Letter: Smoke Screens from LBUSD

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A letter sent by Superintendent Jason Viloria to LBUSD families urges that the district is “ready, willing and able to reopen secondary schools for in-person instruction as soon as legally possible,” but this, I’m afraid, is another damaging smokescreen intended to continue to string students and families along in waning, misplaced faith. Our county stands on the cusp of soon re-entering the red tier, a barometer which the district promises will transition students back to live learning—but that’s where the promise fizzles out.

In September 2020, we stood in this same place: watching the case metrics that allow Orange County to move down to the red tier. On Sept. 22, when our secondary schools were cleared to return to live learning, and after telling families that students could opt for live learning pending permission to return, the district still chose to remain closed to live learning. It has now been almost a full year that our children have been learning from home, devoid of the social interaction and intellectual exploration they so desperately need at this stage of their development. All this time spent on screens and away from nature has been harmful to their well-being and cognition. This was an irreversible mistake made by the district, one with lasting effects on our children.

So it is puzzling to me that much praise has been awarded to LBUSD and their efforts in handling education in the pandemic, when we have yet to see what those efforts are. If you are “ready, willing and able” to reopen, where is your plan? Where is your promise to students and their families that you will truly reopen this time? There has been not one shred of concrete evidence shown by the district that it is fighting for our students to safely return to live learning. Saying you’re doing everything within your power and actually doing everything in your power are two completely different things.

Viloria’s letter to families addressed “confusion” and “mixed” messages swirling around the reopening of our secondary schools. This is the byproduct of students and families who have been told time and again that they’ll return to the classroom, only to be strung along for an entire year. Yes, I can see why that would cause “confusion” and “mixed” messages. That’s what happens when you’ve lost the trust of your community.

I have seen firsthand that it is possible to reopen schools with effective safety measures in place. It takes vision, perseverance, thinking outside the box, courage, and community. I am asking that our district recommit themselves to our children’s well-being. If you’re a parent of children in secondary schools, let your voice be heard. Demand that the district do the right thing and go back to live learning the minute we are able.

Supt. Vilora: If you’re “ready, willing and able” we’re ready to see it.

Liesa Schimmelpfennig, parent of a LBUSD senior

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