PUSD Superintendent Update - July 19, 2020
Dear PUSD Families,
I hope this email finds you well and that you’re enjoying a beautiful bay area weekend. Much has occurred over the past 72 hours in the arena of education—from the local to state levels. This communication is lengthy and serves as a parallel to the amount of new information and changes that have occurred since Thursday.
July 13th & 16th, 2020 – PUSD Board of Education Meetings
During the July 13th Board of Education Meeting, the PUSD Board of Education directed the me to bring forward a plan to begin the school year in a 100% Distance Learning Model in direct response to the current increase of COVID-19 infections across Piedmont, Alameda County, the bay area, and the state. Alameda County, specifically, is experiencing an increase in infection rate, hospitalizations, and deaths over the past few weeks.
The Board clearly expressed that the safety of our students and staff are our top priority. The Board of Education is unified in their support to develop plans that bring students and staff back to our campuses, as we had previously discussed, as soon as it is possible and within acceptable parameters of safety. In order to accomplish this, we were hoping to witness a stabilization/decrease in the COVID-19 infection rate and hospitalizations. We were also hoping to see an increase in the access and availability of testing. Neither of these important criteria are materializing. In fact, we are witnessing these trend lines headed in the opposite direction.
During the July 16th Board of Education meeting, the Board voted unanimously to begin school on August 17th in a 100% Distance Learning environment.
While the spring saw us shift into a crisis mode of distance learning, the fall will be met with much more structure that addresses the six following themes:
An emphasis on a set and consistent daily bell schedule and number of synchronous (live) minutes for direct teaching and learning.
- Social/Emotional learning and support systems.
- Consistent and required benchmark assessments and grading.
- Structured professional development, training, and collaboration for all of our educators and staff throughout the school year.
- Uniform learning platforms and instructional technology.
- Daily attendance tracking.
Distance Learning Model Parameters
Under Education Code 43503, the District must provide a structured learning schedule that incorporates both daily synchronous and asynchronous learning opportunities. This requires school districts to provide Distance Learning in a much more structured and organized way than what was prescribed by the state during the spring of 2020.
- District staff will need to work with educators to develop daily “virtual” bell schedules and supplemental curriculum to support a Distance Learning Model.
- Distance Learning Students will attend distance learning sessions 4-5 days per week under a specific schedule that incorporates both daily synchronous and asynchronous learning opportunities.
- Minimum Daily Instructional Minutes:
- 180 minutes of daily instruction for transitional kindergarten and kindergarten students (as required by Ed. Code 43501(a)).
- 230 minutes of daily instruction for 1st – 3rd grade students (as required by Ed. Code 43501(b)).
- 240 minutes of daily instruction for 4th – 12th grade students (as required by AB 77: 43501(c)).
- Daily attendance recorded for distance learning sessions (as required by Ed. Code 43504 (d) (1))
- Under a distance learning model educators return to a system of assessments and grading as was prescribed prior to the closing of schools in March of 2020. Board Policy 5121 supports academic letter grades and authorizes the calculation of median grade point averages using a letter grading system.
- Special education and any other services required by a pupil’s individualized education program must be provided in a distance learning environment.
The Board’s decisive action to move to a 100% Distance Learning model occurred only one day prior to the Governor taking similar steps across the entire state. While we were aware that the Governor and State Superintendent were likely to provide guidance on how to safely re-open schools, we did not anticipate such sweeping decisions at the state level.
July 17, 2020 – Governor Newsom Announcement on Reopening Schools – Excerpted from the California School Boards Association
Gov. Gavin Newsom on Friday, July 17, unveiled new guidelines mandating that all California schools in counties on the state’s COVID-19 monitoring list begin the school year solely with distance learning and must meet strict criteria in order to open campuses. As of today, 32 of 58 counties, representing more than 90 percent of the state’s schoolchildren, are on the watch list. It’s important to note that districts located in counties that are not currently on the watch list, but are subsequently added to the list, are not required to close their schools when their county’s status changes. They should, however, begin or increase the frequency of staff testing for coronavirus once their county is placed on the watch list.
“Safety is foundational and safety will ultimately make the determination of how we go about educating our kids as we move into the fall and we work our way through this pandemic,” Gov. Newsom said.
The California Department of Public Health’s new In-Person Learning Framework and updated Industry Guidance: Schools and School-Based Programs offer significant new direction for schools that are eligible and choose to reopen classrooms, including requirements for face coverings to be worn by children in grades 3-12 and reopening criteria, but consistent testing protocols for testing staff and students is not clearly addressed.
The new guidance for reopening campuses largely aligns regulations for K–12 education with those used for many other sectors and represents a shift away from local educational agency leaders, in consultation with local public health officials, determining when campuses should welcome back students and staff. However, when a county does come off the monitoring list, which requires, among other criteria, 14 consecutive days of a declining number of COVID-19 cases, local officials will still make the final call on if and when in-person instruction should resume.
Gov. Newsom said that while a significant number of large districts have already decided to start the school year with distance learning, and many more must do so as a result of the new guidelines, inequitable performance and access seen in the spring cannot repeat itself this fall. “Learning is non-negotiable … Schools must provide meaningful instruction during the pandemic, no matter what the form,” he said in outlining five key areas for the new school year.
The guidance notes that a waiver of the reopening criteria may be granted by the local health officer for elementary schools to open for in-person instruction, in consultation with the CDPH. Such a waiver may only be granted if one is requested by the superintendent in consultation with labor, parent and community organizations.
Masks required for students in grades 3-12, all staff; distancing relaxed
Gov. Newsom also delivered clear direction on the use of face coverings for students. The new guidance calls for students in kindergarten through second grade to be encouraged, but not required, to wear face coverings. Students in grades 3 through 12 are required to wear them; those who do not comply or do not have a valid exemption must be sent home. Schools are being asked to develop protocols to provide a face covering to students who inadvertently fail to bring one to campus to prevent unnecessary exclusions.
