By LILY TINOCO | Reporter
Pacific Palisades Community Council hosted its first virtual board meeting of the year on Thursday, January 14, covering a variety of topics, including an extensive discussion with board members and attendees regarding a motion in support of resources to make the safe reopening of elementary schools a priority.
The motion was recommended by leadership of the Westside Regional Alliance of Councils, an alliance of 14 neighborhood and community councils (including PPCC) on the westside of Los Angeles representing about 500,000 constituents.
The motion came about after residents of Del Rey expressed concerns of their younger children falling behind since they cannot attend in-person instruction due to COVID-19, according to PPCC Secretary Chris Spitz.
Spitz said the motion was recently discussed at the board level, and if the majority of member councils pass the motion, it goes on to become a WRAC position. Spitz agreed to sponsor the motion.
Principal Lauren Park Mulder of Marquez Charter Elementary School weighed in and explained how the school has been proactively taking measures to ensure a safe reopening in line with Los Angeles Unified School District.
Mulder said the school has taken an approach to focus on screening, sanitizing and social distancing. Although students are not on campus for in-person instruction yet, Marquez has plenty of personal protective equipment and directive signage marked throughout the campus, and classroom furniture has been rearranged to encourage social distancing.
Mulder also mentioned a cleaning process that will happen routinely: sanitizing objects, areas, classrooms and furniture.
She said LAUSD has been investing in a mobile application to screen students and staff for symptoms or to schedule a COVID-19 test, as well as screening stations with no-contact thermometers, to provide a safe passage into school.
“Our students will remember what school they were at, what community they were at, who was their teacher during this COVID time,” Mulder said. “We feel like it’s equally important that we’re not careless, that we don’t prematurely rush into things … and that this is how we conduct ourselves when we have a community emergency.”
Dean of Students at Corpus Christi School Peter Powell shared that the school’s TK through fourth-grade students have been learning on-site and that he appreciates the board’s support in the safe reopening of schools.
Although the motion asks that resources be devoted to ensure a safe reopening when the time comes—not calling for immediate school reopenings—attendees expressed an urgency for schools to reopen in the Palisades, and the lasting and negative effects that will follow students far beyond the near future.
“Some people paint this rosy picture of distance learning … for the vast majority of children, they’re suffering in a way that’s going to impact them for life,” one attendee expressed. “We’re trying to save COVID from being spread but instead we’re increasing depression, anxiety, obesity, lack of social skills being learned in person. If we’re looking at the Palisades itself, I’m not saying it shouldn’t be taken seriously, but it’s not as intense as other areas of LA County.”
Zennon Ulyate-Crow, one of two youth advisors of the council and a Palisades Charter High School student, shared that he doesn’t think it’s the place of the community council to make this decision when it’s not safe yet.
“By us putting ourselves out there and by pressuring science officials … to make decisions that may not actually be in the best interest of the health of the community, I think is something we may not want to do,” he said.
The motion was passed, though some board members abstained from voting.
“Pacific Palisades Community Council supports prioritizing the many efforts needed to safely reopen elementary schools and special-needs classes for the most vulnerable students in Los Angeles including, but not limited to, daily testing, vaccinations for all qualified students and staff, access to personal protective equipment and the necessary training and signed COVID protocol agreements,” according to the WRAC-recommended motion, which was modified by PPCC.
The full motion is available at pacpalicc.org.
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