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Road to reopening Pleasanton schools remains unclear

PUSD board mulls options for student instruction next year

What the upcoming school year will look like was the lingering question at an online meeting of the Pleasanton school board on Thursday that stretched until the stroke of midnight.

With some academic institutions going exclusively online for the 2020-21 school year, Pleasanton Unified School District has been deliberating what to do about local classrooms, culminating in a lengthy board discussion that evening on three possible learning scenarios for students next school year.

No board action was taken on the issue but Superintendent David Haglund said that no matter the outcome, "As we plan, we've got to be planning for that ability to make adjustments on the fly."

That sentiment was echoed by assistant superintendent Janelle Woodward, who said the district is finding itself at a place "where we'd really like to be able to make decisions. I know I'd feel better if I could tell all of our teachers and all of our parents exactly what we're going to be doing come fall, I think it'd be nice to get to that point."

But "there is a lot of information that we are still learning," and Woodward said the district has been looking at different approaches to reopening from other countries like New Zealand and U.S. states such as Maryland.

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"We're really grounding our thinking in documents from the (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), from the (American Federation of Teachers), from pediatricians that have written some journals on guidance for schools, so every day we're getting more and more information from the literature," Woodward continued, adding, "that will serve as our baseline and our foundation along with guidance from our state and local agencies."

The most extreme approach to teaching and learning possible for next year would involve schools that are currently dismissed remaining closed while 100% distance learning continues.

Grades and progress marks would be issued and daily schedules would be established; long term independent study would also be expanded. Assessments would also take place online, "or in small groups at school sites."

Woodward said the district has "work cut out to do" in order to "refine, strengthen and build a distance learning program, but we already have the opportunity to take that for a test-drive, so to speak."

After the presentation, Trustee Mark Miller said that teachers have done a "heroic job" with distance learning but the "overwhelming feedback" has been that the model is less effective than in-person instruction.

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"I really feel that we need to not ask the question of 'can we bring students back to the classroom,' but 'how can we bring students back to the classroom safely,'" Miller said.

Miller continued, "It just feels like all of those options are going to put even more stress and strain on our employees, our teachers and our staff and our budget, and at a time when we're really facing potentially severe budget cuts. How can we logistically and financially afford to deliver on these models is, I guess, the question we really have to grapple with going forward."

With a hybrid approach, some local sites would remain open but with "enhanced social distancing measures," and only children living in the local geographic area would be allowed to attend. "This is when we can begin to bring some students back but not all students," she said. "We can expect that there's the need for social distancing and that we will not be able to have as many students in the classroom."

Block schedules or staggered classes, instruction or alternate days could help reduce the number of students in class at one time, as well as online classes offered as options in lieu of in-person instruction.

Non-contact athletics like tennis, golf and swimming could potentially resume, "following guidance" from the Alameda County Public Health Department (ACPHD). Independent study would be expanded for long term and students would receive letter grades as well.

Trustee Jamie Yee shared her concerns about "this mindset that we need to get back to the way it was or figure out how to do what we were doing before, and I think that maybe shuts down a lot of creative, innovative thinking if you approach it that way. I really think this is a chance to re-imagine education."

Noting that "rows of desks do not work for everybody," including teachers, Yee suggested matching up students and teachers into groups based on their preference for in-person or virtual instruction and learning.

Campuses would also stay open under the third hybrid approach but with distancing measures and the district would "restrict attendance to those from limited transmission areas."

Grades would also be given and independent study expanded, though athletics and other activities will be held per guidance from the ACPHD.

School meal delivery, sanitizing and disinfecting facilities, technology support, additional cost for staff, materials and supplies, and letting outside groups use district facilities during after-hours were among the items and impacts considered while the board evaluated the reopening options.

Recently, 640 faculty and staff members participated in a district-wide survey and "thought exchange exercise," during which they shared their most relevant considerations for administration to "keep in mind when structuring the school day or school wing."

Daily campus cleanings and more hired staff to give existing custodians more time and support at their jobs were among the top priorities listed.

The top four thoughts were all related "in some way to health and safety or cleaning" of school sites, according to Woodward. "Clearly what is on our employees minds is there is a desire to help instruct our students but we need to ensure the safety of everybody," she said.

Considerations will also be made for students in special education and those with 504 plans; an exclusive distance learning model would require alignment with the general education model, using additional training to support remote learning. The hybrid model would require smaller groups, PPE gear for paraeducators and others in close proximity, adjusting for transportation needs, and cleaning protocols.

