In an emotional meeting Monday night, the Los Altos School District Board of Trustees heard from teachers and parents about whether the district should continue with its reopening plan, after the teachers’ union sent the district a letter last week advocating against in-person classes.
LASD currently has students in fifth grade and below back on campus for part-time, in-person classes. Sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders are slated to return Jan. 20. Families also have had the option to choose an all-virtual model for their children.
The board did not make any formal decision during Monday’s meeting, instead going into closed session at the end of the meeting to discuss negotiations with the teachers’ union.
Blach Intermediate School science teacher Meghan Greenbaum told the board at Monday’s meeting that she would rather be teaching in the classroom, but doesn’t feel comfortable doing that at this time, because of spiking COVID-19 cases.
“I feel trapped with having to choose between my job and the health and well-being of my family,” Greenbaum said through tears.
Egan Junior High School music teacher Anne Spector similarly said she doesn’t believe it’s safe to return to campus next week.
“Even with the health and safety protocols, being indoors with over 100 students each week feels reckless,” Spector said. “I’m frightened for myself and my colleagues, for our households and for the Egan families.”
The teachers’ union has asked the district to stop in-person classes until either all teachers have a chance to be vaccinated or Santa Clara County is in the “red” tier in the state’s COVID-19 framework for two weeks (currently the county is in the highest-risk “purple” tier).
Parents also spoke at the meeting, with some arguing that in-person classes ought to continue and expand for the benefit of students. Dari Shalon, who said he is the parent of four LASD students, spoke during the meeting, noting that students are suffering academically and socially by learning from home.
“While we’re all concerned for the health of the school staff, keeping school virtual for the benefit of the teachers is clearly the bigger risk here,” Shalon said. “Please listen to the voice of the parents and open our schools.”
Some parents at the meeting did back the teachers’ union’s request, saying that the current surge in COVID-19 cases means school should be remote for now.
Superintendent Jeff Baier presented information about the district’s reopening, saying that LASD is following the guidance of public health experts and meeting or exceeding all reopening requirements. The district’s COVID-19 case numbers have been low and steady, Baier said, showing data indicating the district has seen 17 COVID-19 cases at its schools, plus two more at the district office.
“Our model of stable cohorts, wearing masks, maintaining distance (and) ensuring ventilation has proven essential and effective at mitigating spread on our campuses,” he said.