As it turned out the school board was not going to have much choice—but nevertheless during a special meeting on Friday morning, the DJUSD Board of Education and Superintendent Bowes announced a recommendation to restart all DJUSD schools on August 26, 2020, in a 100% Distance Learning Model.
“The health and safety of our students and employees is our top concern and not something that we are willing to put at risk in this current environment,” said John Bowes.
The district was probably headed this way anyway, but the governor’s announcement made it both an easy call and a moot point.
“Learning is non-negotiable,” said Governor Newsom. “The virus will be with us for a year or more, and school districts must provide meaningful instruction in the midst of this pandemic. In California, health data will determine when a school can be physically open – and when it must close – but learning should never stop. Students, staff, and parents all prefer in-classroom instruction, but only if it can be done safely.”
Any county that does not meet the state’s benchmarks is put on the County Monitoring List. They currently use six indicators to track the level of COVID-19 infection—these include the number of new infections per 100,000 residents, the test positivity rate, and the change in hospitalization rate, among others.
Yolo County, which passed 1000 cases this week after being at 255 in mid-June, is on that list.
Schools in counties that have not been on the Monitoring List for the prior 14 days may begin in-person instruction, following public health guidelines
There is a single exception. Local health officers may grant a waiver to allow elementary schools to reopen in-person instruction if the waiver is requested by the district superintendent, in consultation with labor, parents and community-based organizations. When considering a waiver request, the local health officer must consider local data and consult with the California Department of Public Health.
On Friday, Dr. Mary Ann Limbos, Acting Public Health Officer for Yolo County, joined the board meeting.
She explained, “When districts are deciding how to safely re-open schools this fall, a paramount consideration is what’s happening with disease transmission in the surrounding community. Over the past few weeks, Yolo County has seen increasing case rates and transmission of COVID-19 and we are on the State of California’s County Monitoring List because of our concerning metrics.
“We want students, teachers, and school staff to have a safe return to school,” Limbos said. “The current pandemic doesn’t support the safe re-opening of schools with in-person instruction at this time.”
Board members also expressed concerns about the current health situation.
Board President Joe DiNunzio encouraged staff to provide specifics for how Distance Learning in the 2020-21 school year will meet both the academic and the social and emotional needs of all students, and especially of those who may be furthest from opportunity.
“As we consider how we educate our students in this current environment, we need to provide special care and attention to individual needs of students and families, especially to ensure we are doing everything we can to provide equitable access to education,” DiNunzio said.
As next steps, the Board of Education will be receiving a detailed presentation on the DJUSD Phased Return-to-Campus Plan at their Regular Board of Education meeting on Thursday, July 23.
The presentation will focus on the restart of school, including details about the phases of returning to in-person instruction, supports for equity and access, schedules and structures for instruction, social emotional learning supports, health and safety guidelines, and practices to support student engagement and assessment.
—David M. Greenwald reporting