“Reopen Our Schools” rally calls for CVUSD to resume in-person instruction

Protesters+sit+along+the+Conejo+Unified+School+district+sign+during+the+%22Reopen+Our+Schools%22+rally+at+Conejo+Valley+Unified%27s+district+office+in+Thousand+Oak%2C+Calif.+on+Wednesday%2C+Oct.+21.+Photo+credit%3A+Ryan+Bough

Protesters sit along the Conejo Unified School district sign during the “Reopen Our Schools” rally at Conejo Valley Unified’s district office in Thousand Oak, Calif. on Wednesday, Oct. 21. Photo credit: Ryan Bough

By Aleea Evangelista

On Oct. 21, some parents of the Conejo Valley Unified School District held a reopening rally in Thousand Oaks to promote the reopening of schools.

In a flyer for the event, the aim of the reopening rally was to “celebrate the planned return to campus and urge further easing of restrictions around activities and sports.”

Parents and students at the rally wore masks and held signs along East Janss Road outside of the CVUSD district office.

The rally was held one day after the CVUSD Board of Education approved the proposed reopening timeline for grades transitional kindergarten to 12th in a board meeting on Oct. 20. The proposed timeline instructs that CVUSD students will return to campus for in-person learning on a staggered schedule by grade level.

Protester hold up signs in front of the CVUSD district office during the
Protesters hold up signs in front of the CVUSD district office during the “Reopen Our Schools” rally at Conejo Valley Unified’s district office in Thousand Oak, Calif. on Wednesday, Oct. 21. Photo credit: Ryan Bough

The CVUSD Board of Education passed the timeline with 4-1 votes and decided that transitional kindergarteners to 8th graders will resume in-person instruction in November. High schoolers will return to learning on campus in January.

For the past seventh months, CVUSD students have used online instruction due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Angie Klifman, an organizer of the reopening rally and parent in the district, expressed her support of reopening schools and to have high schoolers return sooner than January.

“We want our high schoolers to go back to school now because all the other schools in our district are going back within the next three weeks and they pushed high school back to January 19th,” said Klifman.

Klifman referred to the private schools in the Conejo Valley area that have been approved for resuming in-person education. CVUSD is responsible for more than 18,000 students within their district and must accommodate the large populations that opted for on-campus learning.

A driver gives a thumbs up to protesters on the side of Janss Rd
A driver gives a thumbs up to protesters on the side of Janss Rd in Thousand Oak, Calif. on Wednesday, Oct. 21. Protesters were participation in the “Reopen Our Schools” rally. Photo credit: Ryan Bough

In order to prepare for reopening, preventative measures such as plastic barriers and distanced desk configurations will be implemented in classrooms. Schools will also adopt the morning and afternoon cohort model for students to ensure small class sizes. Face masks must be worn by all students, teachers and staff on campus.

Ventura County Supervisor Board chair Kelly Long discussed the reopening guidelines for schools in the press conference on Oct. 21 as the county stays in the red tier.

“Those guidelines are based on the school districts themselves. The public health director for Ventura County is working with our school systems to ensure that they have all that they need from us. And then they will work with their teachers and staff to roll out the plan with the parents and our students,” said Long.

Three weeks into the red tier, Ventura County Public Health Director Rigoberto Vargas encouraged all Ventura County residents to continue social distancing measures to ensure the safe reopening of schools and businesses at the Oct. 21 press conference.

“Now that schools are reopening, I want to thank our school leadership, superintendents from all our school districts, and everyone working to have a healthy Ventura County so that we can further reopen in a safe manner,” said Vargas.

Brooke Cortesi, a CVUSD high school parent at the rally, discussed the many obstacles that students face as online learners in the coronavirus pandemic.

“Between the fires and so many things going on, they’re never in school and they’re not learning enough. I’m so afraid in the future that they’re just not getting the education they need,” said Cortesi.

Raymond Fontayne holds up a sign in support of re-opening schools during the
Raymond Fontayne holds up a sign in support of re-opening schools during the “Reopen Our Schools” rally at Conejo Valley Unified’s district office in Thousand Oak, Calif. on Wednesday, Oct. 21. Photo credit: Ryan Bough

Many parents at the rally agreed that the quality of learning is different in comparison to in-person education.

Sandee Everett, a CVUSD Board of Education member and parent within the district, attended the reopening rally. Everett voted against the proposed timeline because it offered a January start date for high school students.

“I think that the board majority put the wishes of the union over the needs, the safety, the wellbeing and the educational needs of our kids in high school,” said Everett.

Everett referred to the Unified Association of Conejo Teachers, as many educators and teachers have expressed concerns of a quick reopening of schools.

Pam Warner, a second and third-grade teacher at Maple Elementary, spoke on behalf of herself and her colleagues at the CVUSD Board of Education meeting.

“Strict, unambiguous well-communicated guidelines along with proper equipment need to be in place to ensure the safe return for all,” said Warner. “At this time, we do not believe this is the case. We are being rushed back into the classroom without clear, well communicated and fully implemented guidelines, personnel and safety equipment.”