PASO ROBLES – Tonight the PRJUSD Board of Education held a Special Board Meeting to discuss the “Approval of Modification of Secondary Hybrid Instruction commencement dates to an earlier date as permitted under reasonable state guidance, and possible direction to the superintendent to develop expanded secondary student in-person instruction and support, pending hybrid instruction commencement.”

At the last Board of Education meeting held on Dec. 15, 2020, the District voted to continue with its plan to open secondary sites for hybrid instruction on Jan. 11, subject to voluntary staffing by teachers. The District conducted a secondary teacher survey, which indicated that 26 percent of secondary teaching staff would voluntarily return to in-person instruction within the Purple Tier. Concerns raised by teachers included the local surge in COVID-19 numbers combined with the large teaching rosters of secondary teachers (150-175 students).

Additionally, the District engaged in continued dialogue with County Public Health regarding its position as to whether under current public health guidelines the secondary sites were considered reopened and thus able to continue reopening pursuant to state guidance. Since the Dec. 15 Board meeting, County Public Health opined that the number of students physically on secondary campuses and the purpose for which they were on campus did not, in its opinion, constitute a reopening of such campuses. As a result, Public Health did not approve for the district to reopen its secondary schools in the hybrid model until 14 days after the return of the county to the Red Tier (or earlier if forthcoming state guidance permits such reopening).

During the Board of Education discussion of this agenda item and the updated information, the District discussed three options pertaining to secondary schools reopening for in-person instruction:

OPTION #1: Open secondary schools without County Public Health Approval and mandate all teaching staff return for hybrid instruction on Jan. 11. The result of this action would potentially result in litigation that would create an even longer delay before getting students in school in person.

OPTION #2: Commence secondary instruction in distance learning on Jan. 11, and reopen to additional secondary students only when the County has returned to the Red Tier for two weeks or at an earlier date if permitted by upcoming state guidelines.

OPTION #3: Continue to provide distance learning commencing on Jan. 11, and begin planning and negotiations with District labor partners to craft plans for voluntary return to specific support services and classes and supports for as many secondary students as possible. This would be implemented using cohort guidance under CDPH guidelines that allow for in-person services and learning in small, focused groups during the Purple Tier. Under this scenario, the District would immediately move to implement its in-person hybrid learning plan on the first school day that is 14 days after the County returns to the Red Tier or an earlier approved reopening under any upcoming state guidance.

District Staff recommended OPTION #3; according to Superentent Curt Debust, this option was believed to be the safest and the quickest road back to in-person schooling for secondary schools in PRJUSD. The Board of Education approved this recommendation with a vote of 5 to 1.

On Monday, Jan. 11, the District will return from Winter Break. (As previously scheduled, all Mondays, until further notice, are distance learning days for TK-12 grades.) Commencing Tuesday, Jan. 12, elementary schools will reopen for in-person instruction, as they were prior to the Winter Break. Secondary schools will remain in distance learning. The District will work to negotiate and implement plans for additional in-person services and instruction where possible in small student cohorts. These details will be negotiated with our labor partners, and additional communication will follow in the proceeding weeks.

The Board stated that they continue to thank all of the classified and certificated staff for their dedication to our students and community. They acknowledge that this year has been a struggle for all involved, and continue to work towards in-person school options for all students.

Full report to follow.

Getting through this together, Paso Robles