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After delaying a return to the classroom, some schools in the Garden Grove Unified School District are now set to reopen next week as some pushback against a return in the district carries on.

In September, the district announced they would not be reopening schools in early October as originally planned after some parents called for more specific plans for reopening.

The district will now be reopening their 67 schools in a phased out manner. The first tier of schools are set to reopen next Wednesday Oct. 28. 

These include Barker, Bryant, Eisenhower, Enders, Garden Park, Marshall, Monroe, Patton, and Sunnyside elementary schools, Mark Twain Special Education Center, Bell and Walton intermediate schools, Hare High School, and Jordan Adult Transition Program.

An announcement put out by the district has said these schools are in areas with low Coronavirus rates, where there is a high interest from parents and students to return and where the campuses are ready.

“This staggered approach will allow communities ready to reopen schools to do so when other areas might not yet be ready,” reads one of the district’s weekly updates on schools reopenings.

Still some do not feel it’s safe yet to reopen.

“Any level of reopening, whether it be a hybrid model, is not going to be safe for the community at all. The students that are going to be sent back to in person classes are going to be exposed to the virus, and they’ll spread it to their teachers, to school staff, they’ll bring it back home to their families and that will just lead to another outbreak of the virus,” said Abel De La Cruz, an organizer with By Any Means Necessary, a nationwide civil rights and immigrant rights group.

The group will be organizing a car caravan protest on Friday Oct. 23 at 3:30 p.m. starting at Rosita Park in Santa Ana for the community to express their opposition to the reopening of schools without free mass testing in place and a safe vaccine for the virus. The group has held protests in the past in the county against the reopening of schools.

Many school districts are not requiring testing in the County.

Abby Broyles, the district’s public information officer, has not responded to requests for comment.

Other residents in the district expressed their desire for schools to reopen at a district board meeting on Oct. 20.

“Closing schools is detrimental to our young people, it’s not even funny. I know groups like Black Lives Matter are calling for quality online education but those two terms are mutually exclusive. Education is either quality, or its secondary as online,” one man said at the meeting. 

“That is to say no online learning experience will ever be as productive for a child as the social setting of the school simply because the social skills learned in the school are critical to their development, their interaction skills and society at large,” he added.

The reopening of schools has been a matter of contentious debate not just in Garden Grove but in Orange County and across the country as some residents plead for a return while others warn against it. 

Similar concerns over reopening have been playing out in other school districts garnering different results and at the Orange County School of the Arts — a charter school in Santa Ana — where some teachers are worried about the spread of the virus, losing instructional time in a proposed hybrid plan and a lack of specifics in the plan.

As schools, parents will have a choice to keep their kids learning online. The district will be offering in person instruction a couple days a week for students – who will be broken up into cohorts. Students with special needs or who speak English as a second language will be put in their own cohort and attend all five days at school. 

“Their excuse is that those students need more hands on help with their education, but these schools should be providing that kind of extra help online and letting these kids stay at home where they are safe from the virus,” De La Cruz said. 

Garden Grove has the third highest cases of the Coronavirus with 3,162 cases behind Santa Ana and Anaheim who respectively have had 11,130 and 9,869 as of Thursday morning, according to the Orange County Health Care Agency.

School districts in Santa Ana and Anaheim have held off on returning to the classroom.

“The cities that have been most affected by this virus have been the cities that are primarily Latino or have large minority communities of African Americans or Asian Americans,” De La Cruz said.

“Throughout the country, this virus is affecting communities of color the most, and for cities like Garden Grove or Anaheim or Santa Ana to try to reopen is only exposing us even more to that virus and is really doing a lot to hurt and kill people of color in our community,” he added.

Other schools in the district could open on Nov. 12 and some potentially on Dec. 1.

Hosam Elattar is a Voice of OC Reporting Fellow. Contact him at helattar@voiceofoc.org or on Twitter @ElattarHosam. 

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