During a typical year, the Santa Clara Unified School District (SCUSD) Board of Trustees would be on summer break, but this year is far from normal. At a special meeting on Wednesday, July 15 the Board discussed reopening schools and, unfortunately, layoffs.
School Reopening Plan
SCUSD staff and Superintendent Dr. Stella Kemp presented the Districts draft of the 2020 – 2021 School Reopening plan. The presentation was similar one made at the townhall meetings the district held earlier in the week.
According to the current draft plan, school will start on Monday, August 17 with full distance learning. There will be five days of instruction during the average school week and students will be traditionally graded, with some exceptions. Once it’s possible, the District will transition to a hybrid learning model and the last phase is full in-person learning. The District is also prepared to toggle back and forth between the three phases in case of outbreaks.
The District is asking families to reply by July 24 — they’re trying to extend the deadline — with their preference of distance or hybrid learning so that it can begin allocating teachers and staff.
Families will have the option to continue distance learning even if the district transitions to hybrid learning. At semester or trimester breaks, students can switch between distance learning and hybrid learning if space and resources allow. However, if families had picked distance learning as their preference and then wanted to switch to distance learning, they may not be able to be placed at their home school.
The topic drew in about 100 public comments to the Board meeting. That paired with a myriad of Board questions and concerns, caused the meeting to go till about midnight.
One of the top concerns from families was the plan says that depending on a student’s learning model preference they may not be guaranteed placement at their home school if they wanted to do hybrid learning. Parents wrote in that they were concerned about their students being displaced from their core school community.
One commenter said that they were basically being penalized for choosing distance learning over hybrid.
Dr. Kemp said that, as with everything, they would try their best, however, they first need to collect the numbers on what model parents choose.
“Planning to reopen schools is difficult and multifaceted,” said Dr. Kemp. “It is never perfect, and it is impossible to make 100 percent of our stakeholders happy.”
Vice President Jodi Muirhead wanted to know an approximate timeline of when the District will reassess whether they will move forward or backwards in their reopening plans. Many public comments were concerned that they will be thrown between reopening steps will little notice.
Dr. Kemp said she would work to make a transparent timeline of when they would reassess and also aim to give families enough notice when changes would come.
Board Member Jim Canova stressed that teachers and staff must set a good example when it comes to wearing masks, social distancing, and following all other health guidelines. Board Member Andy Ratermann said he wanted to make sure they had all the safety and sanitation components in place.
As it neared midnight, the Board Members started to list off their comments and concerns so staff could address them later.
The District was also collecting survey results from a form that ended the night of the meeting. They are also still working on a promised FAQ that should be ready within a week or so, according to Jennifer Dericco, the District’s Public Information Officer. She also said that they will continue to collect questions and concerns and update the FAQ even after it’s live.
Additionally, on Friday, the State of California released their guidance on reopening schools which will no doubt cause changes to SCUSD’s plans.
The reopening plan will be revised and a new draft will be ready on July 27. The final plan will come to the Board on Wednesday, July 29 for action consideration.
The District learned there will be significant reductions in grant funding by the San Andreas Regional Center (SARC) for the Independence Network — this is effective on July 31. The Independence Network program serves adults with disabilities.
According to Dr. Brenda Carrillo, Director of Educational Options, the cost to run Independence Network was $1.2 million and the grant they used to get from SARC was about $725,000. Eric Dill, SCUSD’s Chief Business Official, said the District will continue to work with SARC to seek what kinds of funding or reimbursements they can still get.
The Board’s agenda states that Community Day Programs, such as Independence Network, are not slated to reopen in the near future according to SARC, so distance learning is currently the best option and will continue to utilize distance learning this upcoming year. In the distance learning model, paraeducator services are not utilized.
Because of the loss of grant funding, the District staff brought the resolution to eliminate 10 Paraeducator Life Skills positions in the Independence Network.
Kevin Keegan, Assistant Superintendent for Human Resources, said they are confident they can find them new positions within the next 60 days. According to the Education Code and the CSEA collective bargaining agreement, layoffs will occur on a seniority basis within the affected classification. More senior affected classified employees will have the right to displace or “bump” less senior employees in the same classification, or in other classifications in which they have seniority.
Dr. Carrillo said that staff were in the middle of redesigning the Independence Network before shelter-in-place. Since there hasn’t been an update to the program since 1991, this could be seen as an opportunity to redesign it.
The vote passed 6-1 with Ratermann voting no.
The Board approved appointing Carrie Casto to the Principal of Adult Education.
They also approved a resolution that authorizing a change order to O.C. Jones & Sons, Inc for soil off-haul and disposal at the Agnews K-12 Campus. The cost is $1,462,847.09 to be paid by Measure H and Measure BB.
The SCUSD Board of Trustees meets next for a special meeting on Wednesday, July 29 at 6 p.m.