The calls are coming from every corner of the Bay Area. More people want to see schools open.
But when schools reopen, some South Bay children might be greeted by homeless encampments along the way. About 1,000 students alone at Sheppard and Painter schools in San Jose might also witness used needles scattered along their path.
That’s why two San Jose superintendents have come out and requested that local leaders clean up the homeless encampments before reopening the schools. They fear for the safety of their students.
The two superintendents, Dr. Hilaria Bauer at Alum Rock School District and Juan Cruz at Franklin-McKinley School District invited NBC Bay Area on a tour Thursday to show what their students would see if schools opened tomorrow.
“This is not a safe environment for anybody. Not even our staff,” Bauer said. Because of the coronavirus, Valley Water and the city of San Jose tell NBC Bay Area they have been unable to clean up the encampments within 100 feet for safety reasons.
The superintendents say that will put their children at risk, as they walk to and from school. “This is a greater number of encampments along the curbside right now,” said Cruz. “We are concerned right now because it’s gotten worse due to the pandemic, and the inability for the city to do abatement that they normally do.”
A few months ago, one of the homeless encampments was on fire along the school path for kids. “Usually the east side gets the short end of the stick. Something we cannot tolerate any more,” Bauer said.
San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo is pushing for schools to reopen. He said now may be the time to change the local policy. “We need to relocate those encampments that are close to schools,” he said. Liccardo told NBC Bay Area he will introduce a proposal to the San Jose City Council next Tuesday.
“To urge the city manager to be much more proactive around schools, and making sure encampments are not encroaching around areas that are potentially child sensitive,” he said.
The superintendents say they sympathize with the unhoused. But they insist their top priority is the safety of their children.