In other matters, board approved staff putting together application for in-person waiver

PASO ROBLES — Some people voiced their concerns with an opinion piece written by Paso Robles Joint Unified School District trustee Christopher Arend during Tuesday’s school board meeting. 

This was the first meeting with call-in capabilities for general public to comment. The district received many calls regarding an opinion piece, “The Myth of ‘Systemic Racism,’” written by Arend and featured in Cal Coast News.

Several people expressed their concern with having Arend as a board member. 

Arend delivered the following statement during the meeting.

“The piece I wrote, one talk show host in the county described it as rather scholarly and academic,” Arend said. “It was an analysis of the academic origins and the theory of ‘systemic racism.’ It’s not systematic racism; the term is systemic racism. 

“It was done after I got kind of done with all of this white fragility stuff out there and the derivative concepts from that and from the academic concept of systemic racism, that all whites are racist and no minority can be a racist. I did a detailed and very rational analysis that as sometimes will happen, it triggered a very emotional reaction. 

“I want everyone who is listening to note that all the reactions, all the condemnation out there was based on emotion. Not one person had anything to say of substance against the article. But for those out there who are listening, you can still pick up the article at Cal Coast News, which is where I posted it in the opinion section. Or you can email me at an email address, either my school board address, but better is, and I’ll be glad to send you a copy of the article where you can see the footnotes a lot better than in the Cal Coast version. 

“But I can understand that people get upset when they read the title. I would suggest they drill down a little bit past the title and get into the rational and very calm analysis, whereby the way I did not resort to any type of polemics of the type I’ve heard this evening. Thank you,” Arend said.

In other matters, board members approved 6-0 staff moving forward with steps necessary to apply for an in-person teaching waiver for elementary students — TK to fifth grade. Secondary schools will not be permitted to reopen until the county moves out of the widespread purple tier of the state’s Blueprint for a Safer Economy.

The district sent several surveys to parents, students, and staff on reopening schools. Out of 1,000 parents who responded, 54.4% were very comfortable, and 25% were comfortable but with reservations to return to in-person learning.

Eleven percent of respondents indicated they would not send their children to school if masks are required. 

Virtual learning would still be available to anyone who chooses that method. 

“Approximately 60% of all teachers, and 45% of elementary teachers, expressed a willingness to return to in-person instruction if safe,” staff reported.

According to district officials, any teachers who do not want to teach in person will have the option to teach virtually.

The board will vote on the waiver application for in-person learning for elementary students during the Sept. 22. 

Trustees approved, 6-0, submitting a plan for in-person services for essential areas of Career Technical Education lab courses. This would include two phases of classes to be offered. 

Phase one includes Welding, Journalism 2/3, Early Childhood Education, and Building Trades. 

Phase two would include Essential Industry Training and Lab Requirement: Patient Care, Animal Anatomy, and Physiology, Floral Design, and Culinary Arts. 

Labs would not be larger than 10 students at a time, maintain 6-foot distancing, and require masks on campus. The lab grades of students who do not wish to participate will not be affected.

The district’s lab proposal will be presented to the County Public Health Department for approval.