The third option of returning most students to classroom "would be most challenging for students with disabilities, given the current ACPHD guidance --particularly our moderate-to-severe and preschoolers who require handling of close proximity and significant self-care needs (e.g. toileting, feeding and medical) and PPE needs," according to the district.

Returning to campus will also mean looking out for students who may have difficulty adjusting to a longer term hybrid model.

Assistant superintendent of student support services Ed Diolazo said the district will need to not only prepare for the impact of academic loss among students but also "focus on social and emotional loss brought on by social distancing and, for some of our students, realistically, social isolation."

"When we talk about kids who may be feeling like what is this new way of learning, there is some research showing that could be a problem so as staff and educators, we need be prepared for what are supports we're going to provide for students who may have this responsiveness of trauma-based emotions," Diolazo said.

Attendance is one issue that remains unresolved; truancy letters and related attendance meetings have ceased during school dismissal, with staff following up with students and families instead if a student has not been connecting to online classes or completing assignments.

The district is looking to receive guidance from the California Department of Education on the matter, but Diolazo said that staff have been reaching out when they feel some students are becoming disconnected from the distance learning format.

"We do have virtual support to help follow up with students who are experiencing being absent from classes," he said, but ultimately "we really need to rethink how we're going to take attendance."

A mix of thoughts and feelings about reopening local schools from the community written on comment cards were shared during the presentation.

Some residents said their experiences so far with distance learning have been positive while others said that "schools need to be reopened in August" for students' well-being, and "there is no way that 100% distance learning will work for the vast majority of students and its consideration creates an expectation that it is an option worthy of being studied."

An internal steering committee dedicated to the issue of school reopening will be assembled by the end of May. One commenter asked the district, "If teachers, staff and students are not key influencers, will the steering committee's conclusions and advisements be a factor in the decision to reopen?"

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Road to reopening Pleasanton schools remains unclear

PUSD board mulls options for student instruction next year

by / Pleasanton Weekly

Uploaded: Sat, May 23, 2020, 12:05 pm
Updated: Sun, May 24, 2020, 3:32 pm

What the upcoming school year will look like was the lingering question at an online meeting of the Pleasanton school board on Thursday that stretched until the stroke of midnight.

With some academic institutions going exclusively online for the 2020-21 school year, Pleasanton Unified School District has been deliberating what to do about local classrooms, culminating in a lengthy board discussion that evening on three possible learning scenarios for students next school year.

No board action was taken on the issue but Superintendent David Haglund said that no matter the outcome, "As we plan, we've got to be planning for that ability to make adjustments on the fly."

That sentiment was echoed by assistant superintendent Janelle Woodward, who said the district is finding itself at a place "where we'd really like to be able to make decisions. I know I'd feel better if I could tell all of our teachers and all of our parents exactly what we're going to be doing come fall, I think it'd be nice to get to that point."

But "there is a lot of information that we are still learning," and Woodward said the district has been looking at different approaches to reopening from other countries like New Zealand and U.S. states such as Maryland.

"We're really grounding our thinking in documents from the (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), from the (American Federation of Teachers), from pediatricians that have written some journals on guidance for schools, so every day we're getting more and more information from the literature," Woodward continued, adding, "that will serve as our baseline and our foundation along with guidance from our state and local agencies."

The most extreme approach to teaching and learning possible for next year would involve schools that are currently dismissed remaining closed while 100% distance learning continues.

Grades and progress marks would be issued and daily schedules would be established; long term independent study would also be expanded. Assessments would also take place online, "or in small groups at school sites."

Woodward said the district has "work cut out to do" in order to "refine, strengthen and build a distance learning program, but we already have the opportunity to take that for a test-drive, so to speak."

After the presentation, Trustee Mark Miller said that teachers have done a "heroic job" with distance learning but the "overwhelming feedback" has been that the model is less effective than in-person instruction.

"I really feel that we need to not ask the question of 'can we bring students back to the classroom,' but 'how can we bring students back to the classroom safely,'" Miller said.

Miller continued, "It just feels like all of those options are going to put even more stress and strain on our employees, our teachers and our staff and our budget, and at a time when we're really facing potentially severe budget cuts. How can we logistically and financially afford to deliver on these models is, I guess, the question we really have to grapple with going forward."

With a hybrid approach, some local sites would remain open but with "enhanced social distancing measures," and only children living in the local geographic area would be allowed to attend. "This is when we can begin to bring some students back but not all students," she said. "We can expect that there's the need for social distancing and that we will not be able to have as many students in the classroom."

