‘It Has Been A Year Of Kids Suffering’: Latino Parents And Students Protest For San Francisco Schools To Reopen


Marlo Safi Culture Reporter
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Latino mothers and their school-aged children gathered Tuesday to protest for San Francisco public schools to reopen, citing the challenges their families have faced after nearly a year of being away from classrooms, ABC 7 reported.

The group gathered at Parque Ninos Unidos in the Mission District, where students sat on the lawn with laptops to participate in virtual learning. Iris Martinez, a fifth grader, told ABC 7 that she wants to go back to school because she can’t concentrate at home.

“My house is too small. We don’t have our own desks. Right now, I am in my mom’s bedroom, we share bedrooms. My mom set me up with a little table and a chair,” she said. 

Dheyanira Calahorrano, one of the mothers who organized the protest, told ABC 7 that parents of multiple children have struggled to help their children with schoolwork over the last year, especially since many families live in small spaces.

“We have families that have three, four, five kids at home and live in small spaces. Basically, doing home school for three or four children at home, different grades. They don’t have the language, they aren’t therapists. But here we are, doing it all. That is impossible for us,” she said.

“We need to let the city and the school district, especially the (school board) president Gabriela Lopez, know that we the Latino families want to go back to school,” Calahorrano added.

During a Tuesday school board meeting, superintendent Vince Matthews said there is no specific target date for reopening district schools yet, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.  Democratic California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Monday that $2 billion in grants would be used as an incentive for schools to reopen for their youngest students by the end of March, and for every day that schools miss the April 1 deadline, they will lose 1% of funding, the Sacramento Bee reported

San Francisco’s school district said it won’t be able to reopen by the deadline, although district officials said that they would be moving “extremely fast” in March to reopen 64 elementary schools by the end of the month, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. In early February, the city’s teachers union reached a tentative agreement with the district to return to classrooms once San Francisco moved into the Red Tier from the strictest Purple Tier, and when all teachers are vaccinated. (RELATED: San Francisco Teachers Union Agrees To Return For In-Person Learning After City Threatened To Sue School District)

City officials announced Tuesday that San Francisco would officially be moved into the Red Tier, meaning there is substantial COVID-19 spread. Days prior to the tentative agreement between the district and the unions, the city announced its plans to sue the district to force it to reopen.

SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA – DECEMBER 17: Pedestrians walk by a mural of Abraham Lincoln outside of Abraham Lincoln High School on December 17, 2020 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Hillary Ronen, a school supervisor, told ABC 7 that she wishes she could help parents and students fighting to reopen schools, and that she was working on a universal summer program that would allow students to make up some of the time they missed from in-person learning.

“But it’s the district, it’s the school board, it’s the union; you have got to get this done for our kids,” Ronen said. She also described the struggles many immigrant mothers face when trying to juggle work and home schooling.

“The teacher is texting her saying you have to get him back on, he is not participating, and she is texting back to the teacher saying I have to put food on the table I have to work.”

“’No’ is not an option. It has been a year – a year – of kids suffering,” Ronen added. She also said many parents are opting for private schools, or have moved away to districts where public schools are open. But low-income households unable to afford private school tuition don’t have other options.

“These children’s stories are the most heartbreaking because their parents don’t have the means to buy their way out of the public school system. And I don’t blame the ones who are buying their way out,” she told ABC 7. 

Multiple California teachers unions and school leaders have claimed that white parents were pressuring schools to reopen. Some have even called the push to reopen schools “white supremacist.”

Children attend online classes at a learning hub inside the Crenshaw Family YMCA during the Covid-19 pandemic on February 17, 2021 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by PATRICK T. FALLON/AFP via Getty Images)

A board member La Mesa-Spring Valley Schools in San Diego claimed that reopening schools for in-person instruction was “white supremacist ideology” and told fellow board members to check their privilege when they discussed potential reopening dates. The board member also compared forcing teachers to return to classrooms to “slavery.”

After a Los Angeles teachers union president claimed that the push to reopen schools was driven mostly by white, wealthy parents, some black parents in Los Angeles organized a school reopening rally scheduled for March 13.