By Henri Migala
October 18, 2020 (Spring Valley) -- “Everyone wants to do the right thing, but what’s the right thing?” Never has this old saying seemed more apropos than right now, as we all try to navigate through the pandemic.
On October 16, the same day that the San Diego Union-Tribune reported 17 new community outbreaks in San Diego, about 35 parents and students demonstrated in front of Steele Canyon High School to urge the school to “reopen and restart.”
The “ReOpen & ReStart” event, organized by parents and students from Steele Canyon High School, was held from 8:00-9:00 a.m. on Campo Road in front of Steele Canyon High School. It was followed by a “Zoom-in Student Rally” from the school’s front lawn.
Steele Canyon High School students Mia Moran (Senior Class President) and Kassandra Jaggard (Senior Class Vice President) were present at the event.
“When the school decided that we were going to be shut down for Quarter 2, we wanted to definitely voice our opinions about that, and say that we want the choice to go back, whether in January or May,” said Moran.
Jaggard added, “We don’t want to make it mandatory for all students to go back. We just want the option. If students don’t feel safe to come back, then we want them to have the option to stay home.”
Asked if they have heard from other students, Moran responded “Definitely! We’ve had both positive and negative reactions from this, but we all feel like we should all have a choice. That’s our main goal of this entire thing.”
Asked who are the main movers for keeping the school closed, and who is wanting the school to reopen, Moran responded that it’s the students who are mostly wanting the school to reopen because “we’re missing out on the high school experience.”
The teachers’ union is primarily responsible for keeping the school closed, largely out of concern for teachers’ safety.
Troy Mack, a concerned parent of a Steele Canyon High School freshman and event co-organizer, said that “we need to get these kids back in school and back on the field playing sports. We have a county that has restaurants open for 100 patrons, movie theaters open for 100 patrons, grocery stores, everything else is open and for some reason, we still can’t find the logic behind putting 18 kids on a field of 18 kids in a classroom.”
State and county regulations have allowed schools to reopen locally, with masks, social distancing and other public health protections.
“Steele Canyon is the only school in East County that is still shut down,” said Mack. “All the other schools have made some measures to go back, either one day a week, or two days a week, but Steele Canyon has adamantly stood by their position to keep these kids out of the classroom until January.”
Mack recognizes that there are legitimate concerns from teachers and students who have underlying health issues, either themselves or family members, that may cause them to be weary about returning to school. But for students and teachers who don’t, and who want to get back in the classroom, “they should have the opportunity to do so,” said Mack.
According to Mack, “kids are a very, very small representation of positive COVID cases. And when you look at the number of kids that are actually hospitalized, it’s like 115 kids in the entire county. And the number of fatalities under the age of 20 is zero.”
Mack added that for the kids who are promoting returning to school, “They get attacked, they get ridiculed, they get basically hostile attacks. And it’s unfortunate because we’ve gotten to a point in society where it seems that there is no moderate discussion anymore. It’s either you’re on one extreme or the other, and there’s no in between. There’s no willingness to have a discussion or have a negotiation about anything anymore. This is unfortunately one of the things you see trickle down from congress all the way down to everyday Americans, and it’s unfortunate.”
It may not be in a classroom, but the students who were out demonstrating today where learning something very important--how to participate and actively engage peacefully in their democracy and make their voices heard. That’s maybe the most valuable educational experience the students can be having.
ECM has contacted the teacher’s union for comment and will publish a response when received.
Video 1: Call to ReOpen schools by Troy Mack
Video 2: Recognizing caution and underlying conditions by Troy Mack
Video 3: Hostility on Social Media by Troy Mack
Video 4: Comments from Steele Canyon Student Leaders