Sunday Commentary: Why Are Parents in Such a Hurry to Re-Open, Especially Now?

Posted on Facebook by Anoosh Jororian

By David M. Greenwald

Slow and steady wins the race.  That’s how the saying goes, but it could also be adapted to the fight against COVID.  If there is a lesson for the failed policies of the last year, one of the biggest is stop being so darned impatient.  Every time we have knocked down the spread of COVID, we have let down our guard and it comes back worse than before.

We have vaccines of course, but the distribution has been lagging.  Until we get them out to the vast majority of the public, we are at risk.  Make no mistake—while cases have gone down, we still had 3500 deaths nationally on Friday.  Since December, the daily death toll has been the highest ever and the death toll stands at 462,000 as of Friday.

It therefore chagrins me to see parents attempt to pressure the school district to re-open now.

“We’re simply asking for the Board of Trustees to listen to, and follow, the science and advice of the experts,” Mike Creedon, a member of the group, said in a press release.

He added, “Creating arbitrary and excessively strict requirements to keep our children out of classrooms is counterproductive, for both the children and our community.”

But not everyone agrees with that approach.

In a letter to the Enterprise, Anoosh Jorjorian pointed out that in working with the families of essential workers, some of the most marginalized families in the district, their biggest concern “is not whether or not school is open, but whether they can access childcare. After all, school hours are not the only hours these parents need care.”

She writes, “Meanwhile, the parents agitating for opening schools have not approached me nor any other organization that serves these marginalized students asking what these families need.”

In flier that the Vanguard acquitted, Jorjorian explained that they are counter-protesting because “a small but vocal minority of parents are pushing for school sites to open for a hybrid distance learning/in-person model quickly, claiming conditions are safe for in-person instruction now.”

Most parents, she argued, “support the school district’s conditions for re-opening, which are based on consistent advice from many experts as well as respect for the lives and health of our teachers and staff.”

The district has set four conditions that all experts agree upon: masking for all, social distance, ventilation and air filtration, and on-site testing at least once a week.

In addition, Jorjorian and teachers as well are calling for “teachers and staff (to) be fully vaccinated” as well as the need for “community infection rates to decrease until we are in the red tier for two consecutive weeks.”

Why must teachers and staff be vaccinated, she asked, if the Director of the CDC says it isn’t necessary?

Jorjorian writes: “Teachers and staff deserve the peace of mind that vaccination will bring them.”  She points out that even mild cases of COVID “can result in lifelong cognitive, respiratory and cardiac impairment.”

As I have pointed out several times here, there are two fundamental problems that drive my concern with re-opening now, other than the sheer need to reduce the spread of this disease.  First, we have been playing with fire for too long.  People were lulled by irresponsible reports about a low death rate and the skew of the serious illness toward older or vulnerable people.

The problem with taking comfort in that is that this is new and we have no idea of the long-term impacts of this disease.

Second, we forgot that the fundamental nature of viruses is fairly rapid mutation.

As Jorjorian points out: “California in particular now has two variants of the virus as well as the UK variant, and scientists are still learning about their properties.”

Exactly.  We don’t really even have good longer-term data on schools and community spread.  We lack sophisticated contact tracing and so the research that suggests schools that take proper precautions are not seeing spread may be false comfort and premature.

As Jorjorian notes, “In many districts, including ours, reporting infections of COVID-19 are voluntary, which means infections may have happened but were not reported.  Some families may have gotten sick but were never tested.  Further, every district has different reporting standards, all over the nation.”

My solution, as I have suggested previously, is take steps to in effect use the one advantage we have—time.  Run the clock, to use sports parlance.  Delay continued instruction, push learning back to the summer when it is more likely that we will have lowered our community spread and when we are closer to the day that the full community is vaccinated.

Moreover, stop being impatient.  Impatience when it comes to COVID is killing us—literally.  We have had three surges now because every time we slow the spread, we lose discipline.  We are slowing the spread now—let us allow that to remain in place until everyone can be vaccinated.

—David M. Greenwald reporting

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About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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  1. Keith Olsen

    I have three grandkids who have been back in school for 3 months now and it’s going great.  They have precautions in place but so far no problems.  It can be done.

    1. David Greenwald

      I addressed this point in the column. First, three months is probably not enough time. Second, we don’t have good enough data on contact tracing to know that for sure. And three and probably most importantly, the new variants could change what we know about how this spreads.

  2. Don Shor

    Interesting commentary, but it doesn’t actually address the question in the headline: Why Are Parents in Such a Hurry to Re-Open, Especially Now?

    I’m sure some of the active proponents would have been willing to answer that question for you. Those I know, and comments I’ve seen, would answer it this way: their students have lost a year, so far, of in-person learning and it is having an adverse effect on their education as well as on their emotional and mental health. They might also add that their position is basically endorsed by the CDC. There are guidelines, and they believe those guidelines can be met. Anoosh has identified a key element that must be addressed and which would require additional funding, which is the child care component.

    Many of the supporters of reopening have kids who were in after-school programs that require in-person participation: sports, robotics, etc. Their kids have now missed a year of participation in programs that arguably enrich their lives and lead to future education and career development even more than simple classroom instruction. Many can be done in outdoor settings that would be safe. Their kids are missing those programs.

    Many parents simply feel that the distance or hybrid learning options aren’t working well, and with evidence that the schools could be safe with sufficient protocols and modifications in place they feel that their children would be better served in school than at home. We did independent study with both kids, and it worked very well for us. But it requires a significant partnership between parents, students, and teachers who are especially trained and adept at that modality. It isn’t for every kid, and it especially isn’t for every parent.

