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Sweetwater School District Librarians’ Jobs Are On The Line When Students Need Them Most

The Sweetwater Union High School District central office is shown, Nov. 7, 2018.

Photo by KPBS Staff

Above: The Sweetwater Union High School District central office is shown, Nov. 7, 2018.

A month after the Sweetwater Union High School District voted to eliminate all of its librarians, the pandemic arrived, pushing them into the front lines of the transition to distance learning.

The school district’s board of trustees voted in February to lay off more than 200 employees, which included all 23 of its librarians. Since then, librarians have been working overtime to distribute laptops, help teachers find course materials and assist students with technical issues.

“It’s already stressful as it is. I’m trying to do my job, but I also manage two kids and their distance learning,” said Sylvia McBride, a librarian at Castle Park High School in Chula Vista. “And on top of that I have to sit around with a ton of anxiety thinking, ‘am I gonna keep on doing this?’”

As of now, the district is planning to move 18 of its librarians into teaching positions. McBride is in that group. The other five aren’t so lucky.

Reported by Joe Hong , Video by Andi Dukleth

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“It’s getting a lot more real,” said Trevor Angood, a librarian at Eastlake High School. He has a social studies credential, but not enough years in the district to secure him a teaching position in the district next year, so he’ll lose his job unless the district changes its current plans.

Angood said this is coming at a time when students need their librarians more than ever.

“Some of it could be simple support from students asking like ‘I can’t get into my teacher’s Google classroom, can you help me with that?’ From parents we’ve had questions in terms of returning books, paying fines, getting registered for next year.”

District spokesman Manny Rubio said the administration is still finalizing the negotiations.

Sweetwater’s teachers union president Julie Walker said it’s possible some of the librarian positions will be saved.

“I’ve been at a school where I’ve only had a library tech,” she said. “Then I came to Sweetwater where I had a librarian. The difference was night and day.”

Eastlake’s Angood isn’t taking any chances.

“In the meantime I’ve been applying for jobs and interviewing for a job,” he said. “I’m just trying to get myself out there and prepare for the worst and hope for the best.”

Listen to this story by Joe Hong.

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Photo of Joe Hong

Joe Hong
Education Reporter

opening quote marksclosing quote marksAs an education reporter, I'm always looking for stories about learning. My favorite education stories put a student's face on bigger policy issues. I regularly sift through enrollment data, test scores and school budgets, but telling student-centered stories is my top priority.

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