Repairs to portables, school calendars top agenda

Approving funds for vital repairs to 20 portable buildings and hearing information about a material revision to the Plumas Charter School’s (PCS) recent petition for renewal topped the Sept. 12 agenda of the Plumas Unified School District’s Governing Board of Trustees.

Meeting at Chester Junior-Senior High School, Trustees Joleen Cline, Dave Keller, Dwight Pierson, Clerk of the Board Traci Holt and President Leslie Edlund also discussed future improvements to the decision-making process for adopting school calendars that impact vacations and start dates.

Roof repairs OK’d to start

Voting 5-0 to accept the low bid for roof repairs to portable buildings located at Chester Elementary, C. Roy Carmichael Elementary in Portola and Quincy Elementary School, the trustees approved the work to be completed by California Single Ply, Inc. of Rocklin for $223,100.

The company is a commercial roofing contractor specializing in single-