desks in a classroom and sun rays

      An empty classroom at Eliot Arts Magnet (Photo – Jennifer Hall Lee)

      I’m writing in response to Patrick Cahalan’s 2/25 op-ed about PUSD school reopenings. I appreciate how dedicated Mr. Cahalan is as a board member, but there are some glaring issues with his letter.

      By Corey Hegger

      As justification for why PUSD cannot open safely, Mr. Cahalan uses the examples of several European countries, as well as two communities in Wisconsin and North Carolina, and contrasts these communities (and how they’ve responded to COVID) with L.A. Because L.A. is so different from these communities, he argues that we cannot reopen safely as they have. He also contends that some of these reopenings have not been successful.

      I agree that PUSD differs greatly from the communities Mr. Cahalan cites. But what about communities in other states and even large cities where schools have safely reopened? Schools in diverse states like Florida and Texas have been open since the fall. Why is it that they can reopen safely but we can’t? New York City elementary schools have been open for months. Again, how can they manage it while we can’t? These school districts have opened safely without the vaccine; many PUSD teachers I know have already received their first dose. Now that we’re vaccinating our teachers, can’t we set a date to reopen our schools?

      Mr. Cahalan doesn’t address the equity issue of having our schools closed while elementary schools in surrounding affluent communities, as well as private schools, are either already open, or making plans to do so. Countless studies have shown that low-income and minority students are faring worse with remote instruction than their white, middle class peers. I personally see this in my Zoom classes, as students struggle to participate in class next to family members also Zooming in the same cramped room. My students and their families struggle with connectivity issues and equipment failures, all of which hinder their learning experience. The best way to remedy these inequities is to get back in the classroom.

      Finally, Mr. Cahalan doesn’t address the mental health crisis afflicting all of us, but especially our kids. According to the CDC (11/13/2020), mental health visits to the ER for children were up between 24 and 31% in the first six months of the pandemic. Our teenagers are far more likely to die from suicide or overdose than from COVID, and we have already seen suicides and overdoses in nearby communities. Let’s not wait for tragedy to hit PUSD.

      From his post, I sense that Mr. Cahalan is deeply concerned about the effects of COVID on our community, and this is admirable. But the job of school board members is to advocate for kids first. I’d love to see more of a sense of urgency from the board in regards to opening PUSD. The longer we wait, the worse off our kids will be.

      Corey Hegger has been an active PUSD volunteer since 2011, with kids attending four PUSD schools. A former PUSD teacher, she is now an adjunct assistant professor at Glendale Community College.


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      1. School Parent says:

        What about the damage done to kids if they bring COVID home and infect their parents and then their parents die? We can wait a few months until parents get vaccinated.

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