On Wednesday, August 12, I hosted an OC Education Forum on COVID-19 Safety and Our Schools, discussing when and how to re-open our classrooms with four leading members of Orange County school boards currently dealing with the COVID-19 crisis.
For many of us, there is no bigger question right now than whether our children will be attending in-person classes this fall.
President Trump seems desperate to have schools re-open regardless of the danger to students, teachers, and staff, even threatening to cut federal aid to school districts that decide that the risk of COVID-19 infection is too great to return to in-person classes.
Yet the federal government has provided no real guidance for determining when it is safe to re-open schools, or the proper procedures for school to follow to limit the spread of COVID-19 if they do re-open.
As USA Today put it, “Abandoned by any semblance of national leadership during a raging pandemic, students, teachers and staff are being told to jump into the deep end and return to school buildings.”
In the absence of federal leadership, these decisions and procedures have been left to governors and, crucially, local school districts.
Here in Orange County, our Board of Education made national headlines when it voted 4-1 (with the sole Democrat dissenting) to re-open this fall, without requiring the use of face masks or social distancing.
For many, there was tremendous relief when California Governor Gavin Newsom stepped in to mandate that any schools in counties on the state COVID-19 watch list, which includes Orange County, could not have students in classrooms. The Republicans on the OC Board of Education then responded by suing the Governor over his decision to prevent schools from opening in-person.
I asked four outstanding, progressive school board members in Orange County to join me in a discussion of this critical situation for parents, students, teachers, and school staff:
Keri Kropke of the Brea Olinda School Board. Keri earned a B.A. in political economy from U.C. Berkeley, an M.A. from Cal State Fullerton in History, a post baccalaureate from Chapman University in Communication Disorders, and a M.A. from Cal State Fullerton in Communication Sciences. She is an elementary public educator with a California Clear Multiple Subject Teaching Credential and has recently become a speech language pathologist specializing in language, early intervention and autism spectrum disorder.
Gina Clayton-Tarvin of the Ocean View School Board. Gina is a long-time educator, and was first elected to the OVSD Board of Trustees in 2012. She was recently voted President of the Board, after serving as Clerk, Vice President, and three terms as President of the Board. Gina holds a Bachelors of Arts degree in Anthropology and a California Multiple Subjects Teaching Credential, as well as a California Secondary Single Subject Credential in Biology. She holds an English Learner (EL) Authorization and Cross-cultural, Language, and Academic Development (CLAD) Certificate and is authorized to provide instruction to English learners. She has also worked for Special Education as a home school teacher. She successfully completed the California School Board Association Masters of Governance program and received her certification in 2014.
Kris Erickson of Orange Unified School Board. Kris is the founding attorney at the Law Office of Kristin A. Erickson. She has held board positions on PTA, put on fundraisers for student events, mentored at-risk kids, coached mock trial, and planned our annual staff appreciations to honor hard-working teachers. She also started a grassroots organization, CARE, with several other parents to bring long-needed improvements to our high school campuses. Kris attended Western State University School of Law.
Jamison Power of the Westminster School Board. Jamison was first elected to the Westminster School Board in 2012 and was re-elected in 2016. He received his B.A. from UC Irvine and his J.D. from UCLA. In his professional life, Jamison serves as in-house counsel for Hyundai Motor America. He also provides free legal assistance to low income families, and has received multiple awards for his work. He previously served as a member of the Vietnamese-American Education Advisory Council, and he worked closely with the Superintendent and the Board to ensure that WSD became the first district in California to implement a Vietnamese-English dual immersion program.
I think you’ll find our discussion very timely and informative. Watch it here: