Teachers speak out against LASD return at board meeting

STORY BY GIL RUBINSTEIN, PHOTO BY TOMOKI CHIEN

While for many, school commutes now consist solely of the distance between bed and laptop, the Los Altos School District Board’s decision on Jan. 11 to continue as planned with in-person learning means that many LASD teachers are now forced to return to campus. For fourth grade teacher Emily Simon, that means spending her commute in tears.

“I spent each of my commutes in tears, deciding between my life and my students’,” she said at the board meeting.

LASD began its opening earlier this year, welcoming elementary school students beginning in late September through December; that was temporarily put on hold due to staffing shortages in early December, but the board’s move on Jan. 11 has seen transitional kindergarten through fifth graders on campus this week, with middle schoolers slated to return on Jan. 20.

Like all other teachers who gave comments at the meeting, Simon echoed the fact that the District has forced many teachers to make a difficult decision: their safety or their job. While all can agree that students receive a better education in-person, many teachers and some parents are concerned for the safety of teachers, especially those teaching middle school.

“I would much rather be in person,” said Blach science teacher Megan Greenbaum. “But as a teacher, I will be seeing around 120 students a week; the case numbers are higher than ever, and the number of ICU beds in the county is shrinking.”

As reported by the Town Crier, the Los Altos Teachers Association opposed the District’s move, wanting to hold off on a mandatory return until either the county sits in the red tier of coronavirus restrictions for two weeks, or all staff members are vaccinated. 

Throughout the board meeting, members of the board implored teachers to look at the statistics.

“Does the data support our anxiety or not?” said District Superintendent Jeff Baier. “I want to make sure we are looking at this through the lens of reality.”

A chart detailing COVID-19 statistics across LASD schools. (via Los Altos School District)

However, considering that the number of available ICU beds in the county sit in the single digits, many teachers are concerned for the health of themselves and their families.

“After 21 years teaching at Blach, I got a little bit older, and like many of the mature teachers, I am a bit frail, and I am very very afraid with in-person teaching,” said Blach teacher Lorinna Roland while fighting back tears. “There won’t have to be many cases for it to be me, and for it to be fatal. Please wait until we can get a vaccine.”

While the cases in Santa Clara County increase and ICU beds decrease, teachers spoke out against parents allowing their students to defy state and local COVID restrictions.

“Students have been seen in Los Altos neighborhoods without masks, and they have had sleepovers with friends, and seen extended family members,” said Egan teacher Ann Specter. “Guidelines have not been followed by everyone, and without regular testing the risk is huge.”

At the time of publication, the Post was unable to reach Baier for comment.

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