Most families plan to send their children back to Pleasanton Unified School District in fall, according to a new survey, but how things will look while the COVID-19 pandemic continues remains unclear.
Several options for reopening local schools will be presented to the Board of Trustees at their regular online meeting on Thursday night, starting 7 p.m.
Last month, the board received feedback from district staff and faculty members on their priorities for reopening all 15 PUSD sites for the 2020-21 school year, such as hiring more staff to support custodians and daily cleanings on campus to ensure the health and safety of everyone.
To get an even clearer picture of the broader PUSD community's wishes, a reopening task force comprised of parents, students, certificated and classified staff, and district leadership was also assembled soon after.
A recent pre-registration intent data form returned by 5,565 respondents found that 89% selected "I plan on sending my student to school in person, as conditions allow," with the understanding that "this may be a hybrid experience (sometimes at school and sometimes at home), until a full-time return to school is permitted."
Around 9% of respondents said they "plan to enroll my student in the PUSD Flex Academy, which provides a personalized learning experience supported by flexible scheduling, remote learning, and student engagement via internet-connected computers or other electronic devices," while just 1.6% intend to enroll in PUSD's long-term independent study program.
Current guidelines from the Alameda County Public Health Department require passive screening for all students and staff that would be on campus, as well as wearing face masks unless exempted due to age or special needs. Desks would need to be six feet apart and "arranged in a way that minimizes face-to-face contact," according to district documents.
There are exemptions to relax the six-foot requirement if doing so "ensures all/more students receive in-class instruction." For example, an acceptable reason would be reducing distancing from six to five feet if it "allows more practical cohort sizes." However, staff added that "face coverings and cohort stability are higher priorities if trade-offs for practicality are needed."
County health officials also recommend that students "should remain in the same space/groups as small and as consistent as possible." When it isn't possible to do so, such as students in secondary schools, then "face coverings and limiting group gatherings are a higher priority if trade-offs for practicality are needed."
How a typical school day will unfold in Pleasanton this year is uncertain but it's possible students will attend in-person classes on staggered schedules as well as engage in distance learning for some classes. At prior meetings on the topic, the trustees also mulled whether or how to take student attendance, issuing grades and progress reports, serving school meals and meeting the needs of special education students.
With the new school year scheduled to start August 11, PUSD is prepared to finalize the reopening hybrid options this week and review data to determine staffing needs. The district will also start contacting families that wish to enroll in FLEX or long-term independent study.
Reopening recommendations will be prepared for board approval in early July.
In other business
* The board will cast final votes on the district budget for fiscal year 2020-21, which needs to identify $11 million in reductions for PUSD to remain solvent. The district also needs to find another $3.6 million in reductions for next year and another $8.6 million for 2022-23 for the same reason.
Several special study sessions have been held recently, during which the trustees and district leadership pored through numerous options to balance the budget. With the announcement of a potential state budget deal Monday, the district is expected to adjust accordingly after the state's July 1 deadline.
The pandemic has triggered a statewide recession; a revenue shortfall of $54 billion revenue for next year is forecasted by the state. Proposition 98, which determines spending for K-12 schools and community colleges, is expected to drop to $70 billion -- $14 billion less from what Gov. Gavin Newsom proposed at the beginning of the year.
Spending for K-12 schools in California will be preserved at current levels but both the University of California and California State University systems could experience a combined $1 billion cut in funding.
Newsom originally pushed for a $6.4 billion cut in K-12 funding but agreed during negotiations with the Legislature to issue $12 billion in deferrals instead. He also agreed to add $1 billion in one-time federal funding under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act and allocate funds to more districts that have been affected by recent school closures.
On Thursday, the trustees will decide whether to suspend the districtwide mariachi music program and reduce funding to the high school career and technical education program as a couple possible ways to save the district some cash. Staff have also suggested a few key items to make needed adjustments like making budget reductions in non-personnel areas and aligning staffing to district enrollment and needs.
The board will also consider implementing three districtwide furlough days, which would save about $1.9 million. By reducing discretionary stipends and additional hours and overtime, and eliminating the "Golden Handshake" with management, PUSD would save an additional $500,000 as well.
A special board meeting on July 6 could see the board take action on potential layoffs. The board is also expected to adopt a reopening model for Pleasanton schools at another special board meeting scheduled for July 14.