U.S. Senator Mitt Romney had some tough questions for San Diego Unified District Superintendent Cindy Marten, who has been nominated to be U.S. Deputy Secretary of Education.
“Help me understand then, why it is we continue to have so many schools closed, why we have not opened our schools?” said Romney during Marten’s confirmation hearing Thursday.
Critical of Marten and the district, Romney said they have not followed research and science that show students are safer in school and schools can reopen safely. He questioned why the district used an independent panel of UCSD scientists when there were federal guidelines in place.
“We have people making local decisions, not based upon federal guidance, local decisions to keep schools closed,” Romney said.
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"I think the district has done a lot of work especially by following the guidance from our local scientists,” said Dawniel Stewart from the group Parents for Science-Based Reopening.
She said the federal guidelines, kept changing and were politicized under the Trump administration. The district's strategy, she said, was good.
“They have scapegoated their UCSD experts as being the reason behind their strict rules to reopen,” said Gina Smith from the group, Reopen San Diego Unified School District, adding the district used the UCSD panel as an excuse for not reopening.
The district will open schools at all grade levels to hybrid instruction April 12.
“Eight weeks to go in the school year, and quite frankly, I think it’s pretty pathetic that they are doing so little so late in the school year,” said Smith.
“San Diego has been in the purple tier for so long and it’s only recently gone down to the red tier because they moved the goal post,” said Stewart, referring to the change to case rates that made it easier to move to the red tier.
Doctor Kim Prather, one of the UCSD experts, said that is exactly why San Diego waited -- for the numbers to go down. She said the CDC guidelines are all over the place, and that Cindy Marten should be applauded for making the right choice and getting her own experts. Doctor Prather said the district has done a lot of work, especially regarding ventilation and air filtration, and with the numbers down, the district is ready to reopen.