Entrance to San Pasqual Academy
Entrance to San Pasqual Academy. Photo courtesy Google Street View

Never in recent years have adult issues and intransigent barriers to student success been so dramatically oppressive for kids today.

The refusal of government officials to force schools to reopen, for the health and sanity of children, is an inexcusable rejection of our nation’s promise to provide kids with a decent education and a path toward success.

Inventing baffling limitations on getting kids back to school — restrictions that are arbitrary, confusing and often contradictory — is a shameful display of official indifference to children’s welfare.

Distance learning is a miserable excuse for education and has created a monumental crisis for kids harmed academically, mentally and developmentally.

“The lack of compassion the state has shown toward students is striking,” said Ginny Merrifield, executive director of the Parent Association of North County San Diego.

Scott Davison, a San Diego attorney and Carlsbad resident who works with the Parent Association, has said that Gov. Gavin Newsom should have issued an order weeks ago forcing teachers back to work in the classroom.

Even more disgraceful is the disparity in learning opportunities that school closure has exposed, as wealthier families have been able to hire private tutors or enroll their kids in expensive private schools open for in-person instruction. Uneven access to computers and the Internet reveals more inequality.

Enough with unions and school districts inventing their own rules for when full-time, in-person learning can resume. Science and respected research have determined that there is no reason schools can’t fully reopen for all ages with proper safety precautions — and that does not include needing all teachers vaccinated.

Centers for Disease Control Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky is quoted in EdSource saying, “CDC believes schools should be the last place to close and the first place to open.”

This has been a rubbish year for children. School closure has wreaked havoc on their lives, yet they will eventually return to school.

The same may not be true for some of our most vulnerable kids, if state officials prevail in their misguided and heartless decision to close San Pasqual Academy permanently.

San Pasqual Academy’s Desperate Future

San Diego County’s San Pasqual Academy, the nation’s first boarding school for foster teens, has seen 20 years of success since its founding.

The facility houses and educates foster teens ages 12 to 19, providing an accredited curriculum, family-style homes, extra-curricular activities, and mental and psychological support. These are critical needs for many of these foster children who have been shuttled from home to home, often separated from their siblings.

Many of these kids survived neglect and abuse that have left unimaginable scars.

At San Pasqual the children say they have found a warm, caring, stable environment. They face a desperate future if the state has its way to close the facility.

For foster kids who have suffered tremendous hardship and rely on adults in the system to care for them in all ways — not just for education but for more basic needs like food, shelter and emotional support — the closure would be a monstrous betrayal of our collective responsibility to care for these children.

Both the San Diego County Board of Education and County Board of Supervisors recently passed resolutions asking the state to delay closure for nine months, from Oct. 1, 2021, to June 30, 2022.

But all this does is buy time. Even if the requests are granted, the state will still plan to close the facility next year and the county will no longer place more kids at San Pasqual, even though space is available.

County supervisor Jim Desmond has asked for a “carve-out” that would make the academy an exception to the definition of a group home, a move that could save the facility — and save the children.

Whether that happens is questionable. Asking adults far removed from the children themselves to change state and federal policy can be a Byzantine process.

Lives Are Being Transformed

What must happen if San Pasqual is to be saved is for decision-makers to listen to the children themselves who speak of the comfort and affection they’ve received — some for the first time in their lives.

Perhaps Rex Sheridan, clinical director at the academy, said it best: “I have first-hand experience witnessing lives transformed, hearts opened back up after years of disconnection, wounds healed after lifetimes of abuse and trauma, siblings reunited after separation, goals reimagined out of hopelessness, skills and knowledge crafted and nurtured out of feelings of incompetence, and new identities and possibilities replacing desperation and fragmentation.”

Foster children matter to us all. Our common humanity demands that we take care of and protect these kids — just as we need to guarantee that other children in the public education system receive the educational opportunities society has promised them.

For foster kids, children living in poverty who have been denied their right to an equal education, and all students suffering through a dismal year of isolation and emotional challenges, politicians and bureaucrats with the authority to do the right thing for our youth must recognize their responsibility to next generations who will inherit what we leave behind.

It can either be a world of compassion — or one where those in positions of power are deaf and blind to the dire needs of kids whose very lives depend upon us.

Adult ideology that trumps empathy, reason and sanity should embarrass us all.

Marsha Sutton is an education writer and columnist and lives in Carlsbad.