On Tuesday, June 30, the San Bernardino Unified School District (SBCUSD) Board of Education gathered for a special meeting and decided to begin the 2020-21 academic school year using a distance-learning model with a possibility of entering into a blended model when deemed safe by district staff, the school board and the county health department.
In making the decision, a heated discussion took place on whether the district had the required amount of personal protective equipment (PPE) for school sites if schools were to reopen with recommended safety protocols.
SBCUSD Safety Officer Eric Vetere appeared to be unprepared to answer Boardman Danny Tillman’s questions regarding PPE.
Vetere told the board that many of the PPE items were on backorder and an order of equipment scheduled to arrive earlier this month had been delayed. Vetere said the district would be receiving an update on that shipment on Friday, July 3.
Tillman then asked Vetere how the board could decide a school start date of Sept. 28, when the district doesn’t have the proper supplies and cannot guarantee that backordered supplies will be delivered on time. Vetere responded that he did not have the answer to Tillman’s questions and is awaiting answers from suppliers.
Assistant Superintendent of Continuous Improvement Rachel Monarrez came to Vetere’s defense telling the board that the district “will not open unless we have all of the items actually physically in the district,” and that “two months should be enough,” to get all the items. Tillman, however, was not satisfied and said that neighboring areas have had a three-month backorder wait, sometimes longer.
Tillman concluded saying, “The worst thing to do is to put a date out like Sept. 28, and you’re saying already you’re not sure you can meet that date. When we put dates out there, it should be dates that are there with some kind of confidence that we know that we’re going to have all the equipment in place at the campuses.”
Monarrezz tried to clarify saying, “We [the district] believe that two-month preparation, assuming everything goes well, is plenty of time,” unless transmission rates of coronavirus go up, which would cancel the aforementioned start date, even if the district was ready.
Tillman asked how could the board open school sites with all these unanswered questions. Monarrezz said she would get back to the board on those questions.
Boardmember Abigail Medina also responded saying that the “second wave,” of coronavirus was already here and accused people who have not been wearing masks in public of “feel[ing] privileged.” She also went after people who she observed going into restaurants and grocery stores without masks as well as those who are organizing gatherings at their homes. She went on to say that these people are “using their American rights” to put the community in danger.
Before, voting the board decided to remove the September start date from the resolution and instead reopen school sites when deemed safe by district staff, the school board and the county health department along with offering an extended distance learning option to families who are not comfortable sending their kids to school if and when the district decides to open school sites.
All members voted yes for the distance-learning model except Board Member Michael Gallo who was not present due to technical difficulties.