The first day of school for the Cotati Rohnert Park School District was Tuesday August 17. It was also the first meeting of the School Board for the 2021-22 school year. The board meeting was again held in the Rancho Cotate High School Theater. Masks were required. It lasted almost three hours. It was sparsely attended by the public. Most of the agenda items were routine in nature.
The meeting started off with welcoming two new student board members. Kaitlyn Antonetti, a junior, is representing Rancho Cotate High School. Madalie Deniz, a senior, is from Technology High School. They both took their oath of office, administered by Board President Chrissa Gillies. A short time later each gave their first report to the board about their schools. To be expected, the focus was on preparing for and reporting on the first day of school. They also previewed activities they hope their schools will have in the future now that they are back to in-person instruction.
“Welcome Back” was a common theme. Assistant Superintendent LuzElena Perez provided the board an overview of the first day back with a slide show of photos on opening day. Most speakers reported how excited the students were to be back on campus. Board members confirmed their own children shared that excitement. Trustee Michelle Wing shared how strange it was to come home today from shopping and realize her child wasn’t there but in school.
However, not everybody wants to be on campus. Perez reported that families are expressing interest in the Virtual Learning Academy (VLA). During the summer, interest was but a few dozen families. Just a few weeks ago it jumped to between 150-170 and is over 200 now. To enroll, Independent Study agreements and plans must be developed for each student. This includes in-person meetings with parents or guardians. Perez said the staff is working diligently to reach out to these families and get their children enrolled in VLA.
Superintendent Mayra Perez took to the podium to share with the board and the viewing public the current “Return to School Guidance.” Her presentation was based primarily on the California Department of Public Health guidelines which were last issued in July. They will be modified as additional guidance comes out and she expects the next revision to be published on November 1, 2021.
Key points made include the “Universal Masking” mandate for both staff and students.
Students or staff that are unable to wear masks are required to wear face shields. If unable to wear either, they will have to obtain their instruction online such as the district’s VLA. There are different guidelines for the vaccinated and unvaccinated too. For those vaccinated and exposed to COVID-19, they can remain in school if they are not displaying symptoms and follow all other guidelines. This was called targeted quarantine. For unvaccinated, they will be sent home for a 10–14-day quarantine period. They will take homework packets to continue their learning. A full description of current guidelines is posted on the district’s website under the COVID-19 tab.
A new feature for board meetings was kicked off by Principal Christina Lunde of University Elementary at La Fiesta. Perez called these “Showcases” for each school to present to the board what’s happening on their campus. Lunde’s presentation was on Project Based Learning which is the foundation of teaching at her school. She said, “Students are pulled and woven through the curriculum by a meaningful question to explore an engaging real-world problem.” So, they incorporate skills and learning standards as they develop their projects to include math, language arts and science among other subjects.
In other board news, Rocky Schumann, a student services specialist, asked the board to approve a proclamation to declare September as School Attendance Awareness month. Schumann has attendance as part of his duties in the Educational Services Department. He pointed out that “the uncertainties of recent events, including the COVID-19 pandemic, wildfires and social restlessness, have put into focus our need to maintain strong relationships with students and their families, and our need to focus attention on equity, mental health and access to support services within the community…” The trustees approved the proclamation. The board also approved a donation of $500 from Marc Lloyd for the purchase of Art Books & Supplies at Technology Middle School.