Dear Dr. Drati, distinguished members of the Board of Education,

We were just made aware of your plans for re-opening Roosevelt Elementary School in Santa Monica. We, as parents of two Roosevelt students, are writing to express our profound concern with this decision for several reasons.

John Hopkins University’s current report on COVID-19 cases in California: We have just checked the Johns Hopkins University website on Corona Virus cases in the US. For the past day, JHU reports 4,267 new cases in CA alone. This is an alarming number of cases to even consider such a radical action. It is significantly higher than the daily number of cases from last year in March when Roosevelt was first closed. At this moment, the daily number of new cases is not good enough to allow students to congregate.

Zoom has been successful in creating an effective learning environment: Granted, it hasn’t been easy for us, but the synchronized Zoom teaching so far has been working well enough for our children. Our teachers have been truly impressive. They have always been well prepared and effective in their instruction. Solely on Zoom, they helped both of our children to make enormous and measurable progress during this academic year.

It is not true that online instruction ALONE creates mental health issues for our children: Our experience shows that it has been quite possible to maintain good mental health through balancing indoor and outdoor activities. For example, we don’t let our children watch television or play computer games at all, and we take them out for sports activities and create safe opportunities for socializing. Perhaps what children need more than anything else are lots of hugs and love from us parents.

In essence, the proposed weekly program poses an unnecessary risk and jeopardizes everything we have achieved so far: Although the numbers are encouraging and gradually coming down, the current numbers still show that opening schools at this time is simply premature. We are really concerned that our children would be forced into a closed space with people who do not practice this vital common sense outside of school. We know for a fact, there are, unfortunately, too many families who do not wear masks regularly and do not follow the protocol for social distancing. Some of those families, in their insistence and relentless push for re-opening, appear to be indifferent about the lives of other human beings, including our precious teachers. This concerns human lives; therefore, it has to be taken seriously. This could be avoided easily by a simple postponement of re-opening until the numbers are low enough and don’t pose a significant threat to human lives.

With a good conscience, we cannot send our children to school at this time. We realize that by not sending them to school, we end up depriving them of this important experience of learning through synchronous instruction and socializing with their peers and teachers. Our children are elementary school students, still not old enough to be able to learn independently in asynchronous time with no live instructions. Hence, our children will be deprived of live instructions on certain school days and this is not fair. With the current proposed DL Plus plan at Roosevelt, children who choose to stay home will not get an equal share of the educational experience. We think, however, it is possible to create an inclusive DL plus plan where all children and families could be treated fairly. We think a different DL Plus Model that doesn’t take away the synchronous teaching would be more just to the families who can’t send their children to school. In this model, the in-person activities could be optional after the actual synchronized DL time in the afternoon.

In conclusion, we understand that there may be some political and economic considerations in creating such a program. We should also consider, however, that perhaps this decision bypasses the issues of equity, diversion, and inclusion, and may create yet another division in our society, and many students may lose their right to education which is paid by the taxes we all pay. We trust that you, as the leaders of our community, will take the necessary steps to remedy this situation and provide an equitable solution.

With best regards, Professor Münir and Elisabeth Beken