[Editor’s Note: AUSHD parents and voters wishing to send a message to the Board of Education their views on re-opening the schools can do so by clicking here.] 

Tomorrow, March 4, the Anaheim Union High School District Board of Education will make decisions on when and whether to re-open the district’s schools, which have been closed for nearly a year.

Their discussion will take place against the backdrop of Governor Gavin Newsom’s push for the state’s public school to re-open as soon as possible.

The Board has voted several times to postpone school re-openings, despite calls by a growing number of parents (here and here) for them to resume in-person instruction as soon as possible.

At it’s last meeting, AUHSD trustees voted to:

  • Require teachers to come to their school sites in order to conduct their online classes, rather than doing so from home, beginning on March 8.
  • Have 7th through 9th graders return to campus on March 31 for limited, hybrid classes.  Students in 10th through 12th grade will start limited, hybrid classes a week later.

Tomorrow, the Board will vote on whether to stick with that schedule, postpone even those limited, hybrid classes or stay closed for the remainder of the school year.

AUHSD Board CAN Move To Full In-Person Instruction
Or, the Board could vote to resume full in-person instruction now. There is little doubt that is the preferred option of the vast majority of AUHSD students, parents and teachers.

Earlier this week, Governor Newsom announced a plan to encourage schools to re-open sooner: schools that return to minimal in-person instruction for K through 2nd grade by the end of March can tap into a $6.6 billion state fund to support such efforts.

School Closures Taking Huge Toll On Students Mental Health
Any parent can and will tell you the prolonged and unnecessary school closures are taking a huge toll on the mental health and well-being of their children – in addition to the loss of learning.

According to a study of private health care claims by Fair Health, released yesterday , claims of self-harm among 13 to 18 year olds skyrocketed by 90.7% in March 2020 compared to March 2019.  That number climbed further in April 2020, at 99.8% higher than April 2019.

When compared with march and April 2019, overdose-related health claims among 13 to 18 year olds shot up 94.9% and 119.4% in March and April 2020, respectively.  Substance use in this age group increased 64.6% and 62.7% year-over-year.  Claims for generalized anxiety, adjustment disorder and major depressive disorder all spiked by approximately 90%.

While the mental health crisis caused by the prolonged school closures has been very real, the fears that sparked the closures in the first place have proven to be ephemeral.  Claims that re-opening schools would turn them into COVID “super-spreaders” have turned out to be baseless. Schools that returned to in-person instruction have demonstrated it is possible to do so while protecting the safety of students and school employees. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has stated repeatedly that a return to in-person instruction is in the best interests of students.

Union President Attacks Critics Of School Closures
At the February 4 board meeting, teachers union president Grant Schuster singled out closure critics, accusing them of generating “political noise” in order to “take advantage of the situation.”

Schuster is the athletic director at Dale Junior High School. However,, under the union contract, he is released from his job responsibilities in order to serve as full-time president of the union – while continuing to receive his full teacher compensation from the AUSHD.

Schuster defended the union-backed closures of AUSHD schools, claiming they are following “what the science says.” He stated that his union – the Anaheim Secondary Teachers Association – supports the district “sticking with the science” that ASTA continues “to stand by our board now.”

Schuster failed to address the reality that science and data overwhelmingly support re-opening schools, rather than keeping them closed. It’s unfortunate that Schuster and the union leadership choose to stand by the politicians on the school board, rather than with students and their parents.