STUDENTS FIRST COALITION AFFIRMATION
Students First Coalition of Los Angeles County is a partnership of private, independent, and faith-based kindergarten through twelfth-grade schools, parents, civic leaders, and physicians representing students and families from diverse socioeconomic backgrounds: urban and rural, large and small, rich, and poor. We collectively believe students can and should safely return to in-person, on-campus instruction with proper mitigations in place. We are determined to give a powerful voice to children and teenagers, for they are our most at-risk group of long-term, adverse developmental, social, and academic effects.
Since March, millions of American children have been prohibited from in-person instruction. The negative impacts of months of isolation have inflicted social, emotional, mental, and instructional harm on students and their families. The K-12 school community has complied with L. A. County Department of Public Health officials in solidarity in order to properly prepare COVID-19 mitigations for the responsible return to campus of our students, teachers, administrators, faculty, and staff. We have been patient, understanding, and willing to make sacrifices to satisfy Public Health orders though most children in Los Angeles County are only permitted to attend childcare, preschool, and day camps.
On September 29, the L. A. Board of Supervisors announced that elementary schools can apply for a waiver to allow their students in TK through second grade to return to in-person instruction on campus, though only 30 schools out of thousands will be granted a waiver each week. At this rate, if all the elementary schools in L.A. County applied, less than 45% would have the opportunity to serve our youngest students before June 2021. Not to mention there have been no conversations or attempted plans laid out by L.A. County officials for students in junior high or high schools to return to in-person instruction.
While we know labor disputes are hampering public school districts’ ability to reopen at this time, it is important to note that private and independent schools are not subject to these negotiations. Our teachers are overwhelmingly in support of safely reopening our schools now. A recent study from Brown University suggests that “schools are not super spreaders and school infection rates are low even in places with high community rates.”
Private, faith-based, and independent schools have always made the safety of our learning communities an overarching priority, and with smaller enrollments than our public school counterparts, we are able to physically spread out on campuses to ensure distancing. In fact, many of our elementary schools average less than 200 students and high schools average less than 500 students. We have a contractual, ethical and moral responsibility to our families that cannot allow students to be isolated indefinitely – we must find a way to facilitate in-person instruction safely that balances public health with the needs of the children. For months, K-12 schools have been preparing for a safe return to in-person instruction by investing an extraordinary amount of resources including purchasing Personal Protective Equipment for students and staff, consistent deep cleaning of all facilities, additional personnel, training of staff, and creating schedules to accommodate distancing in classrooms. We all know that transmission of COVID-19 cannot be completely eliminated through safety measures alone, but the Students First Coalition schools are committed to reducing spread at all costs. We have a duty to protect our school communities and are committed to adhering to the Department of Public Health’s recommendations of distancing, masking, hygiene, and using outdoor spaces when possible.
We understand that members of our school communities and those in public education may not be ready to return to campuses – our schools are prepared for this. Through various methods, such as hybrid schedules and distance learning options, schools can accommodate families who wish their students to remain at a distance for their learning. We believe that families and staff should have a voice in whether or not they may return to their school’s campus for instruction.
Students have no do-overs with regard to their education. Students are falling behind and suffering emotionally. Distance learning is an inadequate solution and the lack of academic and social development of students by remaining isolated will not only impact their own lives but those of our future as a society.
If you believe and stand with us in our AFFIRMATION that a safe and balanced pathway to in-person instruction is possible, please sign below.
We appreciate your support.