Cabrillo Unified School District schools will begin remotely Aug. 17 after the CUSD governing board approved parts of a proposed return to school plan on Thursday night.

The full plan, not voted on in its entirety yet, allows for a week of preparation time for teachers starting Aug. 10 before orientation and classes begin remotely the following Monday. Developed by a 30-person steering committee of teacher, staff, parent and district representatives, the plan includes slowly moving to in-person instruction via a hybrid model that prioritizes special student groups and utilizes outdoor campus space. Students will have the option to take fully remote or independent study tracks if they wish. The plan also calls on a task force to lead the transition between phases in consultation with school community representatives and reporting to the district and school board.

“We want to utilize a phase-in model to allow parents to remain in the 100 percent remote model or transition,” Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction Leticia Bhatia said. “We have to remember to be flexible.”

Principals James Barnes and John Nazar, who presented on the specifics of Cunha Intermediate and Half Moon Bay High school plans, explained that initial plans for eventual in-person phases feature upper grades in morning-only in-person instruction with asynchronous afternoons and Monday fully remote. At the elementary level, Principal Martha Ladd said schools are planning for eventual in-person instruction in both the morning and afternoon with midday and Wednesdays reserved for cleaning. Their schedules are designed not to change as the phasing progresses, proposing an A/B split according to last name to keep families on the same schedule and to create fairly balanced cohorts. Barnes and Nazar said the change between phases may be delayed more than they originally thought.

“We want to be sure we’re ready before we introduce that kind of contact,” Barnes said.

Community reactions to the plan were mixed. Some parents called for an in-person start, citing a lack of technology and childcare resources as barriers to remote learning. Others said full distance learning was the only option they’d be comfortable with. Many had questions about the details of each plan and how to accommodate individual schedules and student needs.

One consideration for the board was Gov. Gavin Newsom’s announcement last week that any county on the state’s watchlist will have to keep schools closed for at least two weeks. So far, San Mateo County has not been on the watchlist, but may join soon due to rising case and hospitalization numbers. Also on the table now is Senate Bill 98, which Newsom signed June 29 requiring 180 days of instruction and connectivity for all, which led the board to approve both synchronous and asynchronous learning — live video classes versus structured and sometimes recorded study units, respectively — as instructional minutes during Thursday’s meeting.

The reopening plan was the only item on the agenda for the special meeting, which was scheduled after access issues last week led board members to delay a decision on the topic. At its height, there were more than 150 attendees on Zoom and two dozen people watching on Youtube Live.

At the end of the meeting, board member Lizet Cortes-Ronquillo called for better attention to reaching Spanish-speaking community members in both written and verbal communications to make the decision-making process more inclusive.

Superintendent Sean McPhetridge implored the board to make its decision according to the information available at each stage, saying the status of local health orders can and will continue to change.

“For those of you who don't have a tolerance for ambiguity, I understand,” McPhetridge said.

In the coming weeks, Bhatia said, parents are going to be asked to choose between the fully remote or phased-in plan. They will also have the option to choose an independent study plan, which relies more heavily on parent instruction and features fewer check-ins.

The full presentation from last night's board meeting can be viewed here: https://app.eduportal.com/documents/view/761214.

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