News

PUSD eyes reopening elementary schools on Jan. 4 for TK-5 students

APT president says she's concerned about lack of union involvement in planning process

The Pleasanton Unified School District Board of Trustees voted 3-2 to support reopening local elementary schools for students in transitional kindergarten through fifth grade starting Jan. 4, following a special meeting lasting more than three hours Friday night.

Students would receive remote instruction every morning, and small cohorts of students would each be assigned one specific day of the week for 90 minutes of in-person instruction on campus, according to the proposal.

Trustees Joan Laursen and Jamie Yee voted against the proposal, with Laursen stating she wanted students back sooner. Yee was also open to an earlier return date, but not until after Nov. 30.

Friday was also the first time most trustees -- except Board President Steve Maher and Yee -- and cabinet attended an in-person board meeting at the district headquarters since statewide sheltering and distance learning started in March. Everyone physically present wore face masks and maintained physical distancing, and plastic partitions were installed between seats.

At a special virtual town hall meeting the night before the board vote, Superintendent David Haglund told PUSD families, "We're learning as we consult with experts, and so the encouragement to reopen schools at the elementary level in particular has been given by the public health department."

What's local journalism worth to you?

Support PleasantonWeekly.com for as little as $5/month.

Learn more

Officials said they will hold meetings with stakeholders for feedback in the near future while finalizing details, and are preparing to submit a detailed reopening plan to the Alameda County Public Health Department and Alameda County Office of Education.

PUSD spokesman Patrick Gannon told the Weekly there are no plans currently for grades 6-12 to return until the district gets authorization from the county, adding they should have more information by or before Oct. 26.

Some staff who phoned in during the public hearing on Friday said district administrators did not reach out for their input regarding the draft reopening plan.

Though "glad to see many things" in the plan for personal protective equipment (PPE) and protocol in the event of a campus outbreak, Association of Pleasanton Teachers (APT) President Michelle VerKuilen said she is "concerned about how decisions to reopen are being made."

"Many of you may be asking right now, 'Why are you glad to see this? Haven't the teachers seen this plan?'," VerKuilen said. "No, this is the first time any of us are seeing this plan and, yes, that makes me concerned, because I know a majority of this community would think teachers were involved in this plan, but … this is all being discussed without us."

Stay informed

Get daily headlines sent straight to your inbox.

Sign up

VerKuilen continued, "I am concerned when I see training listed that all employees supposedly had, which we did not. I am concerned when it says we have negotiated in-person returns to campus -- we have not. No plan has been presented to our bargaining team to negotiate."

Amanda Brown, mother of three PUSD students, said, "When we force schools to reopen and create an exodus of our primary teachers who request leave, this leaves us with short-term substitutes instead. How is this a good solution?"

"We are giving parents the choice between remote learning with our primary teacher or in person learning with a substitute. We shouldn't push out our primary teachers to gain an hour and a half of in person instruction a week with a substitute," Brown said.

Fairlands Elementary teacher Cheryl Atkins, who "spent a lot of time on the (reopening) task force this summer," said the group "never discussed concurrent teaching" with the district. At the moment, Atkins starts her Zoom groups at 8 in the morning, going until just after one o'clock in the afternoon.

"If we go to this afternoon time, there's no more hours in the day to give, so if we go to small groups at school, from 1:30 to 4, well, then the morning time has to give," Atkins said. "Because the time that I'm using right now, from 1:30 to 3, with all the planning and preparing, I'm going to need time during the day to do that. One thing has to give for something else, we can't do it all."

Atkins also wanted to know "how can we do this feasibly, safely, and how can we take things off of our plate, not add to what we're already doing."

"We need more discussion -- I would've liked to have been able to have that discussion with the K-2 and Dr. Haglund before coming to the board tonight, so that we could've talked and had solutions together," Atkins said.

Amador Valley teacher Sam Weaver said the board was "downplaying" the risk of reopening, while Valley View Elementary instructor Leah Perez stated she was "afraid that a vote for us to return to our classrooms will be a decision to put the health of students, teachers and families in our community at risk."

