The Santa Clara Unified School District is experiencing lower than expected enrollment and decided to close some elementary school classes and redistribute students. After hearing outcry from parents and teachers, the Board hit the pause on the plans.
During Superintendent Dr. Stella Kemp’s report, she mentioned that the District was collapsing four elementary school classes due to the District’s lower than expected enrollment.
“As of August 25, we had 13,622 students, about 955 students less than projected,” said Dr. Kemp. “We staffed at a higher number than our projections in order to provide additional support to our schools. With the implementation of our Independent Study program and the number of students enrolled in that program, we have had to take a look at very small class sizes at campuses where we have ability to move some people around.”
Dr. Jose Gonzalez, Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources, detailed the class collapses:
- Pomeroy Elementary: Would collapse a kindergarten class. The average students is now 10, and then would be 15 after the collapse.
- Laurelwood Elementary: Would collapse a kindergarten class. The average is currently 16 and then would be 20.
- George Mayne Elementary: Would collapse a 2nd grade class. The average is currently 14 and then would be 21.
- Montague Elementary: Would collapse a 3rd grade class. The current average is 13-14 and would go to 20-21 students.
Dr. Kemp said the four teachers will be part of our instructional team in the Independent Study Program. She also said that Title I schools will maintain the additional staffing that was allocated last spring to support instructional loss mitigation.
During public comment, teachers told the Board that they were given short notice about the closing classes. Teachers said they had to volunteer or decide who would be moved to a different assignment. The community was concerned about how disruptive this would be for young students and especially for students at Title I schools.
“After a year and half of being in this pandemic I just can’t see how there’s any way that this would be good for the teachers or the students,” said Lizzy Smith during public comment. “For the students, they need all the support that they can get, smaller class sizes are going to help them… [Regarding COVID], trying to collapse classes and get more kids pushed into these classrooms is not working in the right direction. And the way it’s being handled from an administrative perspective is just horrifying. These poor teachers are being asked to make a decision in such a small amount of time of who’s gonna leave or it’s gonna be chosen for you. It breaks my heart. I really, truly hope that the administration hears us and doesn’t do this.”
“These children will lose their teacher that they built a relationship with, they will be separated from the friendships they’ve already made,” said an emotional Laurelwood teacher. “And most importantly these unvaccinated babies will be put in a classroom with more students. Why would we do this to them? To save a little money?”
The Board decided to hold a special meeting to resolve this. According to Dr. Gonzalez, this is time sensitive as they have 15 school days to make the changes from the beginning of the school year, which would be Sept. 1 but they also must allow two days for contract changes for the affected teachers. So, the Board decided to meet on Monday, Aug. 30 at 6 p.m.
COVID-19 Safety Update
Staff gave updates on COVID-19 safety at their sites. There were concerns about notifying close contacts and contact tracing. Dr. Kemp admitted they want to build better systems. Board Member Bonnie Lieberman said they need to “tighten communication” to help with parents’ anxiety.
When it comes to their online dashboard, Vice President Vickie Fairchild said it should be updated more often at least to show that it is up to date with the most current information. Dr. Kemp also said they have added more details to the dashboard, so it shows data by school. Additionally, there is now a place to investigate COVID-19 related “rumors” that the community may hear.
Weekly testing has been delayed due to PCR test shortages but Dr. Kemp said they hope to have the program up on Monday. Families have been sent information on how to enroll their students.
Mark Shiel, Chief Business Official, said that there is new guidance on the quarantine decision tree that will be incorporated into an updated safety plan. There is a new safety plan coming out on Friday, Aug. 27 but the tree updates may appear in a future one.
The Board also approved designating September as Suicide Prevention Awareness Month and they adopted a new Psychology Book.
The Board will hold a special meeting on Monday, Aug. 30 at 6 p.m., and then their next regular meeting is on Thursday, Sept. 9 at 6:30 p.m.
Update: The Special Board meeting regarding class collapsing is now on Monday, Aug. 30 at 6 p.m. I was previously scheduled for Saturday, Aug. 28 at 3 p.m.