coronavirus pandemic

Father Feels Forced to Send Daughter With Asthma Back to In-Person Learning

The father says he wrongly selected his daughter to return to classes but, because of her health problems, wants her home. He says the district told him there's nothing they can do but put her on the waitlist

NBC 5 News

A father whose daughter has asthma says her daughter will be forced to return to in-person instruction despite his wishes because of a challenge he is facing with the San Marcos School District.

Jose Mendoza doesn't want his daughter to go back to in-person learning at Discovery Elementary School because, according to him, it's not safe for her. But she has been selected to return to school under a hybrid model.

"A week ago, I received an email from the school saying that my daughter already has to come back, and I worried,” Mendoza said.

Mendoza's stress lies with his daughter's health condition.

"My daughter suffers from asthma-related medical conditions, so now with this COVID-19 situation, it's critical for her and she requires the use of an inhaler," he said. "My daughter wants to be safe. As a child, I remember all the times we've had to take her to the hospital or clinics for treatment."

The San Marcos Unified School District told Telemundo 20 that parents were given the option via a survey to select what type of learning model they would prefer for their students -- virtual, hybrid or in-person.

Mendoza said weeks ago, he received the survey and wrongly indicated that he would agree to have his daughter return to the classroom.

"When I realized the mistake, I spoke to one of the office admins and she said, 'Don't worry, a lot of people did that, we're going to correct it,'" Mendoza said.

However, he said the school principal told him there is no room for his daughter in the virtual learning model, and the only option would be in enrolling her in another school district, something he does not think is fair.

The father added that he has repeatedly contacted school authorities to give her the opportunity to stay home, rather than return next week.

"Since Thursday, I've been calling the school, but no one answered me until yesterday. I was contacted by someone and they said, ‘You know what? We're already at full capacity for virtual learning and there's no more,’ and I said, ‘How is it possible? My daughter is high-risk, I even have letters from her doctors,’” he said.

The father noted that the school recommended that he contact the principal directly by email.

"I sent it to him, but the answer I got wasn't very comfortable. He said, 'Nothing can be done, we're going to put her on the waiting list,'" Mendoza said.

The school said the principal emailed Mendoza back the same day and added him to the waitlist for the virtual model.

"We send our children to school to be safe. The worst thing is that knowing her medical condition they tell me that there is no choice but to send her elsewhere," he said.

TELEMUNDO 20 contacted the San Marcos Unified District, for comment:

"The San Marcos Unified School District surveyed all families in August prior to the opening of school to determine each family’s selection of instructional model for their individual students. At that time, the communication explained to parents that movement between models would be available based on facility and staffing availability. The family chose the Hybrid learning model in this first survey.

A subsequent survey was sent to families on September 25th. Parents had the opportunity to request a change in their model at that time. Though not guaranteed, all requests that were received were reviewed and changes were made based on available staffing and facilities. The survey was sent to the Discovery community on September 25th, September 27th, and placed on the school website from September 25th - October 2nd (the day the survey closed). 

On October 3rd, families that indicated they wanted a shift in models were either offered changes or placed on a waiting list. A follow-up communication regarding the survey responses was provided to the Discovery community on October 4th.

The Mendoza family did not respond to the September 25th survey. Mr. Mendoza’s first contact with the school was on October 26th; on that same day the principal of the school responded to Mr. Mendoza and placed his student on the waiting list.  

As a district and school community, we will continue to offer support to the family through either the hybrid learning option that they chose or with a transition to a homeschool option for their student. -SMUSD Communications.

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