The Desert Sands Unified School District board decided at their meeting Tuesday night to delay a vote on when and how students will return to the classroom for in-person learning. It followed a protest outside the district headquarters at which a group of parents urged district officials to reconsider safety protocols.
The district previously proposed sending some elementary students back next month, and middle and high school students in January. The district superintendent said out of 400 email responses, nearly 75 percent of them were not in favor of that plan.
"I was absolutely shocked when I heard the plan that was presented," said Rhea Hoffman, a DSUSD parent. "I do not understand how we got to this point but I know we are capable of reaching a better plan for our community."
Hoffman, an organizer of the protest, said the district's in-person learning plan doesn't factor in enough safety measures for kids and teachers, and by extension, their families at home.
"We want temperature checks. We want mandatory COVID testing for staff," Hoffman said. "We want to make sure there are barriers around student desks as well as teacher desks and masks on all students."
"Some kids will probably take off their mask during school and some kids live with their grandparents so that could easily spread to them," said Ryleigh Pope, a fifth grader at Gerald Ford Elementary. She said she's enjoying distance learning so far, and has her own concerns about returning to the classroom.
"I don't really want to be in school because it's not safe right now," Pope said.
Parents also voiced worries at the protest about disruptions to students' education once they return to in-person learning – like changing teachers in the middle of the year.
"They're getting comfortable where they're at now; they've got a routine down," said Selena Marquez. "They know how their teachers work and to take it away and start over, it's not fair."
"To separate students from their teachers now would be very difficult at a time that already so much normal is taken from them," Hoffman said. "We're now taking the most normal face that they see every day away from them."
The district tabled their vote to a later time, citing pending negotiations with the teacher's association.