options

Trying to be prepared for all health scenarios, Galt Joint Union High School District officials discussed plans for the 2020-21 school year. Staff has prepared five options of what school may look like, depending on recommendations from county and state health authorities.

At the June 11 Galt Joint Union High School District (GJUHSD) board meeting, trustees heard about reopening plans, received a budget update, set the wheels in motion to have area voting precincts rather than at-large voting for trustees, and approved new software in order to communicate with parents.

Reopen plans

Superintendent William Spalding and Director of Curriculum Sean Duncan laid out the five plans for reopening the schools for Aug.10. Both Spalding and Duncan said they will be ready but are waiting for mandates from health authorities and the state.

“There is much we don’t know and what we do know is that everything changes dramatically all the time,” Spalding said. “Both the state and county authorities can issue legally binding orders that determine how we proceed with requirements for social distancing, sanitation, hygiene and personal protective equipment, and an ultimate configuration for how school will be conducted.”

The first plan is a Normal School schedule with all students on campus with the exception for students who “opt out” for distance learning. All plans will accommodate students who “opt out.”

The Modified Normal plan will also have all students on campus, but gatherings such as assemblies and other events will have reduced numbers and be offered a number of times so all students can be present. This plan recognizes that physical education and performing arts classes might not be possible.

The Blended 50/50 Plan will also have restrictions on numbers at gatherings. Students will receive on-campus instruction but will be divided so that half will be on campus while the other half will receive at-home instruction on alternating days. The number of students riding buses will be greatly reduced. Food services will need to accommodate meals for students while they’re learning at home.

The fourth plan is for a Blended 1/4 or 1/5 of the student body in class with full six-foot social distancing at all times and only 16 students per class. Students not on campus must work independently on class work. On-site days will be used for direct instruction, hands-on activities, labs, intervention or guided instruction. If possible, parallel video conferencing of in-class activities daily will go out to off-campus students.

The last plan is Fully Remote with no instruction conducted in person. Duncan said, if this ends up being the plan, it will be much better than the distance learning of the past.

“Distance learning had to be configured and implemented quickly,” Duncan said. “It was far from perfect and optimal. We have learned much if forced into another period of distance learning and will structure it very differently. We look to technology as a tool, not as a replacement for in-person instruction or as a way of life educationally.”

Regardless of the plan implemented, the district plans on promoting health hygiene practices for staff and students, and will increase cleaning, disinfection and ventilation on campus. Staff will also implement the recognition of students who come to school sick, and the district will be flexible with absences for both students and staff.

Budget

Chief Business Officer Corey Reihl gave a presentation on the budget for the coming year. Due to COVID-19, the state has cut school dollars across the state. Federal funding has also been cut. According to Reihl, GJUHSD cuts will be $2 million. Adult School programs, Career Technical Programs and Ag Tech Career Programs will all have funding cuts of one half.

Reihl said that 86 percent of the district’s budget was for salaries.

“It’s almost impossible to even create a budget,” Reihl said. “Hopefully, there will be some miracle so we don’t have to ‘slip’ anyone. There are people behind all these numbers. It weighs on all of us.”

Voting

Spalding discussed a lawsuit brought by a law firm against the district on how board members are elected, in view of the California Fair Voting Act. According to Spalding, no district that has fought these suits has won. All it took for the law firm from Malibu, Calif. to compel GJUHSD was a letter.

Spalding explained that, right now, all residents who are located within the district could vote on anyone running. The California Fair Voting Act says this discriminates against minorities and those who might wish to run without the funds needed to run a successful campaign. The district will need to be divided, so that people within a general area could vote for their own representative. Spalding said, as long as the district moves forward to change in compliance with the new law, this law firm will only be able to collect up to $30,000.

Trustee Melissa Neuburger was appalled at the lawsuit.

“I am in full support of redistricting and getting more people involved with our boards, but I think it’s dirty that we have external lawyers that don’t live anywhere around here who will profit from this, especially during this time when districts are pushed to the limits,” Neuburger said.

Board President Daniel Denier agreed with her, as did the rest of the board.

“I will vote for this (to comply),” said Denier, “but I’m not really for it.”

New software

The board approved the purchase of ParentSquare, a platform to unify all communication from the district to the classroom. The program can translate 100 different languages for messages to go to email, phones, text, and voice and web portals. It will also be capable of mass notifications, school services and classroom notifications.