86-page plan will be available for public viewing on July 20

PASO ROBLES — Paso Robles Joint Unified School District Superintendent Curt Dubost wants to open schools the traditional way — with students and teachers on campus five days a week.

But he realizes that is not likely to happen with COVID-19 cases surging in the state and Gov. Gavin Newsom rolling back reopening of some business sectors.

San Luis Obispo County’s COVID-19 cases have nearly doubled since July 1, rising from 611 to 1,112 as of Wednesday afternoon. The County has also reported five COVID-19 deaths during that same span.

“Just to reiterate our absolute goal is to get kids back into school five days a week,” Dubost said. “In all likelihood, that is not going to be possible with the numbers where they are now, but we are not willing at this time to say we are going to make a commitment to go with distance learning only.”

Dubost’s remarks came during a live-stream presentation Wednesday night with PRJUSD Director of Student Services Nate Maas. They provided a “fly-by overview” of the three options being considered by the District for the start of the 2020-21 school year. The first day of school is scheduled for Aug. 20.

Schools finished the 2019-20 school year with distance learning after the state’s COVID-19 pandemic stay-home orders shut campuses in March.

PRJUSD has been watching numbers, taking guidance from County and State health officials and working with input from teachers and parents to formulate plans for the upcoming school year.

The District’s 86-page plan will be made public on Monday. It will be provided to San Luis Obispo County for approval on Monday. It will then be voted on by PRJUSD School Board trustees during a special meeting at 5 p.m. on July 23.

• Plan A is a traditional return to school in the fall.

• Plan B would be a hybrid return with students on campus two days a week and distance learning the other three days. Maas indicated that maintaining six-foot social distancing would be extremely difficult under this plan. The District is expecting to get guidance from the state on the acceptable amount of social distancing.

• Plan C is distance learning.

Both pointed out that distance learning will be significantly improved from what was offered when schools used it during the shutdown.

Maas and Dubost said there is a good possibility they could bounce from plan to plan, depending on the COVID-19 numbers. They know that not everyone is going to be happy and some aspects of this are beyond their control.

“All of this is contingent upon what happens with the numbers and what the state tells Dr. (Penny) Borenstein (SLO County Health Officer) and the local health department what the rules are,” Dubost said. “So know that whatever we decide could change overnight if we are closed down. So we have to be nimble and have numerous options to deal with what could happen, every possible eventuality.”

Outside of the A-C plans, the District is offering “robust” homeschooling for any grade level and independent learning for high school-aged students. Both of these would include extra-curricular activities. Parents or guardians can choose one of these, but will be locked into this for the entire school year, Maas and Dubost said.

Dubost and Maas provided their email addresses — cdubost@pasoschools.org and nmaas@pasoschools.org — and asked for input and preference from parents and guardians by July 22.

Given all of the District’s information, Dubost said staff would likely recommend to trustees opening the school year under the hybrid option.

Dubost is hopeful the COVID-19 numbers will drop and they can bring everyone back to campus.

“I still remain Pollyanish, hopeful that the numbers can tick down if we all wear face masks and we really do our darndest maybe we can bend this curve back down and get more of what we were hoping for a month ago,” Dubost said. “But prudence dictates that we realize that may not happen and that we are going to have to have some other options.

While the plan that will be used is not set in stone, Dubost said one thing was certain — face masks would be required on campus.

“Whatever we do, the kids and the staff are going to have to wear a mask,” Dubost said matter of factly, adding that if this was a problem, parents or guardians should choose an alternate option, such as homeschooling.

Dubost said people asked him to give them his best guess of what will happen on Aug. 20.

“How do I think we are going to start the year? I fear it will be in distance learning,” Dubost said. “But we want to be able to move as seamlessly, as nimbly, as quickly as we can to the other options — the hybrid and hopefully the traditional as soon as we can after.”

Getting through this together, Paso Robles