Local school districts have continued to see a steady trickle of community-acquired COVID cases, and at a Los Altos School Board of Trustees meeting last month the board voted to go further than state requirements and require masks on campus outdoors as well as indoors when not eating.
The Mountain View Los Altos Union High School District recorded one COVID-positive student since school started; the Los Altos School District recorded three cases at Almond School as of the end of last week.
In the Mountain View Whisman School District, eight students started periods of quarantine this week, including four at Bubb and four at Theuerkauf, and six students reported positive COVID tests. In total, 14 students across six of the district’s schools have tested positive for the virus since school resumed in the middle of August.
Thus far, students appear to be contracting the virus in the community and not at school. All three districts are waiting to see if mitigation measures like masking and testing policies can prevent COVID transmission within classrooms. Last year, the virus did not spread within classrooms in any of the districts – but this year, more students are in person together, and the new COVID variants have heightened transmissibility, so the pressure remains on to monitor whether the current protocols suffice.
local budget impacts
LASD trustees also assessed upcoming statewide mandates that might have an outsized impact on the district’s budget at their Aug. 16 board meeting.
Assistant Superintendent Randy Kenyon described the state’s plan to phase in universal transitional kindergarten, or TK, as a gradual process that may come with very limited funding as classes and student counts rise. Right now, only students born between September and December are eligible to attend the partial-day TK. By 2025, it should expand to include all children in their final pre-kindergarten year. The program will remain optional for students (as is kindergarten), but districts will be required to make it available.
“There is maybe some money attached, but there might not be much for us – there’s certainly money available for districts that have a large number of lower-income or English Language Learner students, and there is money for facilities, but not for us because we’re basic aid and we’ve also already adopted full-day kindergarten,” Kenyon said.
Kenyon added that the district doesn’t fully know what to expect for new program funding because the state’s Department of Education and Legislature are “still hammering out details, with questions from people on the ground in districts like ourselves.”
Another statewide expansion of note for Los Altos relates to free breakfasts and lunches for elementary district students. Unlike MVWSD, Los Altos elementaries do not operate a National School Lunch Program meal service. Parent volunteers run individual lunch programs at each school; students can opt-in to buy a hot lunch for approximately $6.50 if they choose, and the district pays for eligible students to access the lunch on a free or reduced-price basis.
A statewide mandate for universal free breakfast lunch goes into effect next year and would substantially alter the funding basis in Los Altos, which currently relies on parent payments to cover the majority of its lunch costs.
LASD has prized offering need-blind access to the same meals for every student. Offering a federal free lunch and a different, paid alternative would disrupt that equity.
Kenyon said the district was highly unlikely to undertake building facilities for its own hot-lunch production. Over the past year, as feeding students impacted by COVID shutdowns required new lunch plans, LASD subcontracted with MVWSD’s lunch program to buy breakfasts and lunches for a cost of approximately $6.50 per pupil per day. Kenyon noted that the cost would be somewhat comparable to continue using the same or similar vendors to those identified by volunteer PTA groups. In either scenario, the district would buy lunches for many more students than it currently does.
Because LASD receives so much property-tax revenue that it operates as a basic aid district, it will likely be ineligible for many of the funding opportunities attached to program expansions in less affluent districts.