Paso Robles Joint Unified School District will meet virtually tonight at 5 p.m. in a special meeting that can be viewed on the PRJUSD YouTube channel here

PUBLIC COMMENT

Verbal Public Comment:

Call (805) 608-4230 to provide live public comments during the meeting for an item number on the agenda in open session or for an item NOT on the agenda. You will be placed in a queue. You must call well in advance of the item you wish to comment on, public comment will not be available once the item has been discussed by the Board of Trustees. 

Written Public Comment: 

To provide written public comments to be read during the meeting, please email 450 words or less to info@pasoschools.org. 

Note on the email if the comment is for a closed session item, an item number on the agenda in open session, or for an item NOT on the agenda. Public Comments will be accepted via email until 4:30 p.m., Jan. 4. 

Public Comment is limited to three minutes per person and no more than 20 minutes total for any one item. Any documents, petitions, or information for submittal may also be emailed to the address above.

Main Agenda Item 

G.1. APPROVAL OF MODIFICATION OF SECONDARY HYBRID INSTRUCTION COMMENCEMENT DATES TO EARLIEST DATE AS PERMITTED UNDER REASONABLE STATE GUIDANCE, AND POSSIBLE DIRECTION TO SUPERINTENDENT TO DEVELOP EXPANDED SECONDARY STUDENT IN-PERSON INSTRUCTION AND SUPPORT THIS PENDING HYBRID INSTRUCTION COMMENCEMENT

Speaker: Superintendent C. Dubost

Quick Summary / Abstract:

The district has received the anticipated response from the San Luis Obispo County Public Health Department (Public Health)with regard to our request for clarification of the criteria for approval to offer additional in-person instruction as the next phase of our previously approved plan. Public Health has denied the request.

Recommended Motion:

Superintendent recommends Option #3 for Board approval.

Rationale:

The district has opened all elementary sites under hybrid instruction, and such instruction will continue upon return to school on Jan. 11. The district has received the anticipated response from the Public Health with regard to our request for clarification of the criteria for approval to commence hybrid in-person instruction at secondary sites as the next phase of our previously approved plan. 

While we felt we made a persuasive argument that could have allowed local Public Health approval, we understand the position of our Public Health that approval was not possible. We will continue to aggressively seek clarification on those criteria from the state and we are encouraged to read that new state guidance on reopening criteria is to be forthcoming along with funding to allow for swift implementation. We trust that our labor partners will join us in the effort to accelerate the release of those new guidelines and funds. 

We also noted Secretary of Education nominee Miguel Cardona has announced the goal that all students who can safely be returned to school will actually be back at school within his first 100 days. American Federation of Teachers (AFT) President Weingarten has also expressed support for the safe return of all kids as soon as possible as an obvious reason to support the designation of school staff as essential workers eligible for vaccination priority. Our board supported that priority with its recent vote to direct the Superintendent to continue with the plan to reopen our secondary sites. 

The analysis provided by Public Health in support of the denial of our request to pursue in-person secondary instruction in January hinged, at least in part, on how our plan to meet the needs of struggling students as currently approved was in fact being implemented. Upon receiving data from our various site administrators, it was determined that the majority of secondary students continued to be served virtually and not in-person. 

If we do not proceed with the hybrid reopening in January and have to continue distance learning until we are able to reopen, we intend to work with our labor partners to increase the use of cohorts and further develop in-person support and learning using willing staff during any period of continued distance learning. It is important to note that many staff who wish to return simply cannot because of their individual circumstances including being forced to isolate themselves due to a COVID-19 exposure. 

This does not mean these persons stay home and get paid. It means they work remotely or use leave time. However, this means that we have a limited pool of employees able to work and also a severe shortage of substitutes to replace them. 

To summarize, we believe the district has three general options moving forward: 

OPTION #1: Start a costly legal battle with the Public Health and potentially the state by reopening without Public Health’s approval. This would open us up to potential liability and put us at odds with both of our labor partners as well as a significant portion of the public. We do not see any scenario wherein that is a wise choice either short-term or long-term. We would potentially be hit with immediate legal action that would mean more students aren’t back in January while we are tied up in court. San Dieguito USD in San Diego County is pursuing such an option. Even if we prevailed, the acrimony would be long-term at a time when our district needs to come together, not divide, as we solve other critical decisions such as budget cuts and the recommended closing of an elementary site. 

OPTION #2: Commence secondary instruction in distance learning on Jan. 11, 2021, and reopen to additional secondary students only when we have returned to the Red Tier for two weeks or at an earlier date if permitted by upcoming state guidelines. It is important to note that at no point has any plan we submitted for approval been denied because it was determined our plan was not safe. The denial was based solely on the guidelines which didn’t permit approval. We continue aggressively to question that direction. 

OPTION #3: Due to the Public Health decision and lack of voluntary staffing, the plan to open secondary on Jan. 11, 2021, will not occur to the extent we had hoped. We will continue to provide distance learning and negotiate immediately with both of our labor partners to craft plans for voluntary return to specific classes using cohort guidance staffed by employees choosing to be at school. With the number of students opting to return declining from previous surveys, the goal would be for all who want to return to have at least some in-person option for at least the classes they have with teachers choosing to teach from school with students present. All precautions will of course be enforced strictly. Under this scenario, the plan would also include the immediate implementation of our hybrid learning plan to occur 14 days after the County returns to the Red Tier or an earlier approved reopening under any upcoming state guidance. 

Superintendent recommends Option #3

Attachments: Agena Item #G1 / Full Agenda

Getting through this together, Paso Robles