"I want to go back to school because I can't be home anymore. I fight too much with my little brothers and I can't concentrate at home," said fifth-grader Iris Martinez.
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She and the other students sat on the lawn with computers in their laps and participated in distance learning in the park.
"My house is too small. We don't have our own desks. Right now, I am in my mom's bedroom, we share bedrooms. My mom set me up with a little table and a chair," Martinez said.
A group of Latinx kids and their moms gathered for distance learning outside in San Francisco today, calling for schools to re-open. They say they hope school officials and school board President Gabriella Lopez see them and know they want to be back in school. pic.twitter.com/0PsRCRDv9y— Amy Hollyfield (@amyhollyfield) March 2, 2021
Supervisor Hillary Ronen joined the group, and says she wishes she could help them.
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"It's outrageous, and they are begging me to do something to help them. As a supervisor, I don't know what I can do. I am working on a universal summer program so kids can go for free and make up some time. But it's the district, it's the school board, it's the union; you have got to get this done for our kids," Ronen said.
She says many of the moms are immigrants and have story after story of struggling with distance learning. For instance, one mom who is trying to balance home schooling her disabled child and going to work.
"The teacher is texting her saying you have to get him back on, he is not participating, and she is texting back to the teacher saying I have to put food on the table I have to work," Ronen said.
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"We have families that have three, four, five kids at home and live in small spaces. Basically, doing home school for three or four children at home, different grades. They don't have the language, they aren't therapists. But here we are, doing it all. That is impossible for us," said Dheyanira Calahorrano, one of the mothers who organized the protest.
San Francisco's school district and union are still negotiating on a reopening plan and have said they won't be able to reopen by the governor's deadline of April 1.
"'No' is not an option. It has been a year - a year - of kids suffering," Ronen said.
"We need to let the city and the school district, especially the (school board) president Gabriela Lopez, know that we the Latino families want to go back to school," said Calahorrano.
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Ronen has heard of families who have decided to enroll in private schools, because they are open, or have moved away to a state where schools are open.
"These children's stories are the most heartbreaking because their parents don't have the means to buy their way out of the public school system. And I don't blame the ones who are buying their way out," said Ronen, who said she isn't sure whether she could afford private school, but she has thought about it for her 8-year-old because of distance learning.
"Parents are facing these questions that they never would have considered before because they believed - I believed - in our public school system," she said.
The group of mothers say they will plan more protests in the park and hope they will lead to solutions.
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