COMPTON — Members of the Compton Education Association drove by homes of school board members Sept. 27 in protest of the district’s plan to reopen schools for some students on Oct. 5. That date has now been pushed back.
The Compton Unified School District has since decided to move the start date for special education students to the week of Oct. 19. English language learners will return the week of Oct. 26.
“We are not bringing all students back,” school board President Micah Ali said. “We are focusing on creating onsite learning pods for students who stand to be severely educationally and developmentally impacted by virtual learning.
“Specifically, students with severe and moderate disabilities [will be the first student to return]. This will not be all students, but rather children of parents who agree to participating. One only needs to speak with a couple of parents of children who are living with a disability while distance learning before coming to the realization how incredibly challenging it has been for families and the benefits of being able to support students in person.”
Teachers and other school employees have been concerned the district is preparing to reopen the school district prematurely and are concerned about the district’s ability to provide a safe learning environment in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
“We have evidence of unsanitary conditions that are not healthy for the students to come back to,” said Compton Education Association President Agbo-ola Dada. “We want the community to know they’re going to be sending their kids into danger if they allow them to come back.”
According to Dada, the district hasn’t provided the proper equipment to prevent the spread of coronavirus, while admitting that only one teacher has tested positive, which was recorded prior to the district offering free testing to teachers and staff on Sept. 14.
During the first week of school, parents complained about the level of education they were receiving when a teacher was observed asleep during class. Instead of facing disciplinary action, the teacher abruptly resigned while on administrative leave.
According to Dada the teacher was taking medication while teaching and fell asleep. He declined to state what the teacher’s illness was.
District officials said they are following state and county guidelines and taking the measures to keep students, staff and faculty safe in accordance to the reopening protocol the board approved Aug. 12.
The district is adamant they are following state and county guidelines and taking measures to keep faculty, staff and students safe.
The Oct. 5 reopening date was going to focus on special education and English Language Learning students, but that has been delayed for two weeks for special education students and three weeks for English language learners
Officials said students who will be allowed to return to in-person learning are currently falling behind during the pandemic and aren’t getting their most critical needs met through distance learning.
The additional time will allow the district to complete additional training, as well as ensure this transition happens safely and successfully, a school district spokesperson said.
The county Board of Supervisors voted unanimously Sept. 29 to allow a limited number of schools to apply for waivers to offer in-person instruction for students in pre-kindergarten through second grade.
Based on a motion by Supervisors Kathryn Barger and Janice Hahn, the county will offer waivers for up to 30 schools per week, prioritizing those with the highest number of low-income students who receive free or reduced-price school lunches. Waivers will be offered equally across all five county supervisorial districts, but if the cap is not reached in any given week, schools with the highest percentage of students qualified for lunch subsidies will be accommodated, regardless of location.
“All students are entitled to a free and appropriate education. For many of our students most at risk, distance learning is neither free nor appropriate,” Barger said. “It is critical that we begin the process of reopening our schools at limited capacity [and] slowly bring students, teachers and staff back to campus.”
Waivers will need to be approved by the state. More than 500 schools in the county have already partially opened to offer services to high-need students, but Supervisor Sheila Kuehl said few public schools are among them, something she wants to see change.
“You look at the list of schools that applied — more than half of them were private, many of them religious schools,” she said. “And nothing against private schools and religious schools, but the equity issue is very big here. I want us to be able to help our public schools get an advantage here, but also to be able to keep their students and their staff safe.”
2 Urban Girls is a freelance reporter for Wave Newspapers who covers the Compton area. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.