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LASD plans for full on-campus reopening in the fall

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Zoe Morgan/Town Crier File Photo
Seventh-graders, above, returned to class last week.

The Los Altos School District plans to fully reopen schools for in-person learning in the fall, with students back in the classroom five days a week.

At a meeting last week, the district’s board of trustees instructed Superintendent Jeff Baier to develop a plan to make that happen. Currently, the district is using a hybrid model, where students are in the classroom part of the week and work from home the rest of the time.

“I think we should put a flag in the ground about the fall, and say that we will be back five days a week – we will work with our teachers and staff and principals to figure out how to make that happen,” trustee Bryan Johnson said.

The other trustees generally agreed, though Vladimir Ivanovic said one unknown is whether emerging COVID-19 variants could hamper reopening.

The district began bringing students back by grade level last October, starting with the youngest. All grades are now on campus, with eighth-graders returning for the first time this week.

The number of hours per week students are learning in person differs by grade level. Those in fifth grade and below are back two days a week, for a total of 11 hours. Sixth-graders are also back 11 hours a week, split among four half-days. Seventh- and eighth-graders are back two mornings a week, for a total of 7.5 hours.

Near-term planning

Beyond planning for a full return in the fall, trustees said they want the district to look into expanding its reopening before this school year ends.

“I really want us to start with the assumption that in the fall we’re going to be full time, five days a week, everybody on campus,” board president Vaishali Sirkay said. “Jeff, I’d like you to explore what we can do to make that happen, and if it’s possible for us to get all of our kids on campus before this school year ends, that would be great, especially our youngest kids.”

In recent weeks, COVID-19 case counts have dropped and Santa Clara County moved out of the state’s highest risk tier earlier this month.

Teachers and other school staff became eligible for vaccination at the end of February. LASD officials expects all staff who want to get vaccinated will be able to before the district’s spring break, Baier said, which begins April 12.

In an interview, Baier said the district is currently making plans to open for five full days of in-person learning on the first day of school in the fall. Administrators intend to present more information at an April 26 board meeting.

Even with a full reopening, some things may look different than they were before the pandemic. Baier said he anticipates there will still be a state requirement to offer families a virtual option, as well as a mask requirement. The district also will need to work to accommodate any distancing rules, and there may be a requirement for stable cohorts – where classroom groups stay separated from one another.

District officials are also discussing the possibility of more broadly reopening this spring. Baier said administrators are working as fast as they can, but they don’t yet know when an update will be available.

“I am quite optimistic about this prospect of returning more students to campus, because we know that we’re at our best when we’re in person with students, and we also know students are at their best when they’re in person,” he said. “We look forward to a more robust return.”

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