It’s October and school has been in session for a full month now. I am so proud of our team at TTUSD and the phenomenal job they’re doing supporting our kids in this challenging time. I’m also very appreciative of all of our parents and families and all the support you are providing your children.
I have some important information and updates to share with you. I apologize for the length of my article, but it is important information for you to know.
As I have shared in our recent e-news, Placer County remains in the red tier of the State’s “Blueprint for a Safer Economy” and we have been cleared by the state to reopen our schools with mitigation. TTUSD waited until the end of September to make a decision on reopening to ensure that Placer County remained in the red tier and it was still deemed safe per the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) to reopen our schools.
On Monday, September 28, we held a special board meeting. At that meeting, our board approved the plan to transition from distance learning and reopen our schools in a hybrid model of instruction. We have five guiding principles to ensure a smooth and safe 2020-2021 school year for each and every student and staff member. They are:
Health and Safety
Access and Equity
These principals continue to guide all we do, with students as the focus of all of our decision - TTUSD’s #1 Belief Statement.
When we reopen, we are opening in a hybrid model, so that the number of students on campus on a given day is significantly reduced to minimize any potential exposure to the coronavirus. Our hybrid model of instruction will offer a combination of in-person instruction (two days per week) and distance learning. Wednesdays our students are together in distance learning while our schools are being cleaned.
Safety has always been our top priority, and this is why we closed our school facilities on March 16 and our students remained in distance learning this long. We have guidance for schools from CDPH which we have strictly followed and will continue to do so. In some cases, we’re taking extra precautions if we think it’s needed to ensure the safety of students and staff.
One example of this is TTUSD’s policy, for reopening our school facilities is that all students in grades TK-12 and staff on campus must wear a face mask. Local, county, and state health professionals have told us that face masks are our best means of protection and we take that seriously, despite all are in agreement about the importance of wearing them. We cannot risk the safety of our TTUSD community.
We have parents and staff members who do not feel safe returning to in-person instruction during COVID-19 due to health or other concerns. We understand this and have provided options. For students, we are providing a year-long distance learning option. We felt this was essential do to, despite the additional challenges of providing multiple teaching and learning models. For staff, TTUSD is supporting those with medical conditions that could put them at risk working directly (in-person) with students during COVID-19. TTUSD is supporting all staff who qualify for reasonable accommodations up to and including working remotely. Each employee with a concern regarding returning to work has been offered the opportunity to request what’s called an interactive process with Human Resources (HR). This is where HR meets with the employee to identify and support additional safety precautions and reasonable accommodations needed for an employee to feel safe to return to work. Additionally, during the 2020-2021 school year, staff may also request a COVID-19 Leave of Absence.
Our targeted transition day is Wednesday, October 14, where students are together virtually, and our teachers explain the expectations of their students in each cohort, Cohort A, B, and C (year-long distance learning). The cohort assignments will be in the Aeries parent portal by 5:00 p.m. on Friday (today). Click here for directions on how to access the cohort information in Aeries. The first day of in-person school is tentatively scheduled for Thursday. October 15 with Cohort B. Then students in Cohort A would begin in-person learning on Monday, October 19. The start date is contingent on several factors that were discussed at the board meeting during my presentation. (Click here to view my presentation.)
The three outstanding issues are:
Staffing for the testing sites that will provide rapid (72 hours or less) testing available on a consistent basis.
The CDPH recommended MERV-13 Air Filters in all of our school buildings. (We have received these filters and anticipate installation by October 9. We will have another update on October 7. )
A signed MOU from both employee bargaining units. The Government Code of the State of California requires that every school district in the state annually negotiate the impact of working conditions in many areas which are documented in a collective bargaining unit. We do this with both of our bargaining units - our teacher’s union (TTEA) and our classified employee’s union (CSEA). The working conditions have changed due to COVID-19 and with each change in our instructional models, we must negotiate a new memorandum of understanding. (We anticipate a tentative agreement with our classified employee union by next week, however, we’re still in negotiations with our teacher’s union. Our next meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, October 6. We want our teachers to feel safe and good about returning to work, so while TTUSD has the authority to return to in-person hybrid instruction without a signed MOU we will not do so until an agreement is reached with TTEA.)
I will give an update on where we stand with these factors at next week’s board meeting scheduled for October 7. The public session will begin at 5:30 p.m. and we encourage you to attend via live streaming.
Some have asked- why are you rushing to reopen? We are not. This is not a hastily planned return but rather a careful and deliberate approach to reopen schools safely while addressing the needs of our students, staff, and parents. We’ve talked about reopening our schools in a hybrid this fall since May 15 and planning has been underway since that time. Internal committees were formed with representation from our teachers, our counselors, and our administrators. Principals also surveyed teachers to assure their voice was heard and concerns were expressed as we as a district moved forward with reopening in the hybrid model.
It’s complicated. None of us have ever navigated life, let alone a global pandemic while trying to ensure our students get a high-quality education. This is what we’re doing. And we are doing our best and learning and growing each day. We’re not perfect, and we have a community of very divergent opinions. Please refer to my board presentation for a detailed timeline I shared with the board.
For safety reasons, school will look very different when we reopen. We are putting together a handful of short videos for our TTUSD families so everyone knows in advance what to expect when you arrive back at school. Please also see the article below which is also included in our Guidebook.
At TTUSD, we are extremely fortunate to have three school nurses thanks to Measure AA. Our school nurses are providing a 30-45 minute training for sites/teachers on health/safety as it relates to COVID and the plan for return to hybrid. It covers everything from symptom checking to PPE, to protocols for positive cases, etc. Our nurses were trained this summer on contact tracing for COVID-19 and are overseeing contract tracing for our district.
We will continue to keep you posted on where things stand with another update next week.
Carmen Ghysels Superintendent Chief Learning Officer