The Pleasanton school board took a closer look at one of Pleasanton Unified School District's largest capital projects during an online meeting on Thursday night.
Ultimately, the Trustees agreed to continue moving forward with planning for the planned fourth- and fifth-grade school at the Donlon Elementary site while staff simultaneously explore alternative options for the E-10 School project.
The option selected from among three presented to the board directed staff to "continue with the planning and architectural services work while developing a comprehensive analysis and alternative options to the E-10 School Project -- need to determine date of the report -- to the School Board for a final determination on the E-10 School Project."
Currently, the future campus (which would accommodate about 500 students, when completed) is in the planning and design phase, with staff gathering all necessary materials to submit to the Division of the State Architect for approval.
Some of the issues touched on as part of a larger staff presentation and proceeding discussion with the board that evening included TK-5 enrollment projections and school boundaries, school capacity and overflow, the impact of enrollment to other elementary sites, estimated project costs, and operational costs of the new school.
PUSD spokesperson Patrick Gannon told the Weekly, "It was a request by one of our board members to bring up this item for discussion, as far as taking another look at Elementary School 10, given enrollment projections and where we are now, as well as what else was discussed last night, like the state funding for public education and what's currently forecasted for the future.
Gannon continued, "There's a lot of unknowns there because it's been brought up before that building the school is one thing, but we need to make sure we have and can plan for adequate funds to maintain those facilities as well as fund the staff. It was really taking another look at that specific project ... just given the amount of uncertainty with the COVID-19 pandemic and the catastrophic impact that's had on the state's economy."
As one of the marquee projects funded by Measure I1, Gannon said the board is considering more than just the cost to build a new facility but budgeting for also the additional staff needed to instruct students and manage the campus. The estimated cost for the school is between $750,000 to $1 million annually, including expected additional costs to begin in two years.
"If we were without the COVID-19 pandemic, we might not be having the conversation but since they're projecting $18 billion less in required fundings to public schools and community colleges, there are a lot of unknowns," Gannon added. "The item wasn't brought to the board to say, 'yes, we should do this project' or 'no, we shouldn't', it was just the board wanted to be good fiscal stewards and look at this project given our current and potential future financial status."
Construction on the future E-10 site is scheduled to break ground next spring, with the school opening for the 2022-23 school year.
In other business
* The trustees unanimously approved several policies related to working and learning remotely while sheltering in place, and updated another policy concerning alternative graduation credits on Thursday. The consent agenda items were passed by the board in one motion without discussion, as is routine.
PUSD sites have been dismissed since the middle of March, when the regional shelter-in-place order was announced. Since then, teachers and students have been working and studying online.
The district said that "both of the policies are designed to be used during the COVID-19 dismissal and beyond in order to provide flexibility in educating students and structuring work schedules for district staff."
Both policies outline and clarify their purpose as well as state the district's general expectations in regards to grading, materials, supplies, instructional hours and communication while working or learning from home.
For example, the district's remote working policy states, "Employee productivity shall be evaluated using a variety of criteria appropriate to working remotely that may include time spent on task completion, projects, rigor of assignments, and quality of job performance in the same manner as all employees in the same position at the assigned school or office."
Students and teachers have some flexibility with the district's remote learning policy to self-direct some courses and study at their own pace. They are also free to use a variety of instructional platforms including online content, print material and live or prerecorded video.
The policy also affirms PUSD's commitment to "provide teachers with training and ongoing support, including technological support and guidance, to effectively implement distance learning."
The district's policy concerning alternative credits toward graduation was also updated that night for the first time in 15 years. With traditional graduation paths recently detoured by the coronavirus pandemic, PUSD has been working to give seniors alternative options to fulfill their graduation requirements and receive their diplomas. PUSD's policy on alternative graduation credits was implemented in 2005 and hasn't been revised since then.
The updated policy lists ten different means for students to satisfy their course of study such as work experience, career technical education or regional occupational programs, military service and training, independent study, and "practical demonstration of skills and competencies."
* With remote learning expected to continue for a while, the trustees also approved a one-year $178,000 contract for a districtwide learning management system that "allows for the administration, documentation, tracking, reporting, and delivery of educational courses remotely" among multiple users. The software application under consideration, Edgenuity, lets teachers monitor and view progress among their students.
The district currently uses a learning management system called PEAK in a limited capacity but said, "Recently students and teachers have experienced multiple limitations" and recurring issues that include a "lack of reliability," "challenging interface for students and teachers" and "difficulty modifying to accommodate district needs."
In response to those complaints, PUSD piloted several learning management systems for teachers to use with students in grades six to 12 during the 2019-20 school year, with Edgenuity winning the district's recommendation.
The $178,000 contract includes unlimited use of features like digital curriculums and customized webinars. The base $140,000 price "varies based on student need" and "is expended to support virtual learning in the summer school, credit recovery, home and hospital, and independent study programs." The remainder $38,000 "will allow for a variety of possible distance learning scenarios while providing a predictable expense not based on student usage."
* The board also voted to use $831,000 of Measure I1 funds to purchase 2,750 Internet-enabled Chromebooks and carrying cases. The purchase of the "new devices for these 2020-21 grade 6 and 9 students" was recommended by the district prior to sheltering in place.
That fact didn't go unnoticed; the district told the Weekly, "If we didn't have these Measure I1 funds, we would not be where we are as far as supporting students and our ability to support students through remote learning.
"This was all before coronavirus, but the importance and impact of the funding is even more impactful now more than ever just because it gave us the ability to. If the students didn't have the devices, we would have a very difficult time delivering engaging instruction."
A plan called the Student Device Initiative was developed by PUSD "to maximize the useful life of the take-home devices." Students in grades 7 and 8 and high school sophomores, juniors and seniors "will keep the devices they were issued during the prior two years of the Student Device Initiative," while sixth graders and freshmen "will be issued a new device that they will keep until they graduate from middle and high school, respectively."
Student devices issued to seventh-grade students during the 2018-19 school year will be returned at the end of the current school year. Incoming freshmen for the 2020-21 will be issued a new device when they start their new grade level. The district said the two-year-old devices will be cleaned, updated, and provided to elementary classrooms" and that "it is anticipated that this will provide approximately 1,200 devices to our elementary classrooms."
In addition to the estimated $801,000 cost for the devices and carrying cases, the Trustees approved a $30,000 "white glove" preparation service to prepare the devices for distribution over the summer. The devices will be delivered directly to the high school campuses on the day they are distributed to students.