North Bay parents divided over controversial 'Missing all CA students' billboard calling to reopen schools

ROHNERT PARK, Calif. (KGO) -- The movement by California parents to get their kids back in public schools is gaining momentum in the form of large billboards. Now, some of the parents who helped to fund those signs have gone public.

Among them, Andrea Quartarolo, who created the GoFundMe page for a large billboard that went up in Rohnert Park last weekend. It reads, "Missing All Students Last seen 3/13/20," and looks almost like an Amber Alert.

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"It is insulting that our schools are not open. It is insulting that our teachers unions have not figured out how to open schools... Our children do not have a voice and no one is listening to them," Quartarolo said.

That billboard has generated more than a little divisiveness.

"It is insulting to our teachers who are working so hard. Parents and kids who are working their tails off," said Tamara Litori, who lives in Rohnert Park. "That billboard is not helping."

Now, we're learning that the billboard is hardly one of a kind. It is part of a grass roots movement that began in Benicia last January with cups along a fence spelling the words, 'Open Our Schools' and 'Let Them Play.' Within hours, someone tore them down.

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"Instead of focusing on getting our students back this is being tied into things that it is not," said Sarah Ferucci, who was behind the effort. "I just want to see our kids back in school."

At last count, California has at least 60 such billboards with similar messages. There are more on the way. Jonathan Zachreson of Roseville, has been running the movement and buying the advertising space.

"The longer schools are closed the more likely Gavin Newsom will be recalled if there is an election. Our very first one was a tweet that said, 'Hey, Gavin Newsom, open schools now or get out of our way. Respectfully, every kid in California,'" Zachreson said.

Locally, the parents who paid to put up those billboards insist that politics should not be part of the discussion. They want flexibility from school boards. They worry about the mental health of their kids.

They care about 4th graders like Elliana Roca or Rohnert Park. She misses friends, class, and says she isn't learning as well as before COVID. "I have fallen back. I used to be above average," Elliana said.

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Administrators are sympathetic, but say they're caught between the teachers unions and other precautions. "From the governor. From health officials of different entities we have to interact with," Perez said.

Mayra Perez is the Superintendent of the Cotati/Rohnert Park Unified School District. "COVID is changing and so are regulations. When school opens we'll have to be able to take temperatures, have PPE coverings, trace every visitor to campus, and that's the easy part," she said.

So, if you should pass one of those signs, read between the lines. You may see exasperation.

Andrea Quartarolo intended it that way. "If we are going to go to work every day and the average person goes to work, why do teachers have to be different from you and me? I don't want anger, arguing or fighting. I would like us to come together and figure it out and get our kids in school as soon as possible. That is the purpose of the billboard," she said.

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