COVID’s fears keep many Latino children out of classrooms


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Abraham Osorio logs into his online classes from Gracy’s flower shop.

EAST LOS ANGELES – Over the past year, the Ariel Jr. twins. and 13-year-old Abraham Osorio have logged into their online classes from their parents ’florist. Ariel is in a corner between flowers, bows and stuffed animals. Abraham sits at a small table in the background, where his father used to work cutting flowers and storing books.

It’s not ideal for learning – it’s strong. It is narrow. It’s boiling with people. However, when the twins ’mother, Graciela Osorio, recently had the opportunity to return her children to Brightwood Elementary in Monterey Park, California, she decided against it.

“After what we went through with their father, I prefer to keep them at home where I know they are safe,” Graciela, 51, said. “There’s only one month left. It doesn’t make sense for them to come back short.”

The boys’ father, 51-year-old Ariel Osorio Sr., died of covid-19 in January, four weeks after a trip to Mexico to visit his mother. He fell ill quickly and could not say goodbye to his children.

“I miss his presence,” Abraham said. “I’m used to seeing him sitting in the chair working, but not anymore.”

Latinos have been disproportionately beaten by a covid, and many families choose not to learn in person.

In California, Latinos are made up 39% of the population of the state but represent 47% of deaths from covides, according to the state department of public health. Nationally, your risk of death from covidi is 2.3 times superior to that of whites.

Latinos are vulnerable to the highly transmissible coronavirus because non-Hispanic whites are more likely to work essential jobs that expose them to the public, said David Hayes-Bautista, a professor of public health and medicine at UCLA and co-author of a January to study about that. They are more likely to not have health insurance, which may make them less likely to seek medical attention, he said. And they are more likely to live in multigenerational households, which means the virus can spread quickly and easily to families.

“Many of them are essential workers and family breadwinners and do not have the luxury of teleworking, physical distancing and personal isolation,” said Alberto Gonzalez, a chief health strategist at UnidosUS, a Latino advocacy group. in Washington, DC

The Osorio family has lived in a multigenerational home since Ariel died, and Graciela had to consider other family members when deciding whether to send her boys back to the classroom.

In February, Graciela and the twins moved in with their 74-year-old mother, Cleotilde Servin, east of Los Angeles. Now ten people share the 1,000-square-foot house that is crammed into the kitchen every morning.

Graciela’s mother and the other adults in the household have been vaccinated, but the children have not. While she instructs her children to wear their masks and not allow them to visit friends, she is afraid of what could happen if her children caught the virus at school and took it home.

“My mom is active and takes vitamins, but I’m still worried,” Graciela said. She was coveted by her husband and given to her sister and niece. “I don’t want anyone to get sick,” he said.

State and local education officials do not have recent data on face-to-face care by race, but an EdSource analysis Data from the California Department of Public Health in February shows that white students were more likely to attend school in person than other students. The analysis showed that 12% of Latinos attended face-to-face classes at least sometimes, compared to 32% of whites and 18% of all students.

The unified school district of Los Angeles, the second largest in the country, serves more than 600,000 students and reopened for in-person learning in mid-April. Only a few campuses are open, most elementary schools, and operate on hybrid schedules, combining on-campus classes with distance learning.

“We have upgraded the air filtration systems in all classrooms, reconfigured the school facilities to keep them all properly spaced at the school, doubled the custodial staff and will offer weekly covide tests at the ‘school for all students and staff members,’ district superintendent Austin Beutner said in his weekly video update on March 22nd.

In a statement released May 4, Beutner said 40% to 50% of elementary students now return to schools in “more affluent” communities compared to about 20% in low-income communities.

“We see the greatest reluctance of children to return to the schools of families living in some of the communities with the highest needs we serve,” he said.

Brightby Elementary is a K-8 school with 870 students, about half of whom are Asian Americans and 40% Latinos, said principal Robby Jung. Only 15 percent of students have returned to campus, he said, and of those, about a third are Latinos.

For the Osorio family, the main reason the eighth-grade twins don’t return to Brightwood is fear.

Like so many other Latino families (approximately 28,000 Latinos have died of covides in California), they resent the pain and trauma the disease has already caused and the fear of what it might do if it struck again.

“The boys see a therapist to deal with their father’s death,” Graciela said. “I know I should probably talk to someone too.”

With the memory of her husband’s death still so fresh that she can’t talk about it without crying, Graciela is still adjusting to the emotional toll and the day-to-day reality of running a flower shop alone.

Originally from Guerrero, Mexico, she started Gracy’s Flower Shop with her husband in 1997. Ariel took care of the finances at home and in the store and was the best Englishman.

“Now, being alone with the boys makes it harder to keep up,” she said.

During the covid closures, the boys joined the couple at the store. Her husband was sitting next to her children while they attended online school, helping with homework and acting as the school’s main contact.

“They were always with us,” Graciela said. “They grew up in the flower shop, so they had no trouble installing school stations there.”

Brightwood reopened on April 12, offering face-to-face learning two days a week for a few hours a day, with the rest of the sessions online. Graciela said the limited hours do not work with her role as a breadwinner.

“I should take them to school, pick them up for lunch and then return them,” he said. “I can’t do that. I have to work.”

But mostly he keeps them off campus because he doesn’t want to lose another family member. He said he knows online classes are not the same as face-to-face instruction, “but they have kept grades,” he said. “I thank God I have good guys. They listen. They understand why I kept them at home.”

The last day of school is May 28th. Ariel and Abraham said they were looking forward to high school in the fall. Although they face the death of their father, the boys, shy and reserved by nature, are split between going back to school in person or continuing online classes.

“We could go back,” Abraham said. “For now, we’re keeping company.”

This story was produced by KHN, which publishes California Healthline, an editorially independent service of the California Health Care Foundation.

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