Have SDUHSD adopt a more sensible plan for reopening

Have SDUHSD adopt a more sensible plan for reopening

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Concerned SDUHSD Parents started this petition to SDUHSD Board of Trustees

To: SDUHSD Board of Trustees and San Dieguito district leadership

SUMMARY: We all want kids to have the option to be back on campus, especially those most in need or where it can be done most safely. We just need that option to respect the science behind virus spread, so that all who elect to return can do so without risk to life and health, and to be appropriately structured and resourced so as not to disrupt our high quality of education. Teachers, doctors, students and parents say the current plan will significantly degrade teaching quality and compromise student, staff, and community safety.  

We ask that the current reopening resolution be reconsidered in favor of a more sensible approach and have outlined below specific actions that we request.

Prior to the Oct. 14 meeting, reopening of SDUHSD schools in a broad manner was deemed unsafe, but then the CA state safety guidelines were re-interpreted so that several recommendations could be foregone in the reopening resolution. The resolution also mandates that all teachers physically return to classrooms Oct. 29. The district has also recommended that all students who want to come back in person be able to do so as early as Nov. 9 for 1-2 days per week.

Community Reaction:
The community reaction to the Reopening Resolution and the related timeline has been very negative. In the Oct. 14 board meeting, 80% of the 143 written comments were against adopting the resolution. Also, there have been multiple petitions (including some started by students) against this resolution. For instance, see this letter ( https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSdi9CdfHrM1GlStwCnyn2-KsvLT42CFBK0euxoDf4yAg3TAmA/viewform ) or this petition ( https://www.change.org/p/the-sduhsd-school-board-stop-the-sduhsd-from-reopening-schools-early ) which both have well over 1,000 signatures. On Oct. 21, there was a widely attended rally at the district office, where community members sent a strong message about the indisputable need of having a detailed plan. Finally, many individual letters have been written to the district and board opposing the current plan.  

The main concerns with the Resolution and current plan are:

  1. It feels very rushed and not thought through. Specifically, it hasn’t had time to take into account feedback from the Expanded Reopening Committee or proper survey results, and detailed plans for how things will work have not been developed.  There are a lot of unanswered questions, especially as the details relate to each school site. It is unclear if the school site administrators have had any input.
  2. San Diego infection rates are still very high, with the county and Dr. Wooten on Oct. 16 asking businesses to have employees work from home, which teachers have been doing effectively. Right now the idea of 10-20 adults in a workplace conference room spaced just over 3 feet apart would seem ridiculous; yet, this is what we’re suggesting we do with our students.  Also, at the Oct. 21 county briefing, the county said there is already transmission in local K-12 schools, with school reopenings driving overall increased infection rates in children, with 125 cases in the last two weeks having been exposed at school.  
  3. Many safety guidelines (e.g. 6 feet of distance between students, small cohorts, adequate ventilation/filtration of 6 air changes per hour and/or MERV-13 and/or HEPA filtration) are not being followed. The director of the CDC has repeatedly stated that 6 feet of distance should be the minimum, especially in an indoor setting such as a classroom. Also, from mounting evidence of the virus being transmitted via aerosols, it is becoming increasingly evident that filtration and ventilation must be adequate to prevent COVID-19 transmission.
  4. The educational model would be very different and challenging, with many teachers needing to go from well-equipped setups at home (e.g. 2-3 monitors) to often inferior setups in a classroom, where their attention would be split between in-person and remote students while teaching both groups concurrently (or introducing more asynchronous time), all while trying to teach over video wearing a mask which makes it more difficult to understand speech. And in fact, many teachers have said they would need to continue teaching in a distance learning model, meaning the students would be going to class just to be on their devices learning like they would at home, except with less safety, more restrictions, and more challenges. Some teachers have reported difficulty accessing and using school-site WiFi when trying to teach from their classrooms.   
  5. The survey that was sent that indicated 80% of families wanted to go back in-person was flawed. Specifically, it did not mention the compromises on the safety guidelines, the challenges of the learning model, and it didn’t even ask families if they viewed the new approach as any better. In fact, many families who answered the survey saying they would choose in-person, now say, given the further information, they would switch their answer and stay remote. The data of this survey is also compromised by a progress report on responses prior to the end of the survey period.
  6. Students would see a big disruption in their learning model, having just adapted to distance learning. 
  7. The district would lose many teachers not able to comply with the Oct 29 mandate, and all of their students would be shifted to a substitute. Also, some school site administrators are concerned about losing many teachers and being unable to staff classes.

We are committed to seeing SDUHSD and its stakeholders succeed, and to do so we are requesting/suggesting the following:

  1. Reverse the mandate for all teachers to be physically back Oct. 29. Have a more robust plan before setting a return date for students.
  2. Slow down and take a step back as opposed to charging into a potential crisis. Get input from the Expanded Reopening Committee, parents, students, teachers, site administrators/staff, and any other relevant community members, etc. to create a thoughtful, safe, and sensible plan(s) and timeline. 
  3. Conduct a legitimate survey that describes the plan in more detail and get more comprehensive feedback from multiple groups (students, parents, teachers, site administrators, etc.). Explain proposed model(s), including all compromises of safety and instructional model, schedule, examples, etc. Include school site-specific details as well.  Ask which model is preferred and then within a given model, ask whether families would choose in-person or remote.
  4. Be safe and go beyond the minimum mandated safety protocols to include the ones strongly recommended by the state and the scientific community such as 6 feet of distance between students, small and stable cohorts (especially given new Oct. 21 CDC definition of close contact exposure being anyone who has been near someone for a total of 15 minutes in a day), and proper ventilation and air filtration.
  5. Develop more than one alternative plan, for instance this might include:
       a) Current distance learning model
       b) Expanded targeting of certain student groups in small cohorts, extracurricular activities, sports, etc.
       c) Elements of the resolution and plan presented Oct. 14 (e.g. concurrent model)
       d) Students can come in person, but teachers remain with remote instruction model if they would like to - e.g. teachers can teach with current equipment, not have split attention, no masks, etc., but students can come to campus if they would like, ideally in small, stable, cohorts, and be supervised by substitutes/staff. Note this model is being done in some places like WI and MA. This could also be modified by having labs together with some teachers on campus. Perhaps learning commons areas could be used.
  6. Take a phased approach with implementation of any model, look to take small steps over time (e.g. via pilots). Assess what is working and what isn’t (e.g. to parents as well as teachers) so as to not create an undue disruption to a large number of people.  
  7. Ensure all students are treated equitably, being mindful not to treat the likely 20-50%+ of students that remain remote-only like second-class citizens. Remote students need to get comparable access to and attention from teachers (e.g. similar synchronous time, perhaps by using Wednesdays as remote student-only synchronous instruction to balance out any other in-person student days).  

One sensible approach could be to leverage elements from Poway’s plan, where opening is gradual; they are piloting models first; they are expanding different groups/cohorts/clubs on campus; teachers have the option to be remote or in the classroom; there is supervised support during the school day for the highest need learners; and principals hold community forums for parents and students while also ensuring teachers are on board. Also, San Diego Unified has done extensive preparation, especially in the area of ventilation (see https://www.lajollalight.com/news/story/2020-10-19/our-facilities-are-ready-to-go-school-district-lays-out-preparations-for-students-return ). There may be other districts’ models also worth exploring.   

Thank you for considering these points.

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