Dear Editor:

I read your most recent articles about Fontana USD school’s reopening and the Fontana Teachers Association concerns.

As a parent of two Fontana USD students, I remain concerned with the notion that our schools will be forced to open without the proper funding to address safety and necessary measures to ensure the protection of our children as well as educators. Plainly, schools are not businesses and our children should not be experiments.

The current proposals seem to try to address concerns, but as all things during this pandemic, the uncertainty means we should proceed cautiously. This is why we should implement distance learning and then move into a hybrid model, eventually returning to a traditional setting when the data and science permits us. Nearby school districts such as San Bernardino City and Jurupa Valley Unified have taken such a course of action.

Inherently, there are standing issues that have been elevated regarding the socioemotional needs of our children. However, we have to confront the role that trauma plays in their development and come together to find other means to facilitate socialization, especially our children who receive special education services.

If we open too soon and their teacher or peers become infected, will another closure occur or will all of the children need to be tested, or in the worst circumstance, what happens if someone dies? What will happen and how will it be addressed? We know now, more than ever, that our schools are central to the success of the economy, but at what expense and assuming what risks? I am mindful that our most vulnerable and disadvantaged children see our schools as safe havens or their first or last warm meal, which we need to address as a society and not in isolation.

If anything, this pandemic has heightened what challenges need to be addressed in our education system such as improving digital access, mental and behavioral health resources, and doing everything possible to close the achievement gap to ensure equity for our all children.

This will take increases in funding and while the state withheld cuts to schools, the federal government’s neglect is an egregious dereliction of duty. If the federal government or city officials wish for schools to reopen, then it is incumbent upon them to pay what is necessary to safely reopen and safeguard our children’s lives. We shouldn’t make this partisan; in fact, Americans should stand up for its children and the people who devote their lives to their instruction.

Kareem Góngora

Member, San Bernardino County Superintendent of Schools (SBCSS) Committee on School District Organization, Fifth District

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