By Marty Graham
About 2,000 kids from mixed nationality families have stopped coming to San Diego Unified School District schools since January, according to Lindsay Burningham, the president of the San Diego Education Association.
“Whether it’s fear or deportation, we don’t know,” Burningham says. “It’s heartbreaking for teachers who have built relationships with our kids and figured out how to best teach them and then see them disappear.”
On Monday, the school district – the second largest in the state – announced it will collaborate with Baja schools to make sure that kids are getting compatible and similar education on both sides of the border.
School district Superintendent Cindy Martens made the announcement with Mexican consul Marcela Celorio and Yara Amparo Lopez from the Baja schools at her side.
“We have 54,000 students from the U.S. being educated in Baja,” Martens said. “We want our kids to be well-educated no matter where they live now.”
San Diego schools serve about 130,000 kids – the second largest district in California. District staff estimates that thousands are at risk of deportation or may go to Mexico to reunite with a deported parent. Families are often of mixed citizenship – some combination of undocumented parents and U.S. –born children, perhaps with siblings who are not U.S. citizens.
The schools here and in Mexico want teachers to make sure educators are operating with similar assumptions. For example, San Diego schools use a grade point system of zero to four points, while Mexico uses a range from zero to 10. A student entering Mexican schools with a 3.75 average would appear to need remedial education if that difference wasn’t understood, Burningham said.
“In Mexico, students advance in math much faster than here, so a student coming into Mexico for school will need tutoring to catch up,” she said.
Teachers can provide better education sooner if they have assessments from teachers on the other side of the border, Martens said.
The district wants direct connections between teachers and more widespread knowledge of schools’ resources, such as online classes to help kids keep pace with their peers.
“We have a vision of a region where every student can reach their full potential,” Martens said.