Parents and students rally for a return to in-person school



A CUSD student carries a poster with the slogan “Students need schools” as part of a rally to reopen schools outside the district office on Wednesday, Sept. 23. Photo by Lena McEachern.

“Schools not screens.” “Let us see our teachers.” “Science not fear.” “Make our schools great again.”

These were just a few of the many slogans chanted by parents and students outside of the Carlsbad Unified School District office on Wednesday, Sept. 23 at 5 p.m. as part of a rally advocating for the reopening of district schools.

The rally was organized by the Carlsbad Parents for Reopening Schools private group on Facebook, a roughly 500 member strong group with administrators Haley DiDonato, Christen Foster and Danielle Morales. The group aimed to convince the CUSD Board of Trustees to vote to reopen schools for in-person learning during their Wednesday night board meeting, in which they discussed middle and high school reopening plans.

A protestor carries a poster with the text “Our students are bored with the decisions of the board” outside of the Carlsbad Unified School District office on Wednesday, Sept. 23. Photo by Lena McEachern.

Morales, who has three children at CUSD schools, advocated for a five day in-person plan for all grade levels at the rally. She emphasized that schools have been shut down for over six months, and that distance learning brings challenges like technical difficulties and loneliness.

“Distance learning is not working for my kids, and they’re very very unhappy,” Morales said. “They’re isolated, they have no motivation, it’s long and boring, they beg to get off their calls.”

For Sage Creek High School junior Faith Klein and Carlsbad High School senior Lexi Wright, distance learning is not only isolating, but also damaging to their health.

“Staring at the screen all day makes my head hurt and makes my eyes hurt a lot,” Klein said. “I’d prefer if we could go back.”

Wright also wishes to return to school and held up a poster with the slogan “Schools are essential.” Wright hopes to go back in-person either full-time or in a hybrid model setting. 

“With our mental health, we need to be involved in activities, sports and extracurriculars that will help us, and I really don’t think we’re getting the most knowledge and learning off of Zoom,” Wright said. “It’s way too much screen time just being on a computer all day.”

Jamie, the mother of a student at Sage Creek High School who only disclosed her first name, advocated for reopening school with in-person classes five days a week at the rally. For Jamie, the best-case scenario would be a setting where students do not need to wear masks.

“At the elementary age, it’s just not appropriate for kids to be learning social cues through a mask, especially with their teachers and other kids,” Jamie said. “In the high school age, I just feel like it’s gonna be more of a task for the teachers to watch that as opposed to just teaching in the classroom.”

Carlsbad High School senior Addie Rowells agreed with the board’s eventual decision to adopt the Distance Learning 2.0 Plus model, allowing students to return to school in small groups for clubs and activities to benefit students’ mental health. Rowells respects people at the rally voicing their opinions but personally believes that masks need to be worn when students return to school.

“The California Department of Public Health states that facial coverings must be worn in public spaces,” Rowells said. “They need to follow these orders or else they could threaten the lives of people who have underlying diseases.”

A protestor carries a sign with the message “Survival rate for COVID among kids/teens is 99.997%. Gavin must’ve learned math online! Kids need school.” Photo by Lena McEachern.

After the board adopted the Distance Learning 2.0 Plus model, the Carlsbad Parents for Reopening Schools group expressed disappointment at the decision and discussed plans to continue their advocacy. Their overarching message was clear — parents and students from the rally want the opportunity to go back to school for in-person classes.

“People who want to do online school should have that choice, but people who would want to do in-person school should also have that choice,” Morales said. “Schools need to open up.”