Block schedules or staggered classes, instruction or alternate days could help reduce the number of students in class at one time, as well as online classes offered as options in lieu of in-person instruction.

Non-contact athletics like tennis, golf and swimming could potentially resume, "following guidance" from the Alameda County Public Health Department (ACPHD). Independent study would be expanded for long term and students would receive letter grades as well.

Trustee Jamie Yee shared her concerns about "this mindset that we need to get back to the way it was or figure out how to do what we were doing before, and I think that maybe shuts down a lot of creative, innovative thinking if you approach it that way. I really think this is a chance to re-imagine education."

Noting that "rows of desks do not work for everybody," including teachers, Yee suggested matching up students and teachers into groups based on their preference for in-person or virtual instruction and learning.

Campuses would also stay open under the third hybrid approach but with distancing measures and the district would "restrict attendance to those from limited transmission areas."

Grades would also be given and independent study expanded, though athletics and other activities will be held per guidance from the ACPHD.

School meal delivery, sanitizing and disinfecting facilities, technology support, additional cost for staff, materials and supplies, and letting outside groups use district facilities during after-hours were among the items and impacts considered while the board evaluated the reopening options.

Recently, 640 faculty and staff members participated in a district-wide survey and "thought exchange exercise," during which they shared their most relevant considerations for administration to "keep in mind when structuring the school day or school wing."

Daily campus cleanings and more hired staff to give existing custodians more time and support at their jobs were among the top priorities listed.

The top four thoughts were all related "in some way to health and safety or cleaning" of school sites, according to Woodward. "Clearly what is on our employees minds is there is a desire to help instruct our students but we need to ensure the safety of everybody," she said.

Considerations will also be made for students in special education and those with 504 plans; an exclusive distance learning model would require alignment with the general education model, using additional training to support remote learning. The hybrid model would require smaller groups, PPE gear for paraeducators and others in close proximity, adjusting for transportation needs, and cleaning protocols.

The third option of returning most students to classroom "would be most challenging for students with disabilities, given the current ACPHD guidance --particularly our moderate-to-severe and preschoolers who require handling of close proximity and significant self-care needs (e.g. toileting, feeding and medical) and PPE needs," according to the district.

Returning to campus will also mean looking out for students who may have difficulty adjusting to a longer term hybrid model.

Assistant superintendent of student support services Ed Diolazo said the district will need to not only prepare for the impact of academic loss among students but also "focus on social and emotional loss brought on by social distancing and, for some of our students, realistically, social isolation."

"When we talk about kids who may be feeling like what is this new way of learning, there is some research showing that could be a problem so as staff and educators, we need be prepared for what are supports we're going to provide for students who may have this responsiveness of trauma-based emotions," Diolazo said.

Attendance is one issue that remains unresolved; truancy letters and related attendance meetings have ceased during school dismissal, with staff following up with students and families instead if a student has not been connecting to online classes or completing assignments.

The district is looking to receive guidance from the California Department of Education on the matter, but Diolazo said that staff have been reaching out when they feel some students are becoming disconnected from the distance learning format.

"We do have virtual support to help follow up with students who are experiencing being absent from classes," he said, but ultimately "we really need to rethink how we're going to take attendance."

A mix of thoughts and feelings about reopening local schools from the community written on comment cards were shared during the presentation.

Some residents said their experiences so far with distance learning have been positive while others said that "schools need to be reopened in August" for students' well-being, and "there is no way that 100% distance learning will work for the vast majority of students and its consideration creates an expectation that it is an option worthy of being studied."

An internal steering committee dedicated to the issue of school reopening will be assembled by the end of May. One commenter asked the district, "If teachers, staff and students are not key influencers, will the steering committee's conclusions and advisements be a factor in the decision to reopen?"

Comments

Pleasanton Parent
Parkside
on May 24, 2020 at 9:07 am
Pleasanton Parent, Parkside
on May 24, 2020 at 9:07 am
8 people like this

All I know distance / online learning was a crock this qtr. I'll give them a pass for short notice but if things are not improved come August.... the kids are not getting educated well.


Happy camper
Highland Oaks
on May 24, 2020 at 11:35 am
Happy camper, Highland Oaks
on May 24, 2020 at 11:35 am
10 people like this

I have been impressed with the online learning for our Foothill student. Bravo to the teachers who really rose to the occasion.


