San Marcos parents, students call for return to classrooms at rally


SAN MARCOS, Calif. — Parents in San Marcos rallied in front of the school district headquarters Monday calling for their students to return to classrooms.

“We really, really want our children back in school,” Bernadette Howarth said.

She was one of up to 50 parents at the San Marcos Unified School District office. Some questioned why their students aren’t headed back to school when in-person learning has resumed in some other districts.

Each district has adopted its own model to bring students back to schools, which has included a combination of in-person and at-home learning for some. In the Vista Unified School District, elementary school students are back in classrooms. The Lakeside Union School District was preparing to bring students back Tuesday, January 19.

Parents at the rally said they are frustrated SMUSD students are still learning from home 100% of the time.

SMUSD’s reopening plan was approved in September but got put on hold because of surging coronavirus cases. The state imposed a regional stay-at-home order for San Diego County on Dec. 6 and it remains in effect. A letter from the district governing board dated December 29, 2020 notified parents that all in-person learning was suspended because of the spike and an expected post-holiday surge.

Coronavirus cases and deaths have continued to soar in San Diego County. That combined with tougher rules from the state for how and when schools can reopen caused other San Diego County school districts that were planning to reopen secondary schools in the next few weeks to postpone plans indefinitely, FOX 5 News partner San Diego Union-Tribune reports.

Some parents said Monday that they believe the teachers union is bullying the district into staying closed. Howarth said parents became aware in December that the California Teachers Association sent a letter to the San Diego County Office of Education demanding SMUSD cease reopening plans because they violate California Department of Public Health rules.

Board members in the San Dieguito Union High School District voted Dec. 28 to settle with a teachers union and cancel plans to return to in-person learning.

“A lot of the kids are feeling really high anxiety and isolation and depression. Their grades are sinking. There’s a lot of stress in the family, kids not wanting to log in,” Howarth said.

Another San Marcos parent, Angie Rogers, said her son is a senior who won’t be ready to go off to college after being home from school in isolation so long.

“They expect him to go into the real world, and go to college, but he hasn’t been able to do anything on his own and he’s just been stuck in his bedroom for 10 months,” Rogers said.

Rogers’ seventh grade daughter told FOX 5 what she misses most about school.

“Interacting with other kids,” Lyndsey Rogers said. “Interacting with teachers, and being able to write on paper and not being on the screen all day. Also, I miss playing sports and just having fun.”

A spokesperson for SMUSD told FOX 5 that because of the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, no one was available for an interview. The spokesperson said the district had a special board meeting last week that focused on reopening. The board will continue its discussion Tuesday during its general meeting at 6 p.m.

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