The Cotati Rohnert Park Unified School District held a short 45-minute special board meeting on April 6. The two key agenda items pertained to reopening schools in the district. First was the approval of the COVID-19 Safety Plan. The next was approval of the reopening dates for elementary grades TK-2, grades 3-5 and secondary grades 6-12.
The COVID-19 Safety Plan was a state requirement for reopening schools. It had to be approved and posted at least five days before any reopening. It was posted on March 30 on the district’s website at: https://www.crpusd.org/news/what_s_new/c_o_v_i_d-19_safety_plan_for_in-person_instruction. This plan was developed in partnership with key stakeholders to include the labor unions based on state guidelines dated January 14, 2021. Sonoma County was then in the most restrictive purple tier. Updated state guidelines were issued on March 20, 2021 and the county moved into the red tier recently and likely will move into the orange tier this week. According to Superintendent Mayra Perez, the district is beginning to look at options based on the most recent guidelines; however, the priority is to get the schools open as soon as possible. Marta Posada, the Pandemic Case Coordinator, said the “guidelines are ever changing” that they are “dynamic and fluid” and that they “will modify it (the safety plan) as guidance evolves.” The current plan was unanimously approved by the board.
Perez and staff then presented the current planned reopening schedule. TK-2 grades will commence hybrid in-person learning starting on Monday April 12. Grades 3-5 will start hybrid in-person learning on Monday April 19. Secondary students, grade 6-12, will commence on April 26. Since transition from elementary to a new middle school campus can be difficult, the district is also planning a sixth-grade orientation the week of April 19 at Lawrence Jones and Technology Middle Schools. Small student cohorts will be scheduled to familiarize themselves with their new campus. There will be campus tours and some student activities to include art, science, and English. This orientation is for students only, not parents.
Public comments regarding this item were heard from a half-dozen people. Two themes were evident. One was disappointment in the Superintendent, the Board, and the Teachers union that given the movement from purple to possible orange tiers that schools aren’t opening quicker and following the most recent guidelines such as allowing a 3-foot separation instead of the previous 6-foot requirement. The second was concerning why the district didn’t already have a plan for full five-day week in-person instruction for the fall given the Governor’s recent announcement that the tier system is likely to be eliminated on or about June 15, 2021.
As discussed by the board and staff, the issue is complex and the logistics difficult. To prepare classrooms for 3 instead of 6 feet takes time. To revisit agreements with the employee unions and adjust the safety plans takes time. There are a lot of moving parts to consider for this year and the district does not want to delay any further, reopening of the schools. As for the fall, Perez said they are immediately getting to work to adjust plans based on the new guidelines. She wants to have next school year plans ready for the public as soon as possible. She understands parents too need to make plans for the next school year. After the discussion, the board approved the reopening dates unanimously although Trustee Mark Nelson said his vote was because if the plan wasn’t approved then schools wouldn’t open as outlined. The next regular board meeting is scheduled for April 20.