OPEN WEST SACRAMENTO SCHOOLS
OPEN WEST SACRAMENTO SCHOOLS
Education is a fundamental right under the California Constitution.
Article IX, Section 1 of the California Constitution recognizes that “[a] general diffusion of knowledge and intelligence [is] . . . essential to the preservation of the rights and liberties of the people . . . .”
Because of this principle, “California has assumed specific responsibility for a statewide public education system open on equal terms to all.” Butt v. California, 4 Cal. 4th 668, 680 (1992).
In West Sacramento, our Board of Trustees have declared the Washington Unified School District as the “GATEWAY TO EXTRAORDINARY POSSIBILITIES.”
At the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak, our community understood that temporarily closing down our public schools was a necessary step to help contain the spread of Covid-19 and flatten the curve.
Now, as we rapidly approach the one year mark of public school closures we know that the continued shut down coupled with existing virtual learning models are not only widening pre-existing achievement gaps, but research shows that virtual learning contributes to pre-existing socioeconomic and racial achievement gaps.
We see every day that the mental, physical, developmental, social and academic health of our children is suffering. With pediatricians referring to this as “a public health crisis for our children,” we know that it's time for action, not further negotiation.
Washington Unified School District’s Mission Statement calls for a culture of innovative response to student needs and aspirations. Towards those ends, we are calling on the WUSD Superintendent and Trustees to take proactive action, reopen our public schools for all grade levels now, and give parents the choice if they would like their children to receive in-person education.
Schools are Essential. As parents we believe schools are essential.
In their recent report, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s concurred by making the following statement:
"It is critical for schools to open as safely and as soon as possible, and remain open, to achieve the benefits of in-person learning and key support services... K-12 schools SHOULD BE THE LAST SETTINGS TO CLOSE after all other mitigation measures in the community have been employed, AND THE FIRST TO REOPEN when they can do so safely."
Schools are safe places for students to grow cognitively, emotionally, and socially. Moreover, decades of experience and research have taught us that when children are out of school for prolonged periods of time, their exposure to physical, emotional and sexual violence increases. Their mental health can deteriorate. They are more vulnerable to child abuse and less likely to break out of the cycle of poverty. For the most marginalized, missing out on school -- even if only for a couple of weeks -- can lead to negative outcomes that last a lifetime.
Research shows that as virtual learning continues our high school dropout rates will likely increase, while younger children will continue to miss out on foundational concepts that prepare them for a lifetime of learning and working.
Public Health: The scientific research and data demonstrates that it is safe for our children to make a full return to in-person learning with proper mitigation measures in place. CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky has said schools can safely reopen, and the CDC has confirmed that “vaccinations of teachers is not a prerequisite for safely reopening schools.”
Furthermore, a new nationwide study from REACH, the National Center for Research on Education Access and Choice, at Tulane University has tied safe reopening to low hospitalization rates. Moreover the study shows that in many communities, hospitalizations appeared to go down after schools reopened — this is partly due to the fact that rules and norms around social distancing and wearing masks that kids may not be following at home.
Community Health: On February 23, the State of California announced that Yolo County would move into the Substantial, or red, tier in the State’s Blueprint for a Safer Economy after meeting the red tier’s metrics for two consecutive weeks. The promotion made Yolo the first in the six-county Sacramento region — rounded out by El Dorado, Placer, Sacramento, Sutter and Yuba counties — to depart from the purple tier in more than three months.
In July of 2020, the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) published a framework to support school communities transition to in-person instruction for the 2020-2021 school year. These guidelines and considerations are based on the best available public health data at this time, international best practices currently employed, and the practical realities of managing school operations. In addition to being rooted in the scientific evidence these guidelines support twin goals: safe and successful in-person instruction.
Per the CDPH framework, schools may reopen for in-person instruction at all grades after a county has been in the red tier for five consecutive days. Under this framework, full-time in-person instruction is authorized. Additionally, under these guidelines schools are no longer restricted to utilizing small cohorts when in the red tier.
Moreover, Yolo County’s Public Health Officer Dr. Aimee Sisson has publicly made the case that elementary schools can safely reopen. Dr. Sisson has also stated that based on an array of scientific studies, we know there will not be a surge in cases once Yolo County schools do reopen.
School Safety: To safely reopen, the state has made it clear that schools must have appropriate preventative and protective measures in place. CDPHs reopening framework denotes that key mitigation strategies, studied in multiple settings and used successfully in schools nationally and internationally, allow for safe in-person instruction.
To date, Washington Unified School District has received COVID-19 funding in excess of $15 million. Moreover, the Washington Unified School District has procured appropriate PPE which includes, but is not limited too: HVAC systems for classrooms, appropriate acrylic sheets for dividers and HEPA filters for classrooms.
Reopen Public Schools in WUSD: As parents, taxpayers and students within the Washington Unified School District, we officially call upon the WUSD Superintendent and Trustees to take the following immediate actions:
1. The WUSD Board of Trustees must submit a reopening by March 5, 2021 with a return to in-person learning no later than March 15, 2021. This plan must include a full day model before the end of the school year as we must practice full day schedules before the Fall.
2. We request the WUSD Board implement a hybrid model for K-12 that has 100% in person learning that follows one of the following schedules:
- In-person learning Tuesdays – Fridays with virtual learning on Monday.
- In-person learning Monday-Tuesday and Thursday-Friday with Wednesdays established as virtual learning day, thereby providing additional time mid-week for required cleaning and disinfection.
- In-person learning Monday-Friday with the option of a virtual academy for those who cannot (due to medical condition or personal choice) attend in-person learning. We suggest this model follow a 7:40am -12:50pm timeline with no on campus lunch. This provides ample time for daily cleaning and disinfection practices.
- We do not believe any adopted schedule should include full asynchronous learning days for the purposes of “meetings” or planning. There is contracted time for necessary planning and meetings both at the end of the day and/or during the long lunch hours of the virtual day.
3. Any plan must also include an option for 100% virtual learning to accommodate those students in our at-risk health populations and for those students who are unable to attend in-person school due to medical conditions.
4. Any framework created by the WUSD must include a plan that provides for 100% in-person learning for ALL of our K-12 students by Fall 2021.
- The framework must clearly provide for a full five day per week schedule in which children have the opportunity to receive all their instructional minutes in person.
- A clearly defined plan for keeping schools open if the County moves back into the purple tier.
5. WUSD must provide the students and parents of WUSD a plan for Fall 2021 PRIOR TO THE END OF THE 2020-2021 academic year so as to allow families time to make appropriate decisions about their child’s educational future in WUSD and to make appropriate decisions regarding any personal child care issues that may be necessary based upon the provided framework.