Premium

San Diego calls teachers back to classrooms ... for migrant children only?

Parents in the San Diego Unified School District have spent months demanding that teachers go back into classrooms. In two weeks, they’ll finally get their wish … sort of. The district has called teachers back to in-person instruction, but only to a holding facility for children who crossed the border illegally, not the district’s own schools (via Twitchy):

Needless to say, San Diego parents are not happy with the situation. The district has insisted that in-person instruction could not take place until the pandemic abated and teachers were safe. Neither is Jim Desmond, who blew the whistle on the plan last night:

“We have 130,000 kids who haven’t been allowed in a classroom for over a year in the San Diego United School District. It’s great that there’s in-person learning for those unaccompanied minors from Central America, but I wish every child in San Diego Country was allowed the same opportunity for in-person teaching,” San Diego County Supervisor Jim Desmond told Fox News.

“The system is broken when San Diego teachers are teaching migrant children in person, but the 100k students of taxpaying families at San Diego Unified School District are stuck learning in Zoom school,” Emily Diaz, an SDUSD parent, told Fox News in an email.

The county confirmed the move to Fox News, noting that they have a “moral obligation” to provide education to these children, and that the teachers are volunteering for the effort:

“The San Diego County Office of Education (SDCOE) is providing the educational program for the unaccompanied migrant children who will be staying at the San Diego Convention Center through July. All children in California, regardless of immigration status, have a constitutional right to education. We also have a moral obligation to ensure a bright future for our children,” an SDCOE spokesperson told Fox News in an emailed statement.

“The educational program will include English language development and social-emotional learning opportunities. The teachers who are participating in the program are doing so voluntarily, and the program is following a COVID-19 screening protocol based on guidelines from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.”

The local PBS affiliate gave a more glowing report of the effort, which might start as soon as today:

By Monday night, close to 700 girls, aged 13 through 17, from several countries in Latin America will be at the Convention Center, according to Kathryn Lembo, executive director of South Bay Community Services. The San Diego County Office of Education will take responsibility for providing the girls with an education in English and the arts for the duration of their stay, which will last through July.

“We definitely want to introduce them to the arts, the visual arts and the performing arts,” said Roberto Carrillo, a principal at the County Office of Education. “We’ll give them the opportunity to start expressing themselves through written formats, giving them a basic understanding of the English language.”

Instruction will start once the youth have all arrived and settled in, which could be as soon as Tuesday. Carrillo says community members who want to support these educational efforts should contact the County Office of Education or South Bay Community Services.

Worth noting: SDCOE won’t even start a hybrid system for its enrolled students for another two weeks. And do those arrangements in the above video look like they are designed for pandemic control?

No one doubts the value of providing an education to children, regardless of their circumstance. No one should doubt the practical value of providing an education to the children in these facilities either; not only is it good for their development, it keeps them busy and productive, which makes housing them easier, especially teenagers. And there is a good moral argument for ensuring proper development now that we are allowing them entry into our country, too.

However, there is an even stronger moral argument for providing in-person education to the children of the residents who pay for their schools, too. If the ad hoc arrangements at the convention center can be made to follow CDC guidelines for pandemic safety, why not the schools? If teachers feel safe enough to teach in-person at a chaotic migration-detention facility, why is there any problem in returning to their full-time in-person instruction in their schools?

KUSI interviewed Desmond last night about the situation, noting that “dozens” of these children have tested positive for COVID-19 already. (The video is not embeddable, but be sure to watch it.) Desmond thinks that the convention center will eventually house as many as 1500 children.  It’s a federal operation that will reimburse the local government for any costs, but as Desmond says, it’s unsustainable, especially epidemiologically. New children will come into the facility at a faster rate than existing residents can be placed with relatives, and the newer influx will carry COVID-19 into the facility as well. They need an education, and it makes sense for the SDCOE to facilitate it — but it belies the idea that the existing schools are too unsafe for teachers and for the students who live in San Diego. If teachers can be protected in the round-robin of the convention center with children already known to carry the virus, they can teach San Diego’s children in person as well.