The Cotati Rohnert Park Unified School District held a special meeting March 2. The only agenda item was the requested update on school reopening plans asked for at the last regular meeting. The schools will reopen, albeit slowly. Learning Hubs and Elementary Schools will lead the way based on Superintendent Mayra Perez’s presentation. She said, “we are on schedule” and “we will give you updates on information” as things change.
Learning Hubs for special populations are set to open on March 8. Special populations as defined by the State’s Department of Education are English Language learners, Special Education students, homeless and foster youth. Elementary school sites are limited to two hubs for each campus. Thomas Page Elementary is a TK-Eighth grade site whereas the other sites will be TK-Fifth grade. Teachers and staff at these sites are receiving necessary safety training on March 4 to be ready for the reopening. The district is also exploring opening sixth grade at the two middle schools because that grade technically falls under the elementary school state guidelines too.
As of March 2, all school facilities are physically ready and set-up to receive students now. A few more thermal sensors need to be installed but will be done by March 5. The speed of reopening schools for hybrid in-person classes is limited by other factors. The federal guidelines are less restrictive than state guidelines. Schools in Sonoma County are adhering to the state guidelines. For example, secondary schools cannot open until a county is in the Red Tier. Sonoma County remains in the most restrictive Purple Tier and has been for about 28 weeks.
Additionally, the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the unions must be ratified, and COVID-19 Safety Plans prepared and submitted for approval to the County Office of Education while still in the Purple Tier. They also must be posted five days in advance of reopening a school campus for in-person instruction. Thus, the following timeline was presented to the board.
Learning Hubs on March 8. The tentative agreement on the MOU ratified by March12. The COVID-19 Safety Plans (CSP) for each campus and the district submitted by March 15. Commence Hybrid Learning for TK-Second grade and perhaps sixth grade on either April 12 or April 19. For third through fifth grade on April 19 or April 26. Return students to Hybrid Learning at grades seventh through twelfth on May 6. By May 2021 have an extended learning program plan in place and by June 2021 a Summer School Program for students who need that.
The usual cautions and caveats apply to the plan. The MOU requires that teachers have adequate access to vaccinations before returning to campus. Because of the 28-day window between the first shot and the second shot, the timeline isn’t as robust as many parents hoped. However antecedently, it was reported that approximately 68 percent of elementary teachers and staff already received their first shot before the one week pause occurred due to lack of vaccine distribution that occurred last week. The timeline may move up to earlier dates if additional doses of vaccines become available, or the one-shot Johnson and Johnson vaccine becomes available, or as teachers are able to receive their vaccinations through Kaiser or other clinics outside the Sonoma County Office of Education program.
The district received the revised template and rubrics for COVID Safety Plans on February 11 and immediately started putting them together. The County Office of Education has seven days to review and approve them after submission, so if submitted on March 15, the earliest they would be posted to meet the five-day requirement would likely be March 24. Staff and parent trainings are scheduled to be completed by March 30. Again, a caveat. These plans don’t have to be submitted if Sonoma County moves into the Red Tier.
Teachers and Staff aren’t required to get vaccinated, but they must have adequate access and opportunity to do so according to the MOU. If ratified by March 12 as expected, the March 15-19 window is available for the first dose with the second doses between April 15-22. Thus, you can see how that is driving the May 6 secondary school reopening date. The key takeaway – there is a plan, subject to revision as circumstances change. Many of the factors limiting when the schools can reopen are out of the district’s control. They are planning, preparing, and eager, however, they are also hopeful that any revisions will help them reopen sooner rather than later. Another special board meeting will be held on March 9 and the next regular board meeting is scheduled for March 16. They can be viewed on the district’s YouTube channel.