The Los Altos School District plans to offer five days a week of in-person classes for elementary school students starting April 19.
The district’s board of trustees directed administrators at a meeting last week to pursue the five-day reopening for students in transitional kindergarten through sixth grade. For seventh- and eighth-graders, trustees told staff to aim to increase the number of hours they are on campus but didn’t attach a specific number of days. Junior high school scheduling is more complex because students see various teachers throughout the day.
LASD has already brought all grade levels back to campus in a hybrid model, where students attend in person part of the week and learn from home the remainder of the time.
The move to five days in person is possible because the California Department of Public Health recently changed its rules to allow students to be spaced 3 feet apart in the classroom, Superintendent Jeff Baier said. Previously, 6 feet was required. The change is in line with updated guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“We’re pleased that the guidelines changed and we were able to accomplish this,” Baier said in an interview. “We’re looking forward to having our elementary kids on campus more, and we’re also anxious to get our junior high school kids on campus more.”
Timing the transition
Trustees decided to make the switch to five days a week for elementary school after the district’s April spring break to give teachers and school staff time to prepare for the change.
Currently, students are split into two groups, each on campus seeing their teacher at separate times. The five-day return will mean combining the two groups, plus adding students who are currently in the district’s all-virtual model who decide to return.
The district also will continue to operate a separate, all-virtual program for children whose families opt out of the in-person return.
District officials are still working out the details of the schedule for those who choose to take part in the five-day return. It’s possible that certain days will be shortened to accommodate teacher prep time, Baier said.
Junior high challenges
Getting junior high schoolers back full-time is more difficult because they have multiple teachers. The district reopened junior high campuses for the first time this month, a process that involved changing students’ teachers.
Trustees didn’t decide on a five-day model for junior high at this time, saying they don’t believe it was worth redoing the master schedule again so soon. Instead, they asked administrators to see what they could do to increase the amount of time students are on campus. Currently, it’s two mornings a week, for a total of 7.5 hours.
Other than the change to 3 feet of distancing between students, the rest of the district’s safety precautions will remain in place across grade levels. The precautions include regular handwashing, requiring masks and focusing on classroom ventilation.
“The most important thing to recognize here is though the distance is shrinking, all of the other mitigation measures, the safety protocols, have to remain in place,” Baier said at the meeting.