East Bay parents push for return to in-person classes; teachers union urges delay

LAFAYETTE, Calif. (KGO) -- Students and parents from Lamorinda schools say the time is now for at least some of them to get back into the classroom after months of learning only online.

"I think there have to be allowances made for people who want distance learning," said Jennifer Bielawski, the parent of an Acalanes High School student, who organized a rally Tuesday morning in downtown Lafayette.

"I think they should be able to do that. I respect that. The teachers who need to stay home," she said. "I respect that, but for the families that want to go back and they need that, their kids need that, then we have to make that happen too."

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Despite Contra Costa County now meeting the state's coronavirus criteria for allowing in-person classes, school districts in Lamorinda (the region made up by cities Lafayette, Moraga, and Orinda), say it's not time, not yet.

"We really want to be with our students. We want to meet the students we haven't met yet," said Dana Fry, a fourth-grade teacher who is also a spokesperson for the Lafayette Education Association.

he LEA has an agreement with the Lafayette Unified School District for a safe reopening plan.

"With people gathering in larger groups than they probably would normally do, outside of the social bubble," explained Fry. "They may be exposing themselves to COVID and if we're back in the classroom, you're exposing students and the staff to COVID."

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The Acalanes Union High School District did not respond to our requests for comment, but in a recent email to parents, Superintendent John Nickerson wrote:

"We hear from many parents and students that we must open our schools faster. We hear from many that we should be more cautious. Our charge is to best meet the needs of all, but to do so safely."

Besides some sports activities, the high school district has set January 2021 as their goal for returning to at least some in-person classes in a hybrid model.

Some in Lamorinda say that's not soon enough.

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"The worst part about it is probably just not seeing my friends," said seventh-grader Reid Habas. "It's just a lot harder to learn, just going back to school would be 100 percent better."

A Change.Org petition, demanding that the Lamorinda districts offer at at least some in person by early November has so far collected more than 800 signatures.

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