BRAWLEY — Brawley Elementary School District Superintendent Dr. Richard Rundhaug addressed the Board on reopening plans Tuesday, February 9, as well as addressed statements made in a recent Imperial Valley Press article last Saturday.
Rundhaug spoke about reopening plans, but said the district is not in the position to open right now. He backed BESD’s stance on not reopening referencing recent incidents with Coronado Unified School District and Escondido Unified School District. Coronado pushed to reopen outside of state regulations and was sued by the California Teacher Association. Escondido had a COVID outbreak that caused closures on the second day of reopening.
Rundhaug wants to avoid similar situations at BESD, stressing that the district is going over all the options, data, and logistics to make sure Brawley does not face a similar situation. When a plan is ready, he said the district will share it with the public and staff associations.
“We are not going to do it until we are ready, meaning we are not going to put ourselves in the legal position and in a medically challenging position to our students and staff,” said Rundhaug.
In a recent edition of the Imperial Valley Press, Rundhaug stated BESD would be submitting a reopening plan to the Imperial County Health Department. “Our reopening plans are ready, and we will be submitting them to the Health Department probably next week regardless of the case rate.”
Rundhaug said he was actually referring to a safety plan that the district has been reviewing to prepare for the future return to in-classroom learning. The plan includes logistics such as temperature checks, student health screenings, etc. Rundhaug said that is his definition of a reopening plan, however, realizes a lot of people might say otherwise.
“We’ve had it ready, that’s really what I want the public to understand more than anything,” said Rundhaug. “We’ve put time into planning, we’re readying from a safety standpoint to take care of all those logistics.”
Community member Isabelle Solis said that any future reopening plans need to be discussed with the community and published in both English and Spanish. Solis raised concerns about portable classrooms and voiced parental concerns about access to running water for hand washing and keeping restrooms clean and sufficiently supplied.
“The voters in Brawley, including myself, have placed our trust in our current board. As a teacher and community member, I want nothing else but to return to in-class instruction when it is safe and the appropriate measures have been put into place,” said Solis.
Reopening schools is a very scary word right now, according to Brawley Elementary Teachers Association President Mary-Anne Moreno. The meaning has been altered, according to Moreno, implying the schools are not even in session and the virtual learning does not count as school, which is in fact, the opposite.
“Unfortunately, people that are not directly affected with education do not really understand that we are open. We’ve been working our tails off since March! We’ve been working all hours, working way into the night, a lot of us worked the entire summer,” said Moreno. “We’ve been open, we’ve just not been working in the actual building because we believe the lives of others are more important.”
As of Tuesday, there is no date for reopening Brawley elementary schools, according to Rundhaug. He assures the public that as soon as BESD knows that date, the community will be notified.