Some parents reluctant to send kids back to school


Denae Ayala

Students waiting in line to get their lunch at El Rancho High School.

Stephanie Medina, Community News Reporter

Remote learning has turned the lives of Dianamarie Lemus and her sons upside-down. Their home is their classroom. They struggle to keep up with the various teachers and meeting times. They look forward to their schools, Rivera Middle School and North Ranchito Elementary, reopening.

That said, Lemus said it doesn’t seem safe yet, especially with the vaccine being so new and with some people not getting it yet.

“I’m not risking my child’s health and life for anyone to experiment whether it’s time to go back to school or not,” said Lumas, who has lived in Pico Rivera for 10 years. “Adults can barely keep their masks on — you expect a kid to do it?”

That’s why parents like her were relieved to hear the El Rancho Board of Education decided at a meeting on Jan. 19 to extend the closure of its schools until April 9. The board’s decision was based on where the pandemic was at the time and the guidance from the county. What’s more, vaccines for kids won’t be available for months.

While the school board decided to keep schools closed for now, the district is considering  reopening the schools for the remainder of the school year, in the summer and for the 2021-2022 school year.

Frances Esparza, superintendent of El Rancho Unified School District, said the district would like to get students back in the classroom as soon as it’s safe.

Clean-shaven man with glasses, gray suit and blue shirt in front of trees
Frances Esparza is the superintendent of El Rancho Unified School District. Photo courtesy of the school district.

“We will be evaluating the feasibility of a 2021 return to traditional learning. On April 13, the El Rancho Board of Education and the District Cabinet will meet to discuss and decide if the conditions are safe enough for standards to return to our schools for the remainder of the school year,” Esparza wrote in an email. “If it is decided that a safe return is not possible, then the El Rancho Board of Education and District Cabinet will meet on May 4 to begin reviewing the possible return options for Summer School and/or the 2021-2022 School Year.”

Esparza said safety measures the schools would take before returning include taking the temperature of each person walking into the school and each student entering a classroom. Hand sanitizer would be available in each classroom. The teachers would also be cleaning the desks and tables before students are seated. 

It has been a year since Joseph Valdivia, a senior at El Rancho High School, has been able to hang out with his friends at school.

headshot of student with cap and red and white shirt
Joseph Valdivia is a senior at El Rancho School District. Photo courtesy of Valdivia.

“Hanging out with friends brightens my day because we talk about the things we have in common and stories that make us laugh,” Valdivia said, adding that seeing them on the screen via Zoom isn’t the same. Valdivia, 18, said he misses his friends but he isn’t ready to go back to school until the vaccines get fully distributed or the virus has died down.

The pandemic has made it hard for the board members to establish a timeline for reopening the schools. Board members must consider the level of COVID-19 in the community and the safety of the students, teachers, and staff. The district must create a plan to ensure the safety of each person entering the school.

Community News produces stories about under-covered neighborhoods and small cities on the Eastside and South Los Angeles. Please email feedback, corrections and story tips to [email protected]