After a fraught spring, PUSD will present school reopening proposal on Wednesday

At Wednesday’s school board meeting, PUSD administrators will present a recommendation for a “blended learning” plan for reopening schools later this year and submit a 2020-2021 budget for approval.

PUSD will also release the results of a survey sent to parents and teachers on June 19 regarding their intentions to return under a blended learning vs. a full-distance model.

The reopening proposal, which does not yet outline school-day specifics, reflects input from an advisory task force, multiple surveys, and ongoing negotiations with the Association of Piedmont Teachers (APT) and the Classified School Employees Association (CSEA).

PUSD appears to be narrowing in on a model other Bay Area school districts are floating, though without specifics, it is still too soon to say what this will look like for families.

In his memo to the Board, Superintendent Randy Booker said a “Blended Learning Model is a weekly combination of In-Person and Online Synchronous, and Asynchronous Lessons (synchronous learning is online or distance education that happens in real time, whereas asynchronous learning occurs through online channels without real-time interaction — e.g. pre-taped webinars or instruction).

In other words, students would return to their respective campus for in-person instruction a few days per week and participate in online learning (a combination of synchronous and asynchronous) for the reminder of the week.”

Booker said in the memo that no decisions were required at the June 24 meeting, and he will recommend the Board convene again for special meetings on June 29 (to approve the blended learning model),  July 2 (to approve a new instructional calendar), and July 7 (to approve elementary and secondary school bell schedules and a COVID-19 mitigation plan). 

Among the recommendations in the memo:

  • PUSD will consider all available spaces — indoor and out — to maximize social distance.
  • Employees and all students will be required to wear face coverings while on PUSD campuses (with some exceptions)
  • Custodial staff will used electrostatic sprayers to clean classrooms between cohorts at the elementary level and daily at upper level school sites; school facilities and shared equipment will be cleaned at least daily
  • School principals will work to find alternative means of instruction for families who are not comfortable sending their children back to school, via “distance or blended learning, independent study, printed class assignments, or other reasonable means.”
  • Families will receive daily online health surveys to screen for illness per CDC guidelines
  • Letter grades will return

Delayed school start likely

The memo also notes that the start of school may be pushed back past August 11 because “the district and all bargaining teams have agreed to adding three (3) additional professional learning days to the 20-21 instructional calendar to address professional learning and collaborative planning for distance learning and in-person instruction.”

Fate of athletics still unknown

Additionally, a decision regarding the status of middle and high school athletics will be made “in conjunction with guidance from the California Interscholastic Federation and the North Coast Section at a subsequent Board of Education Meeting.”

Tensions between teachers and parents

The proposal comes against the backdrop of a fraught spring, during which parents and teachers struggled to manage the challenges of distance learning. While surveys indicate wide agreement that health and safety of students and staff are top priorities, the same surveys reveal a divide between parents who are eager to have their children return to an in-person classroom setting (i.e., how are working parents expected to manage otherwise?) and teachers who are wary of the health risks associated with such a return (i.e., how can we trust Piedmont families to adhere to public health guidelines when they are visibly not doing so now?). Letters written by parents to the Board and reviewed by the Exedra indicate parents continue to push for more in-person learning.

Budget outlook improves

On Monday, Governor Gavin Newsom and state legislators reached a budget deal that preserves state funding for K-12 education.

Although that spells good news for PUSD, the budget as described in the agenda background is what will be presented and voted on by the Board, says the District’s CFO Ruth Alahydoian. She said she will have a better idea by tomorrow night of what, exactly, the agreement means for Piedmont. “The additional resources will give the Board more breathing room for COVID-related expenses and will restore all of Measure H for staff retention and recruitment, to be negotiated with our labor partners.  We are required to bring a revised budget to the board within 40 days of the Governor’s signature on the final budget.  That gives us time to fully understand the final budget and the implications for Piedmont.”

The draft budget PUSD presented on June 10 anticipated a $2 million deficit; Looking ahead, PUSD expects enrollment to decline over the next several years, a situation that will force some staff changes. “Reductions to staff that were avoided in 2020-21 [because of Measure H funding] will be back and will increase due to the other budgetary pressures,” the memo says.

The June 24 School Board meeting will be live-streamed on KCOM. Please use the KCOM link to view the live-stream if you will not be making a public comment during the meeting. The Zoom meeting link should be used if you do plan to make a public comment.

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