South Bay parents, students call for return to in-person learning

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CHULA VISTA, Calif. – About 70 students, parents and educators waved signs at traffic and chanted in a peaceful demonstration Monday to demand the Chula Vista Elementary School District reopen campuses for in-person instruction.

District leaders had proposed Monday as the potential start date for a limited return to in-person learning, but ultimately postponed the reopening citing the area’s higher coronavirus transmission rates. The district says it remains committed to a “safe return” to schools when virus data allows it, though no tentative date has been set.

Classes have been held in a distance learning format since the semester began Aug. 31.

It’s frustrating reality for parents such as Liz Howeth, who has three children in the district. Howeth said the demands of her and her husband’s jobs while also managing homeschooling for her kids has been challenging.

“There’s no option for hybrid learning,” she said. “There’s no option for in-person learning. It’s 100% online.”

The message was heard loud and clear by Superintendent Francisco Escobedo, who came out to address the dozens in attendance.

“Hopefully very soon, and I want to open up as well, so I appreciate you being out here,” Escobedo said. He then was asked by a parent what it would take for the district to reopen.

Escobedo said the community must get its case rate under 200 per 100,000 people in Chula Vista. As of this week, it’s still above that mark in a category classified as carrying the highest risk of transmitting the virus within schools. The district also has invested about $3.5 million in personal protective equipment in anticipation of students returning, he said.

“It’s not all of Chula Vista, (it’s) certain portions of Chula Vista where the rates are exorbitantly high,” he said.

Among those rallying Monday included junior student Caleb Hutchins, who said he shares the struggle of distance learning.

“I don’t really like it,” Hutchins said. “It’s hard on me. I prefer to be in physical classrooms, interacting with people, talking with them face to face instead of a computer screen.”

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