Commentary: Why GBHS shouldn’t reopen


Granite Bay Today File Photo

The usual hustle of Granite Bay High School, depicted above, is now a distant memory. Debate is rampant on whether or not students should return to campus.

Aiden Sherman, Staff Writer

In the midst of a dystopian pandemic with a novel virus, Roseville Joint Union High School District has decided to reopen their schools.

Despite the lack of a vaccine, lack of cohesive action from the federal government, presence of vulnerable populations within GBHS and spikes of the virus in recent weeks, the Board of Trustees has decided to reopen.
The Board of Trustees decided that the benefits of reopening outweighs the risks, serving as the governing body for the district.
Following Dr. Denise Herrmann’s tumultuous and unusual mid-year resignation, Jess Borjon was appointed to serve as the interim Superintendent of Roseville Unified High School District in the midst of mounting uncertainty.
“I have received both support and opposition to almost everything we’ve done as a district thus far,” Borjon said on reopening. “There is a great deal of passion around this issue.”
Borjon wrote that he had a responsibility to reopen campuses safely with minimal effect on learning.
“We are committed to taking an incremental approach to ensure safety and remain on a path towards full reopening,” he said in an email addressed to students, parents and teachers.
But it’s too soon to attempt reopening RJUHSD.
California bungled its COVID-19 response and reopened prematurely.
That decision cost us more than just months of progress, it cost us thousands of lives and infected hundreds of thousands.

That decision cost us more than just months of progress, it cost us thousands of lives and infected hundreds of thousands.”

— Aiden Sherman

It taught us that reopening should occur only when the overwhelming majority of experts agree it’s safe and this pandemic is well under control.
However, the district has been facing intense pressure from parents to reopen.
Johnathan Zackerson, a parent with a student in the Roseville Union High School District, complained that Phase 4 of reopening the school was too far away.
“Frankly, the timeline is unacceptable,” Zackerson said. “Why can’t the district just jump to Phase 4” or find a way to, “move up the timeline,” to reach full, on-campus instruction sooner?
He believed the district needed to get it done as soon as mid-September.
He also asked how, “Dictator Newsom’s ridiculous rules,” would play into the district’s decision and if there was a way to pull qualified substitutes in place of teachers who refused to teach in person.
A poll conducted by the district confirmed that a staggering 75% of parents want their children to be back on-campus.
The issue proved divisive for teachers, with 50% concerned about reopening schools and another 50% in favor of reopening.
With almost 1,000 teachers in the district, Superintendent Jess Borjon and the Board of Trustees have been pushed in both directions, but the district has been moving forward with their plans to open despite valid concern.
“Placer County as a whole is enormous, and spans more urban and incredibly rural communities,” Andrew Phillips, a teacher at GBHS, said, “All schools, with the exception of Antelope, are still over that 100 cases per 100,000 population threshold that the state’s put into place.”
Phillips expressed understanding that those conditions didn’t mandate closing schools, but he urged the district to err on the side of caution.
In an email, RJUHSD expressed that, “(they) are committed to returning students to the classroom as soon as safely possible,” and are moving to reopen, “in light of Placer County’s removal from California’s COVID-19 monitoring list.”
But this is the equivalent of shining a light through a keyhole and claiming to know everything in the next room.
Placer County (reporting 207 cases in the week of September 9) is bordered by Nevada County (18 cases), Yuba County (85 cases), Sutter County (97 cases), Sacramento County (1,663 cases) and El Dorado County (2 cases).
These numbers show that even if Placer county has suppressed the virus adequately, that doesn’t mean the counties next to us have. Infected people from neighboring regions could easily bring the virus, no matter how low our numbers are.
Furthermore, antibody tests are not included in case counts no matter if they confirm a previous infection or not.
Studies done by the CDC and published in JAMA Internal Medicine reveal failures in US testing, revealing that the true number of COVID-19 cases could be anywhere from six to 24 times as high as what’s reported. Meaning that for every 1,000 cases discovered, there could be anywhere from 6,000 to 24,000 additional cases left unknown and untreated.
California is the worst hit state, with upwards of 746,000 cases and 13,843 deaths, in the nation facing the largest concentration of COVID-19.
But due to the historic incompetence of the federal government and this administration, COVID-19 runs rampant with little control and no end in sight.
While the government buries its head in the sand and tries to rewrite history, people are dying.

Optimistic estimates have us in quarantine until early next year, and the death toll is forecasted to rise exponentially.

The effect on society will be felt decades, if not centuries from now.

The school district must remain closed, lest we make the same mistake that cost the lives and livelihoods of too many to count.