Teachers, parents and students protest LBUSD board meeting over lack of flexibility in upcoming semester

A+protester+drives+down+Hughes+Way+in+Long+Beach+on+Aug.+5+while+participating+in+a+car+caravan+protest.+The+protest+was+against+teachers+being+forced+to+work+from+classrooms+amidst+the+current+COVID-19+pandemic+conditions+and+parents+being+made+to+decide+now+whether+they+want+their+children+to+return+to+schools+when+they+reopen.

Kristen Farrah Naeem | Signal Tribune

A protester drives down Hughes Way in Long Beach on Aug. 5 while participating in a car caravan protest. The protest was against teachers being forced to work from classrooms amidst the current COVID-19 pandemic conditions and parents being made to decide now whether they want their children to return to schools when they reopen.

A line of cars holding teachers, parents and students lined up on Hughes Way, extending down Via Oro, blasting their horns to get the attention of the LBUSD board members during their meeting on Wednesday, Aug. 5.

The car caravan was organized by Parents for Teachers of LBUSD, which has expressed concern over the inflexibility of the school district during the ongoing health crisis.

Dozens of cars repeatedly drove down Hughes Way on Aug. 5 while honking in order to protest LBUSD’s limited options for parents, student and teachers in the upcoming semester. (Kristen Farrah Naeem | Signal Tribune)

LBUSD is requiring its teachers to instruct their students virtually from their empty classrooms, barring them from working from home. Many teachers would prefer the option of teaching from home, rather than running the risk of exposure to coronavirus from their coworkers when they come into the workplace.

“I feel LBUSD should consider giving teachers the option to teach from home or their classroom,” Kathy, an LBUSD elementary school teacher, told the Signal Tribune. “Many are 55 and older and worry about their exposure to the virus. Others have elementary age children and would like to supervise them at home, not worrying about the virus and the unnecessary burden and expense of child care. If many other school districts are being flexible in their choices for teachers, why is LBUSD refusing to compromise?”

LBUSD teachers ask for the ability to teach their online classes from home during an Aug. 5 protest, to lessen the chance they will contract coronavirus from one of their coworkers. Teachers are currently being asked to give online instruction to their students from empty classrooms. (Kristen Farrah Naeem | Signal Tribune)

An analysis by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that 24% of all teachers in the United States are at greater risk of serious illness if they contract COVID-19, which amounts to 1.5 million individuals.

“The goal should be the reopening of schools for in-person learning when it is safe with a comprehensive plan that keeps students, teachers, staff and our LBUSD families safe,” Jason Goldfischer, a teacher at Lakewood High School, said in a press release. “Parents and teachers are united in this goal. Until then, we are ALL Safer at Home.”

A child participating in a car caravan protest stands through the sunroof of a vehicle holding a sign. Drivers continued to honk their horns loudly and repeatedly to get the attention LBUSD Board members who were having their meeting at 1515 Hughes Way. (Kristen Farrah Naeem | Signal Tribune)

Parents were also frustrated at the limited options being offered for the upcoming semester, being asked to choose between their children spending the entire semester online or being online only until schools are able to reopen. Their stress was compounded when the online district enrollment system crashed before the Aug. 7 enrollment date, according to an Aug. 5 press release by Parents for Teachers of LBUSD.

See related: LBUSD Board Vice President: Kerr resigns, Benitez declines, Meyer assigned

Parents and public officials may disagree about when it’s safe to send their children back to school, causing LBUSD parents to request the flexibility to decide for themselves whether it’s safe to send their children to the re-opened schools.

LBUSD released a video on its Youtube page on Aug. 5 that reviewed safety and health procedures the district is considering implementing in the upcoming semester, but also stated that procedures would be updated throughout the year.

Students and staff will be required to self report any symptoms of COVID-19, and the district is considering purchasing an app that would give students and staff a health screening survey before entering campus. Individuals would show their survey results at the school entry point, and then have their temperatures taken with a contact-less thermometer. Those who do not have access to the mobile app will be asked a series of health screening questions verbally before entering an LBUSD campus. Anyone with COVID-19 symptoms or a temperature of 104 degrees Fahrenheit or more will be asked to go home.

Those who begin to show symptoms after entering campus will be taken to a designated isolation room until their parent or guardian can take them home.

Contact-less thermometers, hand sanitizer and personal protective equipment such as face masks, face shields and rubber gloves will be utilized at every LBUSD campus.

Parents, students and teachers participated in a caravan protest which wrapped around the block where LBUSD was holding its board meeting on Aug. 5 to demand that teachers be allowed to work from home, and that parents be given flexibility in deciding when to send their children back to school. (Kristen Farrah Naeem | Signal Tribune)

Children and teenagers currently account for 11.43% of coronavirus cases in Long Beach. There have been 313 cases in children between 0 and 9 years old, 3.57% of the city’s total reported cases, and 690 cases in youths ages 10 to 19, 7.86% of the total reported cases, according to the City’s COVID-19 digital dashboard.

California counties cannot reopen their schools unless they have been off the County Monitoring List for 14 consecutive days. Los Angeles remains on the list, reporting a total of 34,174 new cases and 607 deaths in the last 14 days.

“Learning is non-negotiable,” Governor Newsom said. “The virus will be with us for a year or more, and school districts must provide meaningful instruction in the midst of this pandemic. In California, health data will determine when a school can be physically open – and when it must close – but learning should never stop. Students, staff, and parents all prefer in-classroom instruction, but only if it can be done safely.”