Cal teachers express concern about district reopening campuses

Teachers express need for better communication with district

Nima Pendar, Co Photography Editor

Many Cal High teachers have been concerned that the district is reopening too early and feel as though their thoughts are not being heard nor taken into consideration.

“I do not think the district office has made teachers feel comfortable going back to school and returning to campus,” statistics teacher Robert Allen said. “[Superintendent] Dr. Malloy made it clear very early that the board was pushing to open on Jan. 5 and as employees, we have less choice as to what we can do.”

These concerns were temporarily paused after the San Ramon Valley Unified School District Board of Education unanimously voted at its Dec. 15 meeting to indefinitely postpone hybrid learning while Contra Costa County remained in the most restrictive purple tier.

At this meeting, upset teachers voiced their concerns about reopening to the district board and the newly-elected board President Susanna Ordway.

“Unfortunately, this pandemic is causing a lot of emotion,” Malloy said. “I respect those emotions. The trouble is people might hear things from whatever perspective they are holding.”

Dr. Malloy emailed parents an update on Tuesday about certain milestones that have been met toward its goal of reopening campus for in-person hybrid instruction. The email states that once Contra Costa County adjusted case rate meets 25 COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people for five consecutive days, the district is prepared to open campuses for elementary school and Special Day students. 

This district indicated that it is still working to bring a recommendation to the board on Tuesday about bringing back sixth graders for in-person hybrid instruction once campuses open. As of Friday afternoon, the county had 25.2 cases per 100,000, according to a district. 

Dr. Malloy also announced in his Tuesday email that the district had successfully negotiated three Memorandums of Understanding with the unions about the district’s COVID-19 safety plans to reopen campuses for in-person hybrid learning.

Student declarations for choosing hybrid or remote learning were due back on Dec. 4. The Californian sent out an anonymous survey to Cal teachers shortly before this date and received responses from 78 teachers. Of those who responded, 75.7 percent indicated they felt that the district was opening too early, while only 7.4 percent did not feel that schools were reopening too early. Nearly 17 percent of teachers remained neutral on the issue.

The survey also indicated that 71.8 percent of teachers who responded did not feel safe returning to school, while only 15.4 percent felt safe. Nearly 13 percent of respondents remained neutral.

Several of these teachers spoke to The Califorinian on the condition of remaining anonymous because of their fears of “disciplinary action against them if they spoke out.”

“One of my biggest reasons for thinking that it is too early because I think like a scientist,” one teacher said. “I know the scientific facts behind this. I’ve been following the science of this very closely, and reopening to me feels like here’s all the science telling us that we should do.

“I think my biggest concern is the fact that, we know there is a disease out there that we don’t have a cure for right now and that affects major organ systems and that has a lingering effect, and in moving into hybrid there are a lot of variables that won’t be able to control” the teacher continued. 

Several Cal teachers also expressed concern for the lack of communication between themselves and the district. 

“There hasn’t been much request for how staff feels on some of these things,” said a different teacher. “The district only began to ask us questions at the end of October, when they already decided that hybrid was going to happen.”

English teacher Michelle Mascote, who is a teacher union representative for the San Ramon Valley Education Association (SRVEA), said a large number of teachers feel that the decision to reopen schools has very little consideration for how it would affect them. 

Mascote expressed the need for communication and fact-based decision making, though she believes that circumstances are beginning to improve.

“We had a couple of teacher meetings with some of our district administrative staff,” Mascote said. “We felt that was a step in the right direction. We don’t want a monologue on either side, we want a dialogue statement.”

Editor-in-Chief Christine Oh contributed to this story.