D
Foothill High School
10 hours ago
D, Foothill High School
10 hours ago
4 people like this

"only children living in the local geographic area would be allowed to attend"

Since when are children who live outside the district allowed to attend?


b
Another Pleasanton neighborhood
9 hours ago
b, Another Pleasanton neighborhood
9 hours ago
4 people like this

In November, an outbreak of gastritis/norovirus spread through our Pleasanton schools like wildfire. One school had about 40% of the students out sick at once and they had to bring in a professional crew to sanitize the school. Also think about the way colds spread amongst the students. If COVID takes hold, it will be a disaster for our community.

Thank you to the district for proceeding thoughtfully and being prepared to swiftly adjust course as needed.


Kathleen Ruegsegger
Vintage Hills
9 hours ago
Kathleen Ruegsegger, Vintage Hills
9 hours ago
4 people like this

D, I’m not sure what they meant. Students from outside the district are at least three groups, those served by a SELPA (Special Education Local Plan Area), those who are allowed to transfer in from another district when space is available, and those who can transfer in on, I believe, the Allen Bill which allows children of parents who work in Pleasanton to attend on a space available basis. It is further complicated by the fact that the county determined once you accept a transfer in, you must allow them to stay in that school through the term (K-5, 6-8, 9-12). Districts are willing to do this because about 70% of a student’s funding follows them to PUSD.

I have suggested long before now that accepting students into the latter two groups should be put on a moratorium because there is no space in most schools. Another problem is, and this happens often, you move to Pleasanton and across the street from Walnut Grove. You have first, third, and fifth grade students. Maybe there is room at fifth, so your child walks across the street and goes to school. There are students from outside Pleasanton holding seats in both first and third grades and there is no room for your other two children at WG. There is space for your first grader at Alisal, but not your third grader. Your third grader is moved to Vintage Hills, but there is no space for the first grader. And neither can come back to WG because those seats are taken again each year as your child moves through elementary school. I haven’t checked on this in some time, but when I did, over 200 children were being moved out of their neighborhood schools.

By the way, how do you bounce currents students out of the district if they are from some other community? Seems harsh. Catch 22.


Wasted Opportunity
Old Towne
9 hours ago
Wasted Opportunity, Old Towne
9 hours ago
3 people like this

This past quarter, was wasted opportunity for PUSD. Families and student are getting RIPPED OFF, by teachers mentally unprepared to leverage teaching curriculum that is available, ON-LINE, and FREE... it's really simple... Khan Academy.

The amount of time my child spent on actual curriculum learning for a school day was about 2 to 3 hours per day, MAXIMUM. That means most of school day is over priced child care. I hear the teachers complaining, work is stressful, work is difficult, WAKE UP... you have paid time off... and wasting your time too. It's time to take your entitlement of a "job" in perspective. Over-priced child care. Yeah, let's admit this and move forward with MOSTLY online for high achieving students, who don't need a baby-sitter.

An inspirational teacher is gold, but, let's get real... there aren't that many inspirational teacher for every student.

In this shelter in place learning time, my child has taken the challenge and is learning another language, taking on the next level of Math, above and beyond the curriculum.

PUSD, WAKE UP!! Cut backs are due now.... the student-to-teacher ratio is not same issue for the ONLINE shift. Embrace and extend the ONLINE capability.


Kathleen Ruegsegger
Vintage Hills
9 hours ago
Kathleen Ruegsegger, Vintage Hills
9 hours ago
Like this comment

I should clarify, the 200 students being moved around are not because we have 200 out of town students.

b, I am concerned with budget cuts that we will not have people in place to keep schools clean. If the cuts are severe, there may not be money for professional crews to be hired. I do appreciate that this is being looked at thoroughly for fall.


b
Another Pleasanton neighborhood
9 hours ago
b, Another Pleasanton neighborhood
9 hours ago
2 people like this

Kathleen, I wasn’t making a point about professional cleaning. I was making a point about the way viruses spread in Pleasanton schools. Those kids are packed into those schools and there’s no way to distance them. Any and every virus spreads like wildfire, such as what happened in November. If school resumes as normal, and a few kids show up with COVID, we’re screwed.


Kathleen Ruegsegger
Vintage Hills
8 hours ago
Kathleen Ruegsegger, Vintage Hills
8 hours ago
Like this comment

Truly!


