January 20, 2021
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Schools are reopening with distance learning

By: Cassandra May Albaugh
July 24, 2020

The Cotati Rohnert Park Unified School District made it official at their online Special Board Meeting of July 21. The 112-minute meeting on You Tube was well attended. At one point, over 360 viewers were watching online. Also in attendance for the presentation and discussion were the principals of the various elementary, middle and high schools. After 80 minutes of presentations, and more than 20 minutes of board member questions and comments, Resolution 1921-1 was adopted on a vote of 5-0.

The decision wasn’t really a surprise. As previously reported, distance learning was the direction most teachers, some parents and many board members were leaning towards two weeks ago. In fact, two board trustees were very vocal at that meeting; and on social media, that they couldn’t see how the decision could be anything other than online instruction.

At that previous meeting, Dr. Mayra Perez asked for a bit more time to obtain guidance and a better understanding of Senate Bill 98. There was a concern that bill would impact school funding if a distance learning only model was adopted. Perez is the new superintendent and officially started her duties July 1. However, with recent clarification letters on Senate Bill 98, and guidance from Governor Newsom, any concerns about adopting a distance learning only model for reopening were swept away. 

Since Sonoma County was placed on the Governor’s Watch List, the district can only open with distance learning. In order to shift to a hybrid model, the county would have to be off the watch list for 14 consecutive days. To provide some stability in planning for students, and for parents, the adopted resolution specified that distance learning would be required for forty days. It will start on August 12 and run through October 9.

The presentation led by Perez and Assistant Superintendent Julie Synyard, was both a recap of previous information and a look at draft schedules for all grades and schools. As Perez stressed, the health and safety of teachers, students and staff was at the forefront of planning efforts. A task force comprised of those stakeholders as well as parents and labor partners used survey input in their planning. In addition to health and safety concerns, the planning stressed consistency and structure; additional support opportunities for those students in need, as well as modified instructional minutes to meet essential standards.

Now that the decision is made, the district is moving forward to finalize and communicate school reopening plans. Perez thanked all concerned for their hard work. She is very aware that now communications with parents and teachers becomes especially critical. That includes the professional development for teachers, to ensure the online learning is improved from last spring’s efforts; and, that parents have sufficient lead time and technical support to be ready for that first day of school. She said there will be challenges still, but there will also be opportunities too. Perez believes working together – we will make this work!