Remote learning started recently at Pleasanton Unified School District but saw lower numbers of enrollment than last year, staff reported at the Board of Trustees meeting on Thursday.
Exactly 14,500 total students were enrolled in PUSD on the first day of instruction, Aug. 11 -- about 400 fewer students than the first day of school in 2019, according to the district.
Student services director Kathleen Rief said, "The largest number of students that have left or are no longer enrolled, are at the elementary level."
"There's about a roughly 250 students difference from the second week of school last year to this year," Rief added, which she attributed mostly to families' child care needs.
The district had 5,928 elementary students enrolled on the first day this year, compared to 6,191 students for the first day of the 2019-20 school year.
"I know that TK and kindergarten, there are child care facilities operating in person and so we've seen some drops there," Rief added. "I think parents have shifted to go to child care that's in-person rather than enroll in online programs. I think if we are able to shift back to some sort of hybrid scenario at some point, that we would see enrollment come back, because those are programs that parents pay for, too."
Assistant superintendent of student support services Ed Diolazo said, "We have a pretty significant drop in our enrollment numbers on the first day of school, and it's even more telling at the secondary level."
PUSD had 8,672 students enrolled at the secondary level for the first day of classes -- 3,447 middle-schoolers and 5,125 high-schoolers.
According to Rief, as far as actual attendance goes, "Anecdotally, overall, a large percentage of our students are participating, logging in" and doing well with synchronous learning.
Diolazo said "students are expected to participate with a visual check in," and though there may be some confusion about technological barriers to completing that requirement, auditory or chat features may suffice for purposes of documenting attendance.
If students are habitually late, teachers may follow up and recommend low-level interventions to address absences and disengagement from classes.
"It's all about trying to get kids in class, getting their instruction and also making sure that they are engaged," Diolazo said.
The state has given the district a grace period on attendance until Sept. 1 "to really start reviewing," according to Rief, who said state officials "knew that there was going to be changes going on" with distance learning.
During the board's discussion, Superintendent David Haglund said attendance during remote learning has become a new way to gauge a student's engagement.
"When we think about attendance in this new environment that we're in, attendance is not about trying to prove that people were here. It's really about trying to track those that we're missing and going out and collecting them," Haglund said.
Trustee Joan Laursen called the drop of 400 students enrolled this year "significant" but not as bad as she predicted, and wondered if some families "really aren't in our district anymore and they just haven't informed us."
"There were just so many folks who were just not sure what they were planning to do and where they were going to be, and there were just a lot of things up in the air," Laursen said.
"Of course, I'd like to see those numbers go up, but they just weren't as bad as I was expecting," she added.
In other business
* The district cabinet bid farewell on Thursday to Roseanne Pryor, the recently retired administrative assistant for Superintendent David Haglund.
Pryor, who worked at PUSD for 10 years and announced her retirement earlier this summer, thanked her colleagues "for the opportunity to work here" and called it "a bittersweet time for me."
"There's a lot of people that I won't be able to say goodbye to and that saddens me," Pryor said, referring to the district's 15 sites that are mostly empty while students shelter at home.
Haglund called Pryor an "invaluable" part of the district, and said, "We're going to miss you but I trust that you're going to be nearby and engaged as we go forward."
"I'd heard about Pleasanton for 20 years and never thought I'd be working here, so it's been my complete and awesome privilege to work for you," Pryor said.
Pryor said she plans to spend time in retirement with family, especially her grandson. Her last day with the district is this Tuesday (Sept. 1).
* Prior to the public session, the Board of Trustees unanimously ratified the appointment of a new Amador Valley High School vice principal, and three other district positions.
Melanie Harris was named vice principal at AVHS; Harris thanked the cabinet via webcam and said she "can't wait to work with Amador Valley students," then quickly added: "Go Dons."
Harris most recently worked as coordinator of independent studies for Acalanes Unified High School District in Contra Costa County, according to PUSD.
The trustees also approved the promotion of Seewing Yee to coordinator of innovation and distance learning, as well as the hiring of two more coordinators of technology services and maintenance and transportation.
Yee thanked the board for the opportunity and said he was "looking forward to collaborating" with his new coworkers. His new position is centered around distance learning, in which all PUSD students are currently participating, and is funded "from the federal government for this purpose," according to district spokesperson Patrick Gannon.
The board also accepted the resignation of former senior director of special education Mary Jude Doerpinghaus, who was recently replaced by Ken Goeken. Doerpinghaus' last official day on the job was Aug. 23.
* The district and California School Employees Association finalized a related memorandum of understanding (MOU) that evening to supply district employees on site during the pandemic with $486,000 worth of personal protective equipment (PPE). General funds and the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund will pay for the PPE.
* The trustees also authorized the use of district facilities for polling stations in the Nov. 3 general election. With local schools closed until the county falls off the state's county monitoring list, the resolution states "the civic importance of citizen access to polling places necessitates permitting Alameda County officials to use district facilities for election purposes."
Per the agreement, "Alameda County must provide adequate security to manage and control the election activities and must provide for sanitization services immediately after use of the district-owned facilities."
Editor's note: A previous version of this story incorrectly conflated enrollment and attendance data from the PUSD board's discussion. District staff said enrollment on the first day of school was about 400 students fewer than one year before. The Pleasanton Weekly regrets the error.