School Board hears update on hiring, COVID, budget, and more

Julie Reichle

Signs welcoming students back to Havens on the first day of school Tuesday.

Excitement and gratitude for a return to in-person learning was the prevailing theme of Wednesday’s school board meeting. 

The meeting was held in a hybrid model with trustees meeting in-person in the district board room and community members tuning in on Zoom. (Community members are now welcome to attend the meetings in person if they prefer to address the Board that way.) School Board President Cory Smegal said they are hoping City Hall, where pre-pandemic meetings were normally held, will be updated to accommodate hybrid meetings soon. A moment of silence was held at the start for members of the St. John and Wooster families killed in a car accident last month. 

Hiring update

PUSD is fully staffed except for two positions, Superintendent Randy Booker said. Piedmont High School is still looking for an instructor for mathematics. The position is currently being filled by current PHS teachers during their prep periods. Millennium High School is looking for an instructor for Digital Arts.

COVID protocols for PUSD

Booker shared the district’s COVID FAQ which was developed on August 3 and will be updated as the COVID situation evolves. The goal of the district’s COVID policy is “ensuring staff, student, and community health while maximizing on-campus in person instruction,” said Booker. “We know there is COVID in Piedmont,” he said. PUSD is requiring students and staff to wear masks indoors and outdoors to contain the spread of the virus.

Additionally, the district is bringing back the Health and Safety Community Advisory Committee to advise the superintendent and anticipate issues coming down the line. The committee will consist of two Board members, District Administration and local medical/health professionals. The first meeting is expected to take place in early September, according to a PUSD recap of the meeting. 

PUSD is closely following California Department of Public Health updates and the evolving COVID situation, Booker said. On Wednesday Governor Newsom announced that California will require all teachers and school staff to get vaccinated or undergo weekly COVID-19 testing. In an email to the school community last week and reiterated again Wednesday, Booker said that PUSD is going a step further and requiring unvaccinated staff members to be tested twice a week. “I am proud and thankful for our staff members coming to the table and readily agreeing to this,” Booker said. He said this commitment will protect the over 1,000 young students who are not yet eligible for vaccinations. 

PUSD does not have the capacity to test students, Booker said. The district has applied with the County to bring a mobile vaccination clinic to Piedmont in the near future. Booker also said that information about teacher vaccination rates will be shared at the next board meeting on August 25. 

Budget update

Chief Financial Officer Ruth Alahydoian presented the “45 Day Revised Budget” for the 2021-2022 school year for public review. Governor Newson signed the 2021-2022 State Budget several days after PUSD adopted their 2021-2022 budget, and the state requires that the district present the revisions to their budget based on the 2021-2022 State Budget within 45 days. (View the presentation HERE.)

The revised budget shows an increase of $596,000. The district is still planning for $1 million budget adjustments in the 2022-2023 school year and $1.3 million budget adjustments in the following year, but Alahydoian will be back in October with more accurate projections when the current staff is in the budget. These budget cuts aren’t a surprise given declining enrollment in Piedmont and across the state. 

District to team up with Pleasanton Unified School District for independent study program 

The Board held a first reading of its plan to accommodate long-term (more than 15 days) independent study for students with health risks associated with in-person instruction, a new state requirement. At present, the district does not have the personnel or the infrastructure to host a fully-developed program on its own and decided to partner with the Pleasanton Unified School District’s Virtual Academy. Booker said Pleasanton was selected because it had a similar demographic as Piedmont with regard to academic achievement and courses. Enrolled students enrolled will technically be transferred to the Pleasanton school district, Booker said, but their spot in Piedmont will be held for the duration of their program. He said there were only three or four families opting for this route. 

The next school board meeting will be August 25. You can find links to meeting information and agendas (posted 72 hours in advance) HERE.

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