EXCLUSIVE: San Diego teachers have been given the option to replace work shifts at their schools with shifts teaching migrant children in-person at the San Diego Convention Center, Fox News has learned.
More than 700 unaccompanied migrant children are being housed at the center, where some teachers are volunteering to give in-person instruction, despite high COVID rates among the migrant children.
SDCOE students are currently learning in an online-only format and are expected to move into a hybrid model on April 12, where they will be learning in a combination of in-person and online formats, according to the school district's website.
"Our teachers have been asked if they’re interested in working at the convention center site, as opposed to the worksites they are assigned to. So, for example, one of our SDCOE teachers who normally works at School X could volunteer to change their placement, working at the convention center site instead of School X," San Diego County Office of Education chief of staff Music Watson told Fox News in an email.
"Fifteen county office employees who have volunteered will be teaching at the convention center," Watson added. "These employees are not receiving any additional pay. An additional 1,179 educators have expressed interest in learning more about volunteering at the site. None of those 1,179 have been contacted to teach at the convention center."
"It is possible that some people on that list [of teachers] are not reporting full time in-person at the school," Watson noted in a subsequent phone call.
"Why would anyone volunteer to go in that situation and put our own students at risk with COVID running amok. My first obligation is my current’s students' health. Why would the board of education allow putting our kids at risk of getting COVID?" a California teacher, who wished to remain anonymous, told Fox News.
"I have parents now nervous to send their kids to school because they’re afraid their teacher who is volunteering to teach in-person to migrant kids is going to give our own students COVID," the teacher added.
"It almost borders insanity that we’re offering education to these migrant kids while they’re also not offering the same services to our own kids in the same county," Jonathan Zachreson, a spokesperson for Reopen California Schools, told Fox News.
"They used this 'Spring Break' week to launch the program as a spin and look Jen Psaki fell for it but on the volunteer sheet they’re asking teachers to volunteer up until July," he added.
Volunteer sheets for teaching the migrant students reviewed by Fox News ask potential volunteers for their availability during the morning, afternoon or evening, seven days a week, which include school hours.
"The in-person educational program may not have traditional hours, so there may be opportunities for involvement outside regular work hours. Any opportunities will be voluntary, and employees will be compensated," San Diego County Superintendent of Schools Dr. Paul Gothold told district employees in an email reviewed by Fox News.
Watson told Fox News that the district has since determined that the teachers instructing migrant children will only do so during the work day, which is during regular school hours that would otherwise be used for their own students with pay that's funded with taxpayer dollars.
Class schedules reviewed by Fox News show that many San Diego schools are having shorter school days, with some teachers available for paid tutoring of district students during what would normally be the last hour of the school day.
"We have 130,000 kids who haven't been allowed in a classroom for over a year in the San Diego Unified School District. 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," San Diego County Supervisor Jim Desmond told Fox News.
"The system is broken when San Diego teachers are teaching migrant children in person, but the 100k students of taxpaying families at San Diego Unified School District are stuck learning in Zoom school," Emily Diaz, a San Diego Unified School District parent, told Fox News in an email.
"We agree that every child deserves an in-person education, but why are taxpaying students put last? If this is a humanitarian issue then who is rescuing San Diego Unified students, because our leaders have failed them," Diaz added.
"The San Diego County Office of Education (SDCOE) is providing the educational program for the unaccompanied migrant children who will be staying at the San Diego Convention Center through July. All children in California, regardless of immigration status, have a constitutional right to education. We also have a moral obligation to ensure a bright future for our children," an SDCOE spokesperson told Fox News in an emailed statement.
"The educational program will include English language development and social-emotional learning opportunities. The teachers who are participating in the program are doing so voluntarily, and the program is following a COVID-19 screening protocol based on guidelines from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention."