The Cotati Rohnert Park Unified School District Board held a short Special Meeting on March 9 and a regular meeting on March 16. Both meetings had presentations by Superintendent Mayra Perez updating school reopening plans. The March 16 meeting also included financial and labor items to discuss and approve.
The special meeting had just two agenda items. Ratification of personal action reports which covers resignations, leave of absences, and employment hires for both Certified and Classified staff was one item. Perez’s report of the Learning Hubs at the district’s elementary schools that commenced on March 8 was the other. As previously reported, these hubs are for special populations. California DOE defines those as English Language learners, Special Education students, homeless and foster youth. Perez shared pictures from the various sites showing students arriving, in class and the safety protocols in effect. These hubs are currently serving 140 students. She said she was glad “we’re getting the kids into school.”
At the regular meeting she again reviewed the requirements for reopening based on the January 14 state guidelines. Marta Posada, the district’s pandemic case coordinator, presented a Gantt Chart showing the status of reopening items required. Most are completed. She said what remains are staff, parent, and student trainings relating to on campus safety procedures and protocols, and development of a few written policies. All of these will occur soon. The COVID Safety plans and School Safety Plans are complete and will be posted to the district’s website on March 29 and will be approved at an April 6 Special Meeting.
Assistant Superintendent LuzElenz Perez followed. She reviewed the planned hybrid instruction schedules for all the schools, TK-12 grades. They are similar, yet specific to the grade levels or school sites. They all include a combination of in-person and distance learning for small cohorts of students which are limited to 14 students and 2 staff.
Superintendent Perez then presented the updated timeline for reopening TK-12 school sites. Because Sonoma County is now in the Red Tier, that timeline changed slightly from previous plans. Now the district doesn’t have to submit COVID safety plans for approval which would have caused a 7-day waiting period to open. They also can open middle and high schools. Instead of projecting return of secondary students in May, they will be returning in April.
The current timeline for the district is: March 29 TK-2, TK-5 and Special Day Class (SDC) staff returns. March 30 staff and parent trainings are planned. April 5 year-round and grades 3-5 staff return. April 12 grade 6-12 staff returns, and Hybrid In-Person instruction begins for TK-2 grade. April 19 In-Person Hybrid begins for grades 3-6. April 26 is when grades 7-12 and Special Day Classes commence for In-Person Hybrid instruction. For parents and students not wanting to yet return to campus, distance learning will continue. Also, in April and May the district will conduct academic and social-emotional needs assessment and wants to have an Extended Learning Program planned by May.
Planning for the fall for school year 2021-22 is underway. That planning may include the possibility that “some version of Hybrid will be required in the fall” according to the Superintendent. They are also looking to establishing a full-time Virtual Academy for the district. Towards that purpose, the board approved hiring a consultant to explore that option. According to survey data of elementary school parents interested in having their kids attend such an academy, rose from 27 percent pre-covid to 69 percent in the fall of 2020. After discussion, the calendar for the 2021-22 school year was approved on a vote of 4-1 with Trustee Michelle Wing voting against. Her concern was that the two emergency school days added to the end of the school year should have been spaced throughout the year.
The district received a clean audit report for the year ending June 30, 2020. No deficiencies in financial controls were identified. Retiring Chief Business Official Robert Marical presented the monthly update on finances and enrollment. Enrollment is down a net five students after exits, entries and adjustments. Of the 17 students departing the district, nine moved out of the county or state and six transferred to private or charter schools.
Next, the Second Interim Budget Report was approved for submission. Last summer the district was looking at a significant deficit with estimated losses of 5.45 million dollars. However, with revisions to the State’s funding and other Federal and State COVID-19 assistance, and decreased costs because of distance learning, the budget outlook has dramatically changed. The district estimates surplus in 20-21 of $450,058, in 2021-22 of $553,018, and in 2022-23 of $541,333.
Tentative agreements have been reached with the Rohnert Park Cotati Educators Association (RPCEA) for the past two contract years. A 1.84 percent salary schedule increase retroactive to July 1, 2019 was negotiated for 2019-20, and a 2.0 percent increase retroactive to July 1, 2020 for the 2020-21 contract year. RPCEA has also tentatively agreed to the MOU required for reopening schools next month. The results of the membership vote should be finalized by next week according to RPCEA President Emilie King. The board also received and approved negotiation proposals from SEIU 1021 and CSEA Chapter 645. These are other unions associated with the district. The contract years covered are 2020-21 and 2021-2022.