sports and physical education when physical distancing of six feet can be maintained and a “stable cohort of participants,” like a class, stay together. Officials are also advising that activities should take place outside as much as possible.
Tournaments, sporting events and competitions are not permitted at the time, the state said. Additionally, sports that cannot maintain appropriate distancing or cohorting are only permitted to do conditioning and training that focuses on skill-building at this time. Teams are also advised to avoid sharing equipment.
READ MORE: Youth Sports Guidance (PDF)
The majority of schools in California will be conducting distance learning in the coming weeks after Newsom announced schools in counties that have been on the COVID-19 watchlist within the past 14 days may only do distance learning. The state is allowing elementary schools that fall in that category to apply for a waiver that would allow in-person learning.
Guidance released Monday details that waiver process, which allows a district superintendent, private school principal, or executive director of a charter school to apply. The waiver is only available for TK through sixth grade, even if a school includes additional grades.
As part of the application, schools must prove they have consulted with parent, labor and community organziations as well as published reopening plans to the school’s website.