Tentative timeline has students back on campus in early November; District working out CBAs

PASO ROBLES — Paso Robles Joint Unified School District Superintendent Curt Dubost gave two thumbs up after trustees approved a Hybrid Readiness Plan for returning to in-person instruction for all grade levels at a special meeting on Oct. 6.

All seven trustees recognized the plan was not perfect, but were in favor of it moving forward, applauded the staff for their thoroughness, and voted accordingly.

“We can’t try to put out something that is going to be perfect; it’s not going to be. The rules change, the goalposts keep changing,” said Trustee Lance Gannon. “It’s fluid; it’s not going to be one size fits all; it’s not perfect. I think this is a great starting point. We’ve got to move forward getting these kids in the classroom.”

Dubost reiterated the importance of getting students back on campus. He said students have struggled with distance learning, especially in the upper grades, where according to mid-term reports, 1,000 high school students are failing at least one class.

“Many students will be so far behind that they will lack credits to graduate and we fear dropouts may increase dramatically,” Dubost said. “We all know the importance of a personal contact and a pep talk from a trusted teacher, a coach or an advisor.

The plan will be sent to the San Luis Obispo County Public Health Department and San Luis Obispo County Office of Education for review.

The plan includes a 20-day window to complete collective bargaining agreements with Paso Robles Public Educators and California School Employees Association Paso Robles Chapter 254. The District will begin meeting with teachers representatives as early as Oct. 7 and classified on Oct. 9. 

According to the Hybrid Readiness Plan, PRJUSD will be taking a phased approach to return students to classrooms. The hybrid model will be a combination of distance learning and in-person instruction.

“Our overall plan features phased implementation and a careful rollout,” Dubost said. “We do not bring kids back all at once, but phased in over the entire month of November. This will allow us to address issues as they arise. If the numbers tick up and the Health Department guidance changes, we will, of course, always and without exception, follow precisely that guidance.”

According to the plan’s tentative timeline, elementary school grades will move to the hybrid model in early November — transitional kindergarten-kindergarten on Nov. 2; first and second grades on Nov. 16; and third through fifth grades on Nov. 30. Middle and high school students are expected to begin in January after the first semester break.

According to District staff, several factors contributed to pausing the secondary rollout — namely, redoing the master schedule and the sheer number of students.

Paso Robles High School, for instance, has just over 2,000 students. 

“Even when you cohort half the kids at a time, you’d be looking at 1,000 students,” said PRJUSD Deputy Superintendent Jennifer Gavioloa. “So as we think about the capacity of that and managing what we need to do retraining our staff and our students with behaviors that are healthy and safe for everybody, we believe a January start would be most successful.”

Students at schools will be in either group A or B. This will determine when they are on campus for in-person instruction — either morning or afternoon for kindergarten through fifth grades Tuesday through Friday. 

Grades 6-12 will also be in groups A or B. This will determine which mornings of the week they are on campus for in-person instruction and which afternoons they are receiving online instruction — either Tuesday and Thursday or Wednesday and Friday. Independent learning fills one half of each day.

All grade levels will be distance learning on Monday.

Parents and guardians can continue with distance learning or what their student is currently enrolled in or register them for the hybrid model. Registration opens Oct. 7.

Students and staff will be required to wear a mask when on campus. Temperatures will be taken daily. 

All schools in San Luis Obispo County opened the 2020-21 school year in distance learning after landing on the state’s monitoring list and subsequently placed in the most restrictive tier of the Blueprint for a Safer Economy.

San Luis Obispo County moved into Tier 2 of the Blueprint on Sept. 22. According to the Blueprint, once a county is out of Tier 1 for two weeks, schools within that county can begin moving to in-person instruction.

Oct. 6 marked two weeks out of Tier 1 for SLO County, and that same day Public Health Officer Dr. Penny Borenstein announced SLO County schools could begin submitting their plans.

Schools that open during this time are not required to close if SLO County moves back to the purple Tier 1 — which is the first and most restrictive tier.

Included in PRJUSD’s Planning Guide are General Readiness Awareness, Preparing for if Someone Gets Sick, and Daily/Weekly Readiness Assessment. The plan supplemented the Reopening Guide that was previously approved by trustees and Public Health in July. The plan can be viewed online at www.pasoschools.org. The meeting was held via Zoom, streamed live and can be viewed online.

Getting through this together, Paso Robles