Local high schoolers will get the chance to receive four full days of in-person instruction per week by the end of April, under an expanded reopening plan the Mountain View Los Altos Union High School District announced this week.
“We are moving and progressing very swiftly at this point towards as normal a schedule as possible,” Superintendent Nellie Meyer said at a board of trustees meeting Monday night (March 22).
Students who opt to participate in the reopening will come to campus for half-days the week of April 19. Beginning April 26, students will be back for four full days of face-to-face classes with teachers. Wednesdays will remain an asynchronous day, where students work largely independently at home.
The schedule gives students substantially more in-person learning time, compared to a plan the district had previously introduced. Earlier this month, district officials agreed to a reopening plan with the teachers’ union that would have split students into two groups, each coming back for two half-days a week. That proposal was met with criticism from some parents, who urged the district to reopen more broadly.
The expanded plan unveiled this week received a positive reaction from members of the public who spoke at Monday’s board meeting.
“I’m really hopeful to hear these changes. I think it’s great to see things based on real science and also just making things less complicated,” Alan Wessel told the board. “Kudos to you. (I’m) really curious to see what the details are.”
Riley Capuano, Los Altos High School’s student board representative, also praised the plan. She has previously advocated for the district to bring students back to campus.
“That’s awesome,” Capuano said, after hearing the new proposal. “Thank you guys for making that happen.”
Students who choose to return will be able to keep the same teachers, and will rotate through their typical class schedule. Those who opt to remain at home will similarly keep the same teachers and schedule, participating in lessons live over Zoom. Students also can opt in to Option B, an independent study program overseen by MVLA teachers.
District officials are asking families to decide on one of the three options (in-person, remote, Option B) by end of the month. A commitment form was sent out on Friday, but administrators plan to send a new one this week, because the reopening plan has been expanded.
Although the district and union have agreed to four full days a week of in-person classes, both parties are still hammering out the details of a formal deal. Remaining topics include how to support teachers in need of child care and potential additional virus mitigation measures in classrooms, Meyer said in an interview. The precise details of the schedule, such as the length of passing periods, is also being finalized.
A negotiating session was scheduled today, and Meyer said the district is hoping to have a formal memorandum of understanding with the union soon.
“We are excited and interested in signing off on an agreement as soon as possible,” she said.
Regardless of the agreement, more than 20 teachers have submitted doctor’s notes that mean they won’t be able to return to the classroom, Associate Superintendent of Human Resources Leyla Benson said at Monday’s meeting. The district will arrange to have an adult in those teachers’ classrooms to supervise students, while the teacher leads the class remotely, Benson said.
The move to return for four full days is possible in part due to a change in health guidance that allows students to be distanced 3 feet apart, rather than 6, Meyer said.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently released guidance recommending 3 feet of distancing between students in most circumstances, which the California Department of Public Health has adopted. That allows schools to fit more students in each classroom, making it possible to bring more kids back at the same time.
At Monday’s meeting, Meyer also announced that the district will qualify for funding under a new state bill aimed at encouraging schools to reopen. Assembly Bill 86 requires high schools to offer in-person instruction to at least one full grade level by April 1 to qualify for the full funding.
Although teachers aren’t returning to lead in-person classes until April 19, the district is currently running “stable learning groups,” where students come to campus to complete their online learning from the classroom.
Many of the groups are overseen by temporary staff, but administrators are working to ensure one grade level is fully supervised by certificated teachers who have agreed to come back. The district is choosing seniors, because they have limited time left before graduating and there are enough teachers to supervise those who decided to return in the stable group model, Meyer said in an interview.
These teachers will supervise a stable learning group, while they continue to teach their own classes online. That qualifies for the AB 86 funding, according to Meyer.
Starting April 19, teachers will broadly return to teach in-person classes four days a week. MVLA plans to return for a full five-day school week starting in the fall, health guidelines permitting, Meyer added.
“We’re extremely optimistic and excited to bring more students back on campus, to see our teachers again, and to begin the return to a post-pandemic academic life,” she said.