The San Diego County Board of Education announced Tuesday they would be sending California public school teachers to the temporary migrant center at the San Diego Convention Center, to teach the hundreds of migrant children who crossed into the country illegally.
Last week, San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria and other city officials announced that the San Diego Convention Center (SDCC) would be used as a temporary migrant center for several months to help alleviate the growing number of Central American immigrants arriving at the US-Mexican border. During the weekend, around 700 girls between the ages of 13 to 17 had arrived. While basic necessities such as food, clothing, health care, and shelter would be provided by the federal government, education had been left out when the center was set up.
County education officials addressed that on Tuesday, with 13 teachers volunteering to give in-person classes in art, visual arts, and performing arts to help alleviate languor and English to assist in basic communication.
“We definitely want to introduce them to the arts, the visual arts and the performing arts,” said San Diego County Office of Education Principal Roberto Carrillo on Tuesday. “We’ll give them the opportunity to start expressing themselves through written formats, giving them a basic understanding of the English language. Writing and poetry that’s all focused on just giving them the opportunity to have that outlet. I don’t know their individual stories but I can imagine they had a lot of difficulties.”
“The young people just got here, and they’re still arriving, so it gives us an opportunity to put everything together. When we’re ready to go, we’ll hit the ground running and provide the best possible program that we can for them.”
However, several issues have come up with this plan since Monday. COVID-19 contraction has remained an issue, with 32 of the 247 girls arriving on Monday testing positive for the virus according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Since the weekend, around 70 in total have tested positive, with health workers assuring that they are working to keeping everyone healthy.
The education aspect has also drawn criticism, with many noting that while San Diego school children will not be able to receive in-person instruction until mid-April, migrant children at the SDCC are already receiving in-person instruction.
“We have 130,000 kids who haven’t been allowed in a classroom for over a year in the San Diego Unified School District,” San Diego County Supervisor Jim Desmond said on Tuesday. “It’s great that there’s in-person learning for those unaccompanied minors from Central America, but I wish every child in San Diego County was allowed the same opportunity for in-person teaching.”
‘The decision to provide in-person instruction to illegal migrants is outrageous and parents have every right to be angry’
In a Tweet, Desmond reiterated that “The San Diego County Board of Education will be sending teachers for in-person learning for the migrant children at the convention center. It’s great there’s in-person learning for them, I wish every child in San Diego County was allowed the same opportunity.”
The San Diego County Board of Education will be sending teachers for in-person learning for the migrant children at the convention center. It's great there's in-person learning for them, I wish every child in San Diego County was allowed the same opportunity.
— Supervisor Jim Desmond (@jim_desmond) March 29, 2021
Many parent groups and organizations spoke out about the select in-person teaching on Tuesday, with many noting that teachers would be teaching much larger classes at the SDCC than in local schools.
“For many in San Diego, you know, our hearts go out to these kids,” Cheryl Armbruster, a local PTO leader, told the Globe. “These are girls ages 13 to 17. You don’t have to be a genius to figure out that they don’t want anything bad to happen specifically to them, so they’re being kept safe inside there. And they’re focusing on teaching them English, which is valuable for anyone getting into this country.”
“But, despite them calling for equal education, they are giving in-person classes there while still denying all other schools in-person learning. That isn’t equal. They’re putting the average California schoolchild last. They’re literally denying them a better education in favor of non-citizens. This is nowhere near right.”
Lawmakers also commented on the issue on Tuesday.
“For more than a year, parents and students in San Diego County have waited for educators to answer one question: When will our schools reopen with in-person instruction only? And for a year, they’ve been told to wait,” said Congressman Darrell Issa (R-CA) on Tuesday. “The decision to provide in-person instruction to illegal migrants is outrageous and parents have every right to be angry.”
While many remain outraged and are demanding equal in-person class opportunities county-wide, San Diego County education officials are currently staying with the current stalled reopening plan.
The San Diego County Office of Education is expected to have teachers in the SDCC through at least July.