Planning for education in a pandemic should not be rushed

By Gabriela Lopez

There are numerous issues Board of Education candidate Michelle Parker fails to recognize in her assessment of the school district. Continuing to fuel the fears of our families instead of working in community and advancing the work we have been able to do, and are continuing to learn from, is adding to the problem instead of supporting solutions together.

To state what might be more obvious to everyone — not just the group that wants in-person instruction to exist despite the monumental fiscal, logistical and safety efforts it would require — access to adequate health care and financial support, should someone get infected, is a real fear for families. And a privilege not everyone is allotted given the multiple systemic and racist barriers that have created the societal structures in which we are forced to live under.

There are many families who do not want to return to in-person instruction as there is actual anxiety of contracting the virus given we are living through a pandemic. Families whom I do not believe the naysayers are in touch with, especially the Latino community which COVID-19 has adversely affected. And there continues to be a gross misunderstanding of the reality of in-person learning, and which teachers are even willing and able to provide instruction in that format.

There must also be a misconception about unsafe working conditions and forcing people to take that risk. Despite all of that, there are still plans being made regarding creative ways of accessing education but again, none of that can be done, and will not be done, without educators’ input on behalf of the teachers union. This is why we have unions such as United Educators of San Francisco who are working tirelessly to ensure the most equitable negotiations are made.

I will not condone contracting out and involving charter-school tied partners in our work. Through our own organizing we were able to hear directly from all participants which is why we now have parent workshops, numerous guides, resources, videos and community cohorts. Among other things. It is incredibly insulting to assume we have done nothing without even communicating with the people who are on the ground.

We must remember, for many, this is truly a matter of life or death. Speaking for others without including them in the process, even if that might bring a faster solution, is a system I do not wish to operate under.

Gabriela Lopez is vice president of the San Francisco Board of Education.

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