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Community members can join the board meeting by visiting this Zoom link, or by phone by calling +1 669 900 9128 and entering Webinar ID 973 0751 5380#

OCEANSIDE, Calif. — Families called for their kids to return to classrooms Tuesday ahead of an Oceanside Unified School District Board meeting.

Parents rallied at the district ahead of the virtual board meeting that is set to start at 6 p.m.

“They need to be in front of a teacher, and not behind a screen,” parent Vanessa Bennett said.

Bennett has two children, an 8-year-old son and a 4-year-old daughter with special needs. She and her husband felt their daughter wasn’t getting the tools she needed to succeed in distance learning. They decided to take a financial hit and enroll her in a private school.

“It’s just really tough,” she said, adding that she stopped working to manage distance learning. “My husband is the only one providing for us right now. He takes on extra hours, he’s on the overtime list and we do what we can to get by.”

A stay-at-home order that prohibited schools from reopening amid surging coronavirus cases and hospitalizations was lifted in late January. Gov. Gavin Newsom said Monday that his administration and the legislature are close to making a deal on when and how to reopen schools in California.

“I often wonder, what does it do to their mental state to be behind a screen and have no friends?” Bennett said of her kids.

An Oceanside Unified school board spokesperson wasn’t available for an interview but encouraged parents to attend the virtual meeting in an emailed statement.

“We are aware that a group of concerned parents, guardians, and caregivers may gather at the district office this afternoon in an effort to express their desire for a return to in-person instruction. We absolutely empathize with our entire community and know that this global pandemic has been challenging for everyone. One common ground that we all share is our deep desire to return our students to in-person instruction as quickly as practicable following health and safety guidelines,” OUSD Communications Director Matthew Jennings said.

The public can provide comments for the meeting by filling out this form. It will close 15 minutes before the meeting starts.

Despite the challenges of online learning, Bennett’s son Ty said he is still excited to log on this week to see his class for Valentine’s Day, even if it will be a virtual classroom celebration.

“Our teacher got us this bag and you get to open it on Valentine’s Day,” he said.

A Spanish translation line is available during the board meeting by calling 662-532-8383 and entering pin 334 462 703#