M.C. NOW Mary Duan

Good Morning.

Last Tuesday, I stayed up past my bedtime to watch the Marina City Council meeting, streaming on Zoom. I stayed up to watch because Councilmember Adam Urrutia was going to resign his seat, his time as an elected official felled by the Covid-19 pandemic.

It’s not that Urrutia is ill, nor is any member of his family ill. But he has a full-time job as political coordinator for a 17-county region for the Service Employees International Union, or SEIU, his wife has a full-time job as the spa manager at a Cannery Row hotel. They have two school-age daughters, 6 and 9, and schools aren’t reopening any time soon.

They’re packing up, renting out their house in Marina and moving to Rocklin. There, Urrutia’s in-laws will deal with the girls’ day-to-day distance learning needs while Urrutia and his wife work. The Aug. 5 council meeting will be his last.

“My wife and I support teachers who feel, as we do, that it isn’t safe to return to in-person instruction. We also support the families for whom distance learning poses too great of a hardship. We are also one of those families,” he says. “We cannot in good faith expose our daughters to the health risks of Covid-19. We also do not have the capacity to do our full-time jobs and homeschool our children.”

Urrutia, in a text message exchange after the meeting (in which he was unable to publicly tender his resignation because it ran so late) said one of his main goals in joining the council was to help put the city on a financially sustainable path. He wrote and placed Measures N and P on the ballot, which voters passed, and those have helped the city withstand the Covid-19 recession. “I hope the voters will have the opportunity to select my replacement and that they will elect someone who represents the beautiful diversity of Marina,” he says.

Here is where I pause and say, if you have school-age children and a job and you’re navigating their education during the pandemic, my hat is off to you and I have no idea how you’re coping. If you’re a teacher and doing distance learning with your students during the pandemic, my hat is off to you and I have no idea how you’re coping. 

I’ve had a few conversations in the past few weeks about what the school year holds—one mom friend of mine with elementary school-age kids is contemplating forming a pod with like-minded parents and hiring a tutor. But she also worries about the parents who aren’t in a financial position to do that. 

Does the pandemic mean the educational gap will grow ever-wider? Almost certainly yes. Those who have will continue to have. Those who don’t have, will continue to not have. 

As I was noodling this essay on Thursday night, I received an email from an Alisal Union School District teacher named Bowen Lee, who writes about reading an opinion piece in the Washington Post that this will be the worst school year ever. Here’s what Lee says about that:

“Not on my watch! As long as my students need the excellent education they deserve during this time, I’m working long, hard hours to do it remotely,” Lee writes. “Please investigate what we have been doing, what we are doing and the impact it is having on our community. Alisal Union hit the deck running with remote learning when the schools first closed in March, and every teacher took up the work with dedication…to reach every student and their families.

“I’m tired of hearing people say remote instruction is worthless,” Lee adds. “And I am so proud of Alisal.” 

If you’re a parent or teacher or involved in the education system during this pandemic, we’re happy to hear from you about what you’re experiencing. Don’t hesitate to reach out.

-Mary Duan, managing editor, mary@mcweekly.com

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