PUSD trustees agree to cover large cleaning tab after virus outbreak | News | PleasantonWeekly.com |

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PUSD trustees agree to cover large cleaning tab after virus outbreak

Also: District reaches agreement with teachers, mariachi program celebrates Golden Bell Award

The Pleasanton Unified School District Board of Trustees started its first regular meeting of the new year on Tuesday evening by agreeing to cover professional cleaning services used to sanitize five PUSD sites during a viral gastroenteritis outbreak last fall.

The board unanimously voted to pull $233,948 from the district general fund for the cleaning invoice.

The hefty bill was racked up beginning in October when reports began surfacing about "a high number of students who were reporting illness or symptoms, such as nausea, vomiting, and fever" at Pleasanton Middle School, according to the district.

PUSD notified the Alameda County Public Health Department (ACPHD), who "determined that the illnesses met their definition of viral gastroenteritis outbreak." Student absences at Pleasanton Middle School were significant during the outbreak; attendance rates at the site fell to 59.89% on one specific date, Oct. 25.

At the direction of ACPHD, district officials adhered to specific guidelines to slow and stop the virus from spreading at Pleasanton Middle as well as Foothill High, Hart Middle, Lydiksen and Hearst elementary schools. The guidelines included "specific cleaning and disinfecting protocol" for specific areas at the sites.

According to PUSD, the outbreak's severity warranted hiring a professional cleaning service for "needed human power and equipment to meet the clean up and disinfection needs."

The extra cleaning requirements were removed once ACPHD declared the outbreak was under control and absence levels were normal again. Because the district did not know how much work would be needed, Restoration Management Company, the contracted business, was authorized to work on a time and material basis from Oct. 23 to Nov. 21, resulting in the high-priced cleaning tab.

During discussion Tuesday night, Trustee Joan Laursen said she would have approved the added cost to mitigate the outbreak's spread at the time but asked, "Would this typically qualify to call an emergency board meeting to seek the board's approval for an expenditure of this magnitude?"

Superintendent David Haglund said that was an option but since the unusual nature of the situation called for emergency expenditure funds and retroactive approval and the district was acting on ACPHD's direction, "we would've been good either way."

"What we did was apply resources to the directive of the Department of Public Health, obviously because kids were getting sick and so were staff, so we needed to be in a proactive response," Haglund said.

PUSD recently submitted a claim to the East Bay Schools Insurance Group, but Ahmad Sheikholeslami, assistant superintendent of business services, said it's still unverified whether the district's policy will cover it. The district has also prepared an emergency waiver under a material decrease provision to recover state funds that Pleasanton Middle lost due to numerous absences during the outbreak.

There are three situations under state law that permit a school to file an emergency waiver: a material decrease resulting from "fire, flood, impassable roads, epidemic, earthquake, safety hazard, a non-district transportation service strike, or a military threat," "an unforeseeable closure resulting from a fire, flood, epidemic, military threat, or other extraordinary condition," and "the loss or destruction of attendance records which precludes the preparation of accurate attendance records."

Another waiver was also prepared under the school closure provision for Fairlands, Lydiksen and Foothill, which were all closed during the PG&E Public Safety Power Shutoffs in late October. All three campuses were closed Oct. 28 "as a precaution, as our fire alarms, safety systems and lights were not functional until after power was restored," according to district documents.

PUSD can claim approximately $50,000 in lost ADA revenue by applying for the emergency waiver. The Board voted to forward both waivers, which must be approved next by the Alameda County Office of Education before they are sent to the California Department of Education for final approval.

In other business

* PUSD reached a unanimous agreement with the Association of Pleasanton Teachers for the 2019-20 school year on Tuesday.

Retroactively effective to July 1, 2019, all salaried APT staff will receive an 2.75% increase, and the district will also "apply the value of 0.55% (one (1) day) towards an additional optional day ... for district-directed professional development."

The employee bereavement policy was also updated, and restrictions were added to prohibit administration from asking teachers to "perform any voluntary or mandated activities" during their duty-free lunch period.

The contract also calls for the establishment of a six-member joint benefits subcommittee, which will start meeting at the end of the month to "explore health and welfare costs, impacts on members, and options, for the purpose of informing future APT negotiations."

* Several contracts for repair work on the fire-damaged library at Harvest Park Middle School were approved Tuesday. The board ratified several agreements for services related to the restoration project, including a $1.7 million construction contract with Pre Con Industries Inc.

Rebuilding costs will be covered by the district's insurance policy, and $140,700 will come from various district funds including for capital outlay projects. Work is expected to start this winter and finish by summer.

* Audience and board members were treated at the start of the meeting to a musical performance by members of Estrella del Pueblo, PUSD's after school mariachi program.

Appearing in matching black embroidered charro/charra outfits, Estrella del Pueblo performers serenaded the crowd to celebrate their recent recognition by the California School Boards Association, which presented them with the Golden Bell Award last month.

Estrella del Pueblo and PUSD's Local Leaders of the 21st Century were two of only 57 programs throughout California chosen for the 2020 Golden Bell honor. The trustees presented the group with a certificate of recognition that evening to commemorate the occasion.

Julia Baum is a staff writer for the Pleasanton Weekly. Reach her at jbaum@pleasantonweekly.com or 925-600-0840, ext. 111.

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