PUSD to hold community forum after parent backlash over upper school plan

Julie Reichle

Piedmont Middle School

Concerns around a proposed plan for reopening Piedmont Middle School, Piedmont High School, and Millennium High School forced the school district on Friday to close a parent survey sent out Thursday afternoon and convene a special community forum the week after the Thanksgiving break.

Parents of middle and high school students had responded with puzzlement and outrage to an emailed survey they received Thursday that further muddied the waters regarding plans for reopening middle and high school in January. At issue was the apparent outsourcing of distance learning to a third party vendor (Edgenuity) and a reduction of instruction time even in a hybrid model. The timing and deadline of the survey — requiring responses by Nov. 30 — also caused consternation.

“The choices offered by the survey weren’t in keeping with the high academic standards that we expect from the district, and represent a loss in quality and quantity of instruction with respect to our current distance learning model,” said Natalia Ferretti, a parent of twins in the middle school. Comments on a popular Facebook page for Piedmont parents and emails sent to the school board and PUSD administration echoed this sentiment.

On Friday afternoon, the district backtracked. “I realize that parents need more information to make the decision that is best for your families. Instead of moving forward with the survey form, I have closed it,” Superintendent Randy Booker said in an email to families. “In consultation with the PUSD School Board, I and my admin team are developing a community forum to be held the week of November 30. After we have this forum, we will provide more detailed information about your options and will reopen the survey.”

Plans to bring back small cohorts of acute learners (students who need in-person support or other services they can’t get in distance learning) at the middle and high schools have also been affected by the county’s move back to the most restrictive purple tier. In a message to middle school families Friday, Principal Ryan Fletcher said, “Piedmont Middle School will not be bringing any groups of students back to campus before December 8th at the earliest.”

Whether or not public schools in Alameda County will be allowed to reopen in January will depend on whether or not the county can contain COVID cases and move out of the purple tier. 

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