All staff must use face coverings in accordance with CDPH guidelines unless Cal/OSHA standards require respiratory protection. A face shield can be used in limited situations when a face covering cannot be worn for pedagogical or developmental reasons.
In its updated guidance, CDPH requires that all adults stay 6 feet from one another and 6 feet away from children, while students should maintain 6 feet of distance from one another as practicable.
When classrooms, schools and districts should close
For schools that will open the year with in-person instruction, or for those that will eventually migrate to the setting once local conditions allow, the guidance details when classrooms should be sent home and when schools and districts should close their doors:
- A classroom cohort should stop in-person instruction if there is a confirmed case within the cohort
- Schools should close when there are “multiple cases in multiple cohorts” or when the school has experienced a 5-percent positive testing rate of students and staff in a 14-day period, depending on a facility’s size and layout. The local health officer may also determine a school closure is warranted for reasons such as results from a public health investigation or local epidemiological data. Schools may reopen after 14 days and following cleaning and disinfection, a public health investigation and consultation with the local public health department.
- A superintendent should close an entire district if one in four schools have closed due to COVID-19 within 14 days, and in consultation with the local public health department; they may typically reopen after 14 days.
The state notes that it is “committed to supporting local health departments with resources and other technical assistance regarding school case, contact and outbreak investigations.”
Staff testing protocols and recommended frequency
The guidance also outlines the need for “periodic” testing of all staff members who may contact students or other staff when schools are open for any level of in-person instruction — including an increased level of testing in areas with rising community transmission, as lab testing capacity allows.
Listed examples of recommended frequency include testing all staff over two months, during which 25 percent of staff are tested every two weeks, or 50 percent every month to rotate testing of all staff over time.
The guidance framework document also includes an updated chart of the measures to be taken when a student, teacher or staff member has symptoms, has been in contact with someone infected or is diagnosed with COVID-19.
Announcement from Alameda County Superintendent L. Karen Monroe
L. Karen Monroe, Alameda County Superintendent of Schools, issued the following press release in response to the Governor’s press conference.
California Interscholastic Federation Update
It is expected that the California Interscholastic Federation (the state’s governing body that oversees all California high school athletics) will announce on Monday, July 20th, that high school athletics will be postponed until January, where there will be a shortened three season athletics schedule (January – June). Once announced, I will send out an additional announcement with details and/or updates and work with our school site administrators and the Athletic Boosters to adjust our planning accordingly.
2020-2021 PUSD Instructional Calendar
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the need to engage in additional professional learning, collaboration, and planning, the district, the Association of Piedmont Teachers (APT), and the California School Employees Association – Chapter #60 (CSEA), agreed to adding and implementing three (3) additional days in the 2020-2021 school year to provide Professional Learning and Collaborative Planning for Distance Learning and In-Person Instruction.
As part of the calendar development process, APT membership and District representatives developed a variety of Instructional Calendar options with differing vacation breaks and professional development dates.
The recommended calendar highlights are as follows:
- Full week to prepare: 4 Professional Learning and Collaboration Days and 1 Workday
- First day for teachers Monday, August 10 and first day for students is Monday, August 17
- 4 day weekend for Labor Day
- Professional Development Days October 9 and January 19
- Full week off for Thanksgiving, February Break, and April Break
- Days off October 12, March 12 and 15
- Fall semester ends January 15, Spring Semester begins January 20
- Last day of school is Friday, June 11, Workday Monday, June 14
Next Steps …
Over the next several weeks, Piedmont Unified will bring forward a number of updates and decision-points to support the start of the 2020-2021 school year.
Bell Schedules: Site administrators and APT continue to partner in the development of new daily bell schedules for students and staff. These bell schedules must adhere to the minimum number of daily instructional minutes and serve both a distance learning and in-person blended learning models.
Master Schedule Development/Class Lists: Site administrators are in the process of developing their school site master schedule (class rosters, course section allocation, etc.) and class lists for publication. Now with the decision to move to a distance learning model of instruction, our goal is to have these documents published no later than the first week of August.
Memorandum of Understanding with Bargaining Groups: Due to COVID-19 and its significant impact to “working conditions”, all districts across the state are working collaboratively with their bargaining groups to develop a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that outlines the parameters, expectations, and agreements for operating under a COVID-19 landscape. Our goal is to have this MOU published no later than the first week of August.
August Board Meeting – Distance Learning Components: PUSD will hold a special Board of Education meeting during the first week of August to outline and present the various components of our Distance Learning model. Topics will include bell schedules (with an explanation of synchronous learning minutes), new instructional technologies and learning platforms, new curricula, professional development opportunities, Special Education/504 updates, and social/emotional support.
Board Policy 0470 – COVID-19 Mitigation Plan: The PUSD Health and Safety Committee is working through a variety of topics related to the safe return of students and staff to our campuses. These discussions will shape BP 0470 – COVID-19 Mitigation Plan and will include parameters regarding PPE, screening, student attendance, social distancing, hygiene practices, and the sanitization of facilities and equipment.
I realize that the amount of shifting information is dizzying to all of us. Planning and making decisions with such instability has proven challenging, but I’m grateful for the support of our educators, families, students, and community partners as we remain flexible to respond to the latest and greatest. Over the next several weeks, site administrators and I will continue to provide regular updates to keep you apprised of any changes to policy or preclude as it relates to the opening of school.
Thank you for your patience and support. Please do not hesitate to contact me or your site principal if you have any questions.
Superintendent, Piedmont Unified School District
Chair, North Region SELPA
President, Northern Alameda Adult Education Collective