Letter to the Editor | A call for return to full-time, in-person school

Many families – including my own – reluctantly pulled our children from PUSD this past year to enroll them in schools that are safely and successfully offering in-person instruction. Looking ahead to the 21/22 school year, we desperately want to return to PUSD; however, in order to make that decision, we need assurances that the district’s top priority is to reopen its schools for full-time in-person instruction for all grades in August. 

As more and more data show that schools can reopen safely with proper precautions; as all teachers in Piedmont will likely be offered COVID vaccines by this summer; and most importantly, as growing evidence has shown that long-term distance learning is doing real harm to our children, full-time in-person instruction is absolutely essential for the 21/22 school year. 

Without it, many families like mine who left the district this year will likely stay away, and many more will leave in the coming months. While I have been thrilled to see grades K-6 begin some in-person instruction over the last few weeks, the current hybrid schedules (ranging from 2-4 hours of weekly in-person instruction for secondary students to 9 hours for elementary) are simply not enough to make up for the social, emotional, and academic losses caused by a year of distance learning.

Knowing families soon need to make school decisions for next year (most private school deposits, for example, are due in March), I asked PUSD to survey families about their intentions to stay in the district for the 21/22 school year. Superintendent Booker declined the request. As a result, a group of parents decided to conduct one ourselves. The grassroots survey ran from February 2–14, with over 400 PUSD families participating. 

The results were telling: 

● Nearly 50% of respondents, or 198 families, said they are very or somewhat likely to leave the district if the 21/22 school year begins with hybrid instruction. These numbers are vastly different from the enrollment projections PUSD released this week predicting that district enrollment will decline by only 54 students next year.

● An additional 51 families said they are not in a position to leave the district if 21/22 begins with hybrid instruction, but they would if they could. 

● More than 270 families who had previously donated to the Piedmont Education Foundation – 66% of all survey respondents – said they would reduce their annual donation or give nothing next year if PUSD’s schools do not open for full-time in-person instruction. 

With this important data in hand, we call on Superintendent Booker and PUSD’s school board to demonstrate a firm commitment to reopening PUSD’s schools for full-time in-person instruction in August so that families are not forced to leave a school district that we want so much to continue to be a part of. 

Sincerely,

Laura Maestrelli
Parent of 2nd grader and rising kindergartner

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