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By Collin Breaux | Email:| Twitter: @collin_breaux

OC Health Care Agency officials denied an elementary school waiver applied for by Capistrano Unified School District (CUSD).

In a letter to Superintendent Kirsten Vital and CUSD, health officials said that even though the district had met requirements for a reopening plan, they declined to approve the waiver because only 29.6% of elementary teachers surveyed by Capistrano Unified Education Association (CUEA) had supported the request and CUEA had not submitted a letter of support.

A waiver for elementary schools has been denied. A previously approved campus return plan will still go through. Photo: Andrea Papagianis

The district can still proceed with previously planned phased campus returns. Students will return to preschool through fifth grade starting on Sept. 29 through Oct. 5.

CUSD Board of Trustees President Jim Reardon previously called the waiver for elementary schools to reopen as soon as possible an “insurance policy” that would allow schools to be open even if state guidelines change.

Teachers who called in to comment during a Sept. 23 Board of Trustees meeting brought up the rejected waiver, among other topics. At issue were remarks Reardon had made to Voice of OC in which he said teachers who contended they weren’t consulted on the reopening plan “weren’t paying attention” and that he had “very little sympathy for people who cry out at the last minute.”

Jennifer Vega, a teacher and CUEA member, said the hybrid model in place does not match current practice and will not facilitate a smooth transition back to campus. Vega said she did not receive an adequate response from Reardon when she raised concerns.

“Block periods are too long for the middle school age group and, not to mention, this is a teacher’s worst planning nightmare,” Vega said. “Why were teachers not included in creating an in-person model when we are experts in the field?”

Reardon addressed his remarks, saying he was asked what he thought about teachers who were “suddenly complaining” that they hadn’t been consulted. Reardon also said there was “ample evidence” of significant consultation based on memorandums of understanding with the teachers’ union related to reopening.

“If anybody was offended by that, I apologize. I think that, as we’ve heard in some of the comments this evening, it’s clear teachers are committed to the work ahead,” Reardon said. “Let’s get on with the work.”

In other CUSD news, trustees unanimously approved forming a committee to consider new names for Junipero Serra High School, a continuation school in San Juan Capistrano. Trustee Gila Jones brought up the issue of renaming, as Saint Junipero Serra’s legacy has come under scrutiny over his treatment of indigenous people while instituting missions in California.

Junipero Serra High School in San Juan Capistrano could be renamed, following criticism of Saint Junipero Serra’s interactions with Native Americans. Photo: Collin Breaux

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comments (3)

  • Renaming Serra HS? Seems like we have bigger issues in education than this. Why can’t there be some sort of deeper thinking versus censorship. And why not name a new school after the tribe? Why is it either or? I don’t think Gila Jones has ever taken a visit to see what the Mission San Juan Capistrano does for education and how we teach many aspects and still honor Serra’s role in shaping California. I suggest a better strategy than reacting without one.

  • I think everyone in town interested in this issue should read the book, “A Cross of Thorns: The Enslavement of California’s Indians by the Spanish Missions”, by Elias Castillo.

  • I had a wonderful talk with Gila Jones who was receptive to my input and concerns. I applaud her for taking the time to actually listen and plan a visit soon. It was nice that we could have our discussion with respect and I felt heard by her as we talked about all the issues of the day in education. I look forward to her visiting the Mission San Juan Capistrano soon to see all our education programs up close! She was willing! Siempre Adelante!

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