Very Concerned Amador freshman parent
Mohr Park
7 hours ago
Very Concerned Amador freshman parent, Mohr Park
7 hours ago
4 people like this

First to preface my comment. I find many people who provide comments On PWeekly can be very mean and I find them to be upsetting to me even when the comments are not directed towards me. It distresses me a lot. I welcome dialogue that is helpful. Please know I am only trying to help and provide some insight. I watched the board meeting myself and submitted a comment to the topic..I just want to try and effect positive change for my daughter and all the other kids who are going through nothing we ever have.

I’m a Mom trying to look out for her daughter as the best I can and, yes, I don’t have all the right answers. But my comments are coming from my heart to try and help her and others and be a part of the solution in any positive way I can. Join me if you’d like, but just be kind.

Plus I am going thru some very hard times right now myself and I know I can’t take any personal attacks right now because of my own mental health and other things..

Now to my Comment:
I have to say I give our district a fail on the remote learning. My daughter did not learn anything but she wanted to. When she asked some teachers questions, she became more confused. Other students had established group chats together to attempt to help each other and the same thing was repeated by them all. Assignments were given out without any teaching for the most part. I was shocked as that was not what I was expecting.

In addition, my daughter is on a 504 plan for stress and anxiety, and I would have thought her counselor would have reached out to her to see how she was doing under this stressful and anxiety inducing schooling situation. Nothing. I have been too sick to do anything about it unfortunately.

Results of the remote learning on my daughter who is an excellent outgoing social student:
1. She tried the way it was being done and became very frustrated by it. Ultimately, gave up on many assignments not for lack of trying.

2. She has developed depression and stays in her room most of the time, which we are monitoring. This is a combination of not being able to be with her friends and teachers, but also with the frustration with the remote learning. In her own words, ‘Remote Learning does not work for me.’

3. There MUST be clear policies and ‘monitoring’ that the teachers are following of these policies. If they deviate, this causes extreme stress on already confused and stressed out kids. This happened with one of my daughters teachers with regards to how she was going to be going to be graded for Q4.

4. Do not assume that students are trying to skirt the system, or cheat or whatever just because it is remote. Our students are some of the smartest, most diligent and most overachieving students around. If anything, they need to be cut some slack and recognized that they are trying their best in a very trying time. As they do in the school setting, in a remote setting, they want to do well. We just need to give them the tools and support to allow them to do this. They are good kids. Don’t assume they are going to do the worst. That insults them.

5. Recognize that these older high school kids are scared about what their future holds for them. Ask them what can help them. And err on the side of doing what they say. They are the ones most effected.

6. The slide with thought exchange input mostly should already be things that are being done. And the 3-4 top thing quotes as top priorities where all elementary school comments. Middle and High school students change classrooms every period, so their answers are more relevant than elementary school teacher responses. A virus is more likely to spread in a middle/high school environment. Those slides were a no op.

7. In any type of remote leaning scenario, you must include stress management into the program. Talk to the Zcaresfoudation about how they can help. And anyone with an IEP or 504 plan with depression, anxiety and/or stress in their plan must be given a priority to be revised. We need to show caring and to show we are listening to them more than ever. Their stress is through the roof.

8. And to acknowledge something someone said above in the comments, my daughter also said positive things about Khan Academy. Note we don’t send her on her own, so I guess it was through a teacher.

9. Finally on a social note, my daughter is very worried about the Homecoming dance being cancelled. So please bear this in mind that for the high school students, this social activity is a big deal for them. And they desperately need social activity. She also said last year’s ‘sucked’. Her words not mine.

I have much more I can say, but will end here. I will be attending the virtual Town Hall with my daughter hopefully.

Thank you for your time.

Very Concerned High School Parent


D
Foothill High School
6 hours ago
D, Foothill High School
6 hours ago
Like this comment

Thank you Kathleen.

I have known several people who move to Pleasanton and have elementary-aged children attending 2 or 3 schools. That's not good for the families, the schools, or the environment. I never knew about the "space available" policy. It seems very unfair to Pleasanton students.


Kathleen Ruegsegger
Vintage Hills
6 hours ago
Kathleen Ruegsegger, Vintage Hills
6 hours ago
Like this comment

Very concerned, I have a suggestion and a comment. I think all board members are approachable to varying degrees and may be able to assist you in getting the help you need. Steve Maher has the broadest experience when it comes to our schools, having taught and been an administrator here. Valerie Arkin always responds. I would suggest you write to them individually. As to dances, social gatherings are certainly a key component of high school, but being a freshman is difficult even at a dance. It gets better and it helps to attend with friends, skipping the added pressures of dating. Best wishes for you and your daughter.


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