Petition to delay RUSD schools reopening showcases student opposition

Screenshot+of+the+%E2%80%9CDelay+RUSD%E2%80%99s+Reopening%E2%80%9D+petition+Sept.+16+at+2%3A12+p.m.

Screenshot of the “Delay RUSD’s Reopening” petition Sept. 16 at 2:12 p.m.

The focus on campus this week has been geared toward preparing classrooms to reopen, with shortened school days to allow teachers to prepare, but students are working behind the scenes to stop that from happening.

On Sept. 12, an anonymous account on Change.org going by the name “Rocklin Advocate” posted a petition to delay the opening of RUSD school campuses on Sept. 21 due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. A day later, the petition received 1,000 signatures, and as of Sept. 16, it boasts over 2,000, and continues to grow. This is due in part to students posting the link to the petition on social media and encouraging others to sign.

“I saw the petition on people’s stories on Instagram and I agreed that returning to school isn’t exactly the safest choice, and a lot of other people are genuinely worried about their health as well,” Carter Lewis said. 

Students like Lewis feel that, even with new precautions in place, it will be impossible to ensure that students will be perfectly safe in a hybrid model. Grace Chang isn’t sure how the school would make sure students follow social distancing and mask requirements, and that those precautions won’t even matter, since students will have to take their masks off to eat at lunch.

“Even though we have two lunches, students are still going to be talking to their friends, gathering in circles. It’s impossible to be masked while you’re at lunch. If people are exposed to each other for a 30-minute period, it doesn’t really make a difference, even if you’re masked throughout the rest of the day, and I think it’s really difficult to even make sure that everyone wears it in class. Knowing how so many individuals do not take COVID seriously, and they’re embarrassed to wear masks, it’s really hard to just put that habit on them for those who haven’t gotten used to it yet,” Chang said.

Diya Nijjar doesn’t understand, even after other school districts have been forced to close after opening, that RUSD decided to do so anyway, even with these precautions.

“There have been many other school campuses that have recently opened and then closed again after students and staff have caught coronavirus. I fail to understand why it would be a good idea for the district to test their luck when childrens’ lives are on the line,” Nijjar said.

Not only do students feel that going to hybrid so soon is unsafe, but it is bad for their learning in general. To Chang, the implementation of the hybrid system feels rushed. Not only will students have their instruction time cut in half compared to the distance learning structure currently in place, but teachers, students and parents will have to rearrange their schedules to fit this new system of schooling.

“We had 90 days to get done with an entire year of class, now we essentially have less than 45 days to complete an entire year of material. And this is quite difficult, especially for AP classes considering how it’s already fast paced, but now, we’re even more on our own since we only see our teachers two or three times a week. It’s kind of frustrating because I know that they tried to just get us into school as possible and now, as a result, all the teachers, students and families are scrambling to just rearrange their schedules and [teachers have to rearrange their] entire class schedule,” Chang said.

Ultimately, these students signed the petition because of concern for their own safety, but also the safety of those closest to them. Shampave Kandiah doesn’t want herself or her peers to be at risk of contracting the virus.

“I signed the petition because I truly feel it is unsafe for my peers and I to be subjected to an environment where we are prone to contracting the virus. While everyone desires normalcy, we must understand that we cannot ignore that there still is a pandemic occurring. Moreover, the amount of cases has vastly increased from when we stopped school in March, so I feel it is better if we are safe than sorry,” Kandiah said.

And Chang has witnessed the effects that COVID can have, and wants to avoid the possibility of her grandparents getting sick.

I know people that have died, not only in my family, but outside friends. They didn’t even have an underlying health condition. They were perfectly healthy. But they still passed away.”

— Grace Chang

“I know people that have died, not only in my family, but outside friends. They didn’t even have an underlying health condition. They were perfectly healthy. But they still passed away. And I have, like 80-year-old, almost 90-year-old family members who if they get the virus, they’re not going to be able to make it,” Chang said. 

Along with the danger of going back to school, Nijjar feels that this petition will allow the people’s opinions and voices to be heard, and that those in power should not be the only one making these decisions.

“I signed the petition because I believe that we should not be forced to go back on campus if our health is at risk. When there’s a petition like this, more voices can be heard. A large number of students, parents, and even staff numbers do not support the push for returning back to campus. These opinions should not be less important than those in power, and the petition is an effective way to spread the message,” Nijjar said.

However, Sophie Ohayan thinks that the petition won’t even reach the school board.

“I don’t really think it will get the attention of the school district. The best thing would be to take the petition to a board meeting and say ‘Here’s a list of reasons you should reconsider opening schools. And there’s a list of 1000+ people who agree.’ I think if someone were to do that, then the school district, hopefully, will reconsider it,” Ohayan said.

But even if the petition does reach the school board Lewis thinks it won’t make much difference.

“I think it might reach RUSD, but I don’t think they will consider it because there are so many people who don’t think the virus is actually a threat to us and that we need to go back to school,” Lewis said.

The timing matches up with Placer County changing its emergency status. The Placer County Board of Supervisors ended the “state of emergency” and loosened restrictions last week, announcing they won’t enforce state guidelines announced by Gov. Gavin Newsom. This change means students are more at risk in the community due to lack of enforcement, and if they catch the virus they will now be bringing it to campus every other day.

With the risk of getting COVID-19, and the feeling that the district is rushing into hybrid, negatively affecting students’ learning, Ohayan thinks one thing is pretty clear.

Ohayan said, “It just seems as though the school district cares more about opening the schools rather than the health and safety of their students.”

The full hybrid model is still set to begin Sept. 21 with this calendar and bell schedule.

by DYLAN DE VALK & ASHLEY GRANADOS