Perez pointed to another current nationwide spike in COVID-19 cases and said, "This should be alarming to all of us as should the idea of having students return to classes during the flu seasons when we have been warned of the surge we are currently seeing."

"We'd be careless to ignore the scientific evidence that our best doctors and universities are putting forward," she added.

Later during discussion, Laursen responded to recent public criticism and said voting to reopen was "probably the hardest decision" she's made as a trustee.

"I understand emotions run high but, for some of the emails we've gotten, to assume that we don't care about the health and safety of staff -- when we have described to you all the steps that we're taking to ensure safety of our staff and our students -- is insulting," Laursen said.

"We're relying on the health department for their guidance, they've given us guidance, we're going beyond the guidance," Laursen added. "We're doing more safety steps than is required. The easiest thing for me to say is, 'sure, let's do the whole year remote … that's the easiest thing to vote."

Laursen finished, "This isn't my favorite plan, this is a compromise plan … but this is a start."

Gannon clarified on Monday that Lydiksen Elementary School is also expected to reopen at the same time as other schools in January. The site is currently undergoing extensive renovations and remodeling.

Small cohorts of select students with identified high needs returned to some PUSD campuses Oct. 14 to partake in a newly launched pilot supervised learning program. Students in the cohorts meet onsite, where they are supervised by a classified employee while their instructor teaches remotely.

Craving a new voice in Peninsula dining?

Sign up for the Peninsula Foodist newsletter.

Sign up now

Follow PleasantonWeekly.com and the Pleasanton Weekly on Twitter @pleasantonnews, Facebook and on Instagram @pleasantonweekly for breaking news, local events, photos, videos and more.

PUSD eyes reopening elementary schools on Jan. 4 for TK-5 students

APT president says she's concerned about lack of union involvement in planning process

by / Pleasanton Weekly

Uploaded: Sat, Oct 17, 2020, 2:16 pm
Updated: Mon, Oct 19, 2020, 4:44 pm

The Pleasanton Unified School District Board of Trustees voted 3-2 to support reopening local elementary schools for students in transitional kindergarten through fifth grade starting Jan. 4, following a special meeting lasting more than three hours Friday night.

Students would receive remote instruction every morning, and small cohorts of students would each be assigned one specific day of the week for 90 minutes of in-person instruction on campus, according to the proposal.

Trustees Joan Laursen and Jamie Yee voted against the proposal, with Laursen stating she wanted students back sooner. Yee was also open to an earlier return date, but not until after Nov. 30.

Friday was also the first time most trustees -- except Board President Steve Maher and Yee -- and cabinet attended an in-person board meeting at the district headquarters since statewide sheltering and distance learning started in March. Everyone physically present wore face masks and maintained physical distancing, and plastic partitions were installed between seats.

At a special virtual town hall meeting the night before the board vote, Superintendent David Haglund told PUSD families, "We're learning as we consult with experts, and so the encouragement to reopen schools at the elementary level in particular has been given by the public health department."

Officials said they will hold meetings with stakeholders for feedback in the near future while finalizing details, and are preparing to submit a detailed reopening plan to the Alameda County Public Health Department and Alameda County Office of Education.

PUSD spokesman Patrick Gannon told the Weekly there are no plans currently for grades 6-12 to return until the district gets authorization from the county, adding they should have more information by or before Oct. 26.

Some staff who phoned in during the public hearing on Friday said district administrators did not reach out for their input regarding the draft reopening plan.

Though "glad to see many things" in the plan for personal protective equipment (PPE) and protocol in the event of a campus outbreak, Association of Pleasanton Teachers (APT) President Michelle VerKuilen said she is "concerned about how decisions to reopen are being made."

"Many of you may be asking right now, 'Why are you glad to see this? Haven't the teachers seen this plan?'," VerKuilen said. "No, this is the first time any of us are seeing this plan and, yes, that makes me concerned, because I know a majority of this community would think teachers were involved in this plan, but … this is all being discussed without us."

