Plan to fill seats coming together
Cabrillo Unified School District is releasing a phased plan to get kids back in schools. Adam Pardee / Review

This week, leaders from Cabrillo Unified School District released the Coastside public school framework for reopening. The plan will be presented to the CUSD school board on Thursday. Public comment will be heard at that time, and board members will have the opportunity to discuss it.

The 85-slide presentation, available on the board agenda, was developed by a committee composed of community, teacher, staff, school site and parent representatives. The steering committee met throughout the summer to create a plan based on community input from focus groups and surveys and in line with health and education guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the state of California and San Mateo County.

Education reporter Sarah Wright sat down with Chief Business Officer Jesús Contreras and Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction Leticia Bhatia to get some answers to common questions about the reopening plan.

What is the proposed timeline and format for reopening?

Under the plan, Cabrillo schools will begin with remote learning in the fall, with a phased approach to reopening. The entire week of Aug. 10

is scheduled for teacher planning and campus preparation only. The week of Aug. 17, students and staff will meet remotely for orientations on school and hygiene procedures, called Phase 0 in the plan. Then, Phase 1 will begin the following week, with entirely remote learning.

Later phases will follow if health conditions allow. Phase 2 will invite limited in-person instruction to target students, like special education students. During Phase 3, schools will transition into a hybrid learning model, with 50 percent of students on campus at a time in A/B cohorts and a mix of indoor and outdoor learning.

Phase 4 will move all classes indoors, and, finally, Phase 5 will return to traditional schedules with all students on campus. Bhatia and Contreras said the district is able to toggle forward and backward between phases as conditions change.

“At the core of everything is, our children need to be educated, they need to be learning,” Contreras said.

Bhatia also noted that the plan will be adaptable to feedback, like that from kindergarten and transitional kindergarten teachers to increase the live instructional hours to bolster the language exposure that’s critical to early education.

What safety requirements will be in place?

CUSD is following the San Mateo County Office of Education’s four-pillared reopening framework, based on county and CDC guidance, in developing its health and hygiene protocols.

When any in-person instruction begins, each morning all staff and students will fill out a questionnaire, receive a temperate check at home and before entering their school site and will wash their hands upon arrival and throughout the day. All members of the school community will be asked to stay home if they exhibit COVID-19 symptoms. Every member of the CUSD community, except those with special exceptions, will be required to wear face coverings over the mouth, nose and under the chin. Face shields will be provided to staff working with some special education students, to nurses, janitorial staff and those who are medically compromised.

Student desks will be spaced 6 feet apart, and teacher desks will be isolated and not accessible to students without permission. When possible, meetings will be held remotely.

Contreras said the district is working on establishing “welcome stations” for staff and students that will ensure each person completes the safety requirements every day.

What happens if there is a COVID-19 case reported?

Contreras said the district is in the process of creating a handbook that will clearly delineate roles and protocols in the case of a COVID-19 exposure among the school community. It will be based on the county office of education’s plan, which instructs staff to isolate and send home any suspected case immediately, followed by a chain of notice to the community and the health department and disinfecting of the school campus. A suspected contact would follow similar protocols at the instruction of the county health department.

Contreras and Bhatia said their plan, specific to the district, will be publicly available and distributed widely.

“We will see that those procedures are aligned and evolving continuously,” Contreras said.

Do students and teachers have the option to stay home when in-person instruction begins?

Students will have the option to continue with remote school, and teachers can continue remote instruction if they have health conditions that put them at exceptional risk for COVID-19. Bhatia said an initial informal survey showed 20 percent of parents intended to keep their kids in remote learning until a COVID-19 vaccine is available, but a follow-up survey will be conducted to reflect changing circumstances and understand how many students will choose to stay home.

“Our parents and students will have the option to stay in remote or to transfer to in-person learning,” Bhatia said.

Teachers who wish to continue with remote instruction will be required to disclose the condition that puts them at risk and will be assigned to teach remotely during in-person instruction. Contreras said that the district’s human resources department will address and process these requests.

How is the district working to create equitable access to technology for remote learning?

Last spring, the district worked to distribute Chromebooks and Wi-Fi hotspots to students and teachers to ensure access to remote learning, but not every family managed to get online. Contreras said the district is working on numerous new partnerships and ideas to improve access this fall, including a mobile Wi-Fi bus for offline areas on the Coastside, funding for apps that support learning and collaboration with the Half Moon Bay Library. Bhatia said the school board also approved funding to offer laptops to each teacher who does not have adequate technology.

How will the decision-making process work moving forward?

The Return to School Committee will continue to meet throughout the school year to evaluate progress based on survey, focus group and teacher input. Bhatia said the decision to not include the board or Superintendent Sean McPhetridge on the steering committee allows them to more objectively make decisions.

How will the district be communicating to parents and staff about changes?

As conditions change, the district will post information and updates to its website and via SchoolMessenger, which includes phone, email and text message outreach. Bhatia said the district is also working to improve communication through community liaisons to reach those who do not access technology as regularly.

How can parents or community members get more information?

Information about the district’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, including school board agenda material, is available on its website at https://www.cabrillo.k12.ca.us.

Anyone is invited to attend the school board meeting on Thursday where the plan will be presented. District leaders are also encouraging parents and community members to reach out to their school site leaders, who are intimately involved in the planning process. Finally, Bhatia and Contreras said they are available to answer community questions via email. r

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