    These parents are reading the advice of groups like the CDC, listening to Dr. Fauci, and believe what they are advocating for is the best placement for their kids at this time. More to the point, they’re being told it can be done safely. It requires funds (which have been promised), clear policies implemented well, and buy-in from teachers. That last point is becoming a real flashpoint in some areas: the teachers unions are the biggest obstacles to reopening.


    1. Bill Marshall

      C’mon Don, it’s not about science, information… it’s about ‘feelings’, and ‘fears’… and the concept that kids and parents who are fearful, want to make sure that parents and kids comfortable with the science, information, don’t gain an advantage over their kids, by spending part of their days in real time instruction and socialization…

      I opine that those parent who opt for in-person instruction, have that choice… and those that are afraid, can continue to do the remote learning thing…


      1. David Greenwald

        The problem with your pro-choice model is that the decision makers are not just the parents. And the risk is not just accepted by the parents but by the teachers, staff, and the community as a whole. And that’s where the pro choice idea falls apart.

        1. Bill Marshall

          So, the parents reacting not in consistency with science should govern not only their children, but everyone else’s children… parents opposed should ‘trump’ parents in favor… got it.

          You need to own up to some other things the anti-reopeners espouse… 100% complete vaccination of all teachers and staff… that will NEVER happen unless teachers and staff are dismissed if they don’t go through the ‘complete vaccination’ (see your graphic)… 100% is definitely implied, elsewhere, teacher union spokesfolk have said 100%… absent vaccination as a ‘condition of contiuned employment’, if you believe in statistics, 10-20% of teachers and staff will strongly resist vaccination… particularly in the POC communities… this shows up time and time again in surveys…

          Proper ventilation… Sac got all sorts of air purifiers, and then they were criticized for not effective enough, with little or no scientific basis…

          There are many who want 100% guarantees that there is zero risk to students, and their families from exposures in class… so, to achieve that, schools will never be reopened… kids get measles, whooping cough in school, despite vaccines… and some get very sick, and some die.

          Show us the “science” to back up your refutation of the science that says that with easily attainable protocols (which does not include vaccine for over 90% of teachers and staff) schools can re-open @ least on the hybrid model.

          And, even if 100% of folk (teachers and staff) are fully vacinated, you are correct… we do not KNOW if the vaccines will be effective… based on the science to date, est. @ 85-90%… we do not KNOW if the vaccines how long the vaccines will be effective.

          As you point out, you adamantly argue for ‘waiting’, not just for your kids, but ALL kids… yet, private schools have gotten waivers, no ‘hot spots’… but, you say it is “too soon” to judge… what will it take for you?  3 weeks, 3 months, three years, three decades?

      2. Alan Miller

        I opine that those parent who opt for in-person instruction, have that choice… and those that are afraid, can continue to do the remote learning thing…

        Pray tell people would be “afraid” of something that kills a lot of people.

  3. Kristine Gual

    David, I appreciate you summarizing what’s going on. Emotions are running so hot right now and most of us are just trying to make sense of it all.

    I have a question: the Board seems to have a sensible approach to hybrid re-opening that includes vaccinating all teachers and staff and a whole number of infection control requirements for campuses. Annoosh’s proposal that childcare solutions be added to the solution plan is fantastic and necessary. Is there anything else that you would like to see the Board add to the requirements that reflect unmet needs?

    My two cents: I would like to see the state or the county open up vaccination to educators sooner rather than later – that seems to be where the bottleneck is.

    1. David Greenwald

      I think your take is spot on here Kristine. I sympathize, my kids are miserable. My only suggestion would be pause instruction for two months and then go to hybrid and take the school year through the summer.

      1. Bill Marshall

        At what cost, David, would teachers be willing to do a hybrid during the summer?  Staff?

        I keep reading where teachers’ views are they are working every bit as hard since March, as they ever did…

  4. Matthew Wilhoit

    What exactly is the child care proposal that is being discussed?  From DJUSD communications I have gleaned they are already running a program for students that have been falling into the distance learning cracks.  It appears to be a supervised, indoor setting run by teachers who have volunteered for this where the students  sit at individual computers that are spaced out where they do the regular distance learning curriculum. The students are masked and they must be providing meals if the kids are there from roughly 9 – 5.  This seems to replicate a for fee model that the private company Kid Clubs offer at the facilities they run at each school site. Is this child care option any different than what I described above? Does the demand just exceed the capacity for that program so they are asking for more resources to provide it to more children that need it, or is the proposal for a program different than what I described above?

    1. Bill Marshall

      Ah… getting close to a ‘hybrid model’… many no-reopeners would oppose it… ‘slippery slope’, as it were… there is not “zero risk”, but parents and teachers have made a choice… which when I proposed that was attacked…

      But yes, the child care situation, and the ‘normal classroom’ things have significant differences, significant similarities…

      But your post reminds me of a confusing quote from the article:

      Anoosh Jorjorian pointed out that in working with the families of essential workers, some of the most marginalized families in the district, their biggest concern “is not whether or not school is open, but whether they can access childcare. After all, school ours are not the only hours these parents need care.”

      And Anoosh appears to be against schools re-opening… I must be missing something…

  5. Don Shor

    This pretty much negates the whole premise of this commentary.
    Per County Health Officer Aimee Sisson:

    Her verdict: students from transitional kindergarten through sixth grade can safely return to school now; junior high and high school students must wait; and high school athletics that involve close contact continue to pose significant health risks.


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