VerKuilen continued, "I am concerned when I see training listed that all employees supposedly had, which we did not. I am concerned when it says we have negotiated in-person returns to campus -- we have not. No plan has been presented to our bargaining team to negotiate."

Amanda Brown, mother of three PUSD students, said, "When we force schools to reopen and create an exodus of our primary teachers who request leave, this leaves us with short-term substitutes instead. How is this a good solution?"

"We are giving parents the choice between remote learning with our primary teacher or in person learning with a substitute. We shouldn't push out our primary teachers to gain an hour and a half of in person instruction a week with a substitute," Brown said.

Fairlands Elementary teacher Cheryl Atkins, who "spent a lot of time on the (reopening) task force this summer," said the group "never discussed concurrent teaching" with the district. At the moment, Atkins starts her Zoom groups at 8 in the morning, going until just after one o'clock in the afternoon.

"If we go to this afternoon time, there's no more hours in the day to give, so if we go to small groups at school, from 1:30 to 4, well, then the morning time has to give," Atkins said. "Because the time that I'm using right now, from 1:30 to 3, with all the planning and preparing, I'm going to need time during the day to do that. One thing has to give for something else, we can't do it all."

Atkins also wanted to know "how can we do this feasibly, safely, and how can we take things off of our plate, not add to what we're already doing."

"We need more discussion -- I would've liked to have been able to have that discussion with the K-2 and Dr. Haglund before coming to the board tonight, so that we could've talked and had solutions together," Atkins said.

Amador Valley teacher Sam Weaver said the board was "downplaying" the risk of reopening, while Valley View Elementary instructor Leah Perez stated she was "afraid that a vote for us to return to our classrooms will be a decision to put the health of students, teachers and families in our community at risk."

Perez pointed to another current nationwide spike in COVID-19 cases and said, "This should be alarming to all of us as should the idea of having students return to classes during the flu seasons when we have been warned of the surge we are currently seeing."

"We'd be careless to ignore the scientific evidence that our best doctors and universities are putting forward," she added.

Later during discussion, Laursen responded to recent public criticism and said voting to reopen was "probably the hardest decision" she's made as a trustee.

"I understand emotions run high but, for some of the emails we've gotten, to assume that we don't care about the health and safety of staff -- when we have described to you all the steps that we're taking to ensure safety of our staff and our students -- is insulting," Laursen said.

"We're relying on the health department for their guidance, they've given us guidance, we're going beyond the guidance," Laursen added. "We're doing more safety steps than is required. The easiest thing for me to say is, 'sure, let's do the whole year remote … that's the easiest thing to vote."

Laursen finished, "This isn't my favorite plan, this is a compromise plan … but this is a start."

Gannon clarified on Monday that Lydiksen Elementary School is also expected to reopen at the same time as other schools in January. The site is currently undergoing extensive renovations and remodeling.

Small cohorts of select students with identified high needs returned to some PUSD campuses Oct. 14 to partake in a newly launched pilot supervised learning program. Students in the cohorts meet onsite, where they are supervised by a classified employee while their instructor teaches remotely.

Comments

Bill Brasky
Registered user
Vintage Hills
on Oct 19, 2020 at 10:21 am
Bill Brasky, Vintage Hills
Registered user
on Oct 19, 2020 at 10:21 am
21 people like this

Hopefully they have a plan and are willing to be flexible and simply not kicking the can down the road because of school board elections. This isn't going away anytime soon so let's get going with the plan and make adjustments just like every other walk of life has done in the Bay. Kids and parents have already adapted, schools can too. This enormous amount of screen time and lack of peer interaction is not helping developing minds.

Also, It seems a little silly letting k-5 all back into school after holiday and New Years.

Maybe ease a couple of classes back in at a time before so staff can iron out the kinks before you let the entire elementary school back in.

Good luck PUSD!


20 years
Registered user
Valley View Elementary School
on Oct 19, 2020 at 11:24 am
20 years, Valley View Elementary School
Registered user
on Oct 19, 2020 at 11:24 am
8 people like this

It is shameful that the high needs students who went back to school last week were taught by Aides. The Aides are very good and the students are in good hands. However, the Teachers were not in school. I guess either the Teachers' union is stronger or the district feels that the Aides are disposable.


Jimmy The Jet
Registered user
Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Oct 19, 2020 at 3:49 pm
Jimmy The Jet, Another Pleasanton neighborhood
Registered user
on Oct 19, 2020 at 3:49 pm
16 people like this

It is my understanding that these students are still being taught by their teachers online. The aides are just there to help them stay on task. Being in the school also helps with better WiFi. These students can focus and get help with the tech that their families are not able to do.


paine
Registered user
Del Prado
on Oct 20, 2020 at 12:55 pm
paine, Del Prado
Registered user
on Oct 20, 2020 at 12:55 pm
15 people like this

Get the kids back into school!!! Creating a school safety plan isn't new, numerous private and public schools have done this already. This should have been sent a month ago. Maybe the union wasn't notified, but I would think they would also reach out to the board to inquire about the plan. Otherwise you are just playing politics and/or are too obtuse to lead a union. That's what working collaboratively is all about. If parents or teachers are concerned about the risk, stay home, but don't punish the kids who aren't as successful with online resources. We can talk about numerous studies (Stanford...) that indicate the return to school risk is minimal, not a haven for disease spreading. Five years from now we are going to be talking about the studies that show how harmful this has been on the mental health of our children, even more so than the rise in mental health problems we see today.

I have more than one child in the district who hates online school more than anything, but never, not once, voiced that opinion about school prior to this year.


@paine
Registered user
Ruby Hill
on Oct 20, 2020 at 4:37 pm
@paine, Ruby Hill
Registered user
on Oct 20, 2020 at 4:37 pm
2 people like this

I think Stanford chose remote learning the entire Fall semester, so maybe not the best study to cite :(


Larry David
Registered user
Ruby Hill
on Oct 20, 2020 at 7:20 pm
Larry David, Ruby Hill
Registered user
on Oct 20, 2020 at 7:20 pm
16 people like this

The fact that the school board and PUSD administration are dragging their feet out of laziness and/or fear of the union is disgraceful and why I am voting them all out, this will end in tears with the worse victims being the poor and otherwise underprivileged students who are getting little to no education at this time

School board meetings spend half their time self congratulating themselves and the teachers for the great job that they are doing with distance learning, and while I appreciate the hard work of some teachers, others not so much. And claims that the current situation is going pretty well undermines all credibility in my mind.

Health department says it is time to go back now, but we might send less that 1/2 of students back in a couple/few months. What the What!?!?


paine
Registered user
Del Prado
on Oct 20, 2020 at 7:44 pm
paine, Del Prado
Registered user
on Oct 20, 2020 at 7:44 pm
12 people like this

Comparing Stanford university to elementary schools, apples to oranges...

I will go again with advice from Stanford doctors. Haven’t heard much about elementary school outbreaks, and I’m pretty sure the media would love to blow that one up if it existed. I too see a lack of courage and leadership from the school board and teachers union.


Pleasanton Parent
Registered user
Pleasanton Meadows
on Oct 20, 2020 at 11:17 pm
Pleasanton Parent, Pleasanton Meadows
Registered user
on Oct 20, 2020 at 11:17 pm
1 person likes this

Glad to see the progress. Would love to see more faster but we are moving in the right direction.


Don't miss out on the discussion!
Sign up to be notified of new comments on this topic.

Post a comment

In order to encourage respectful and thoughtful discussion, commenting on stories is available to those who are registered users. If you are already a registered user and the commenting form is not below, you need to log in. If you are not registered, you can do so here.

Please make sure your comments are truthful, on-topic and do not disrespect another poster. Don't be snarky or belittling. All postings are subject to our TERMS OF USE, and may be deleted if deemed inappropriate by our staff.

See our announcement about requiring registration for commenting.