Letter: Cardiff School District — delay and deflect

On Sept. 4, Cardiff School District ignited a firestorm in the community by announcing that it would not be reopening Cardiff School on Sept. 14 as planned. The explanation was that the U.S. District Court had enjoined construction in Berkich Park and that plaintiff Save the Park-Build the School had “unequivocally denied” permission to construct the school’s new ADA walkway and parking lot. Social media lit up with hateful posts, calling Save the Park’s directors “human scum”” and worse, publishing their phone numbers, urging angry parents to harass them.

The district had first asked the court, then Save the Park, to green light construction of the walkway and parking lot in the park notwithstanding the injunction. The court delayed its decision and Save the Park deferred to the court. Neither of the district’s requests suggested that school could not reopen as scheduled if approval were to be denied. The truth is that the district failed to convey any urgency about its ability to reopen because neither the ADA walkway nor a completed parking lot was actually required for reopening. The feigned crisis was blatant emotional manipulation of frustrated parents.

First, ask yourself why is it that the school was able to open safely in fall 2019 when the existing ADA walkway had been blocked off and rendered inaccessible by construction fencing. The answer: it wasn’t necessary because there are other walkways providing access to the classrooms and restrooms. Then ask why a parking lot is essential for drop-off and pick-up of students when parents have safely dropped off and picked up their kindergarteners curbside from Montgomery Avenue every school day for more than a decade. There is a new walkway from Montgomery that provides a safe, protected path from curbside to school-front with less cross-traffic than there would even be in the parking lot.

On Sept. 11, following reconsideration of its decision in April, the NPS issued a report stating, among other things, that facts and arguments on which it had based its approval of the district’s proposed modification of the park boundary were inaccurate, and that the proposal did not meet LWCF requirements. The NPS’s earlier approval was rescinded. Later that day, the court formally denied the district’s request for reconsideration to allow the walkway and parking lot and extended the preliminary injunction against construction in Berkich Park until further notice.

With no approval for construction in the park, decisions on requested work now fall to the National Park Service, which has an established administrative process for such requests. After much back and forth, on Sept. 25, the NPS indicated that it did not oppose construction of the ADA walkway under the reasoning that the walkway would support recreation use of the site. Permission to complete the portion of the parking lot that would encroach into the park was not given. Nonetheless, the district is moving forward with opening for in-person teaching on Oct. 5, bringing kindergarten and first-grade students back to attend classes in the middle of an active construction site.

So, why all the drama when neither of the issues complained of had raised safety concerns before? Why did the District feel the need to manufacture a crisis? Perhaps the school wasn’t ready to reopen under COVID-19 protocols; perhaps they couldn’t admit that they had misjudged the challenges. Or maybe they just hoped to stir up anxiety and anger to distract from the growing questions within the community about their handling of the park dispute. Whatever that reason, it’s long past due for the District to own up to its irresponsible decisions and stop manipulating parents’ emotions to deflect the blame.

Eleanor Musick
Sept. 30, 2020

The North Coast Current welcomes Letters to the Editor. Letters must include the author’s full name, mailing address, phone number and email address. Submission of a letter is not a guarantee of publication online or in print. Letters must be no longer than 300 words. The North Coast Current reserves the right to edit letters for brevity and news style. Letters containing threats, potentially libelous statements or solely advertising will be rejected. Email letters to letters[at]northcoastcurrent.com. If you would like to submit a longer commentary, please email the North Coast Current at info[at]northcoastcurrent.com.

cardiff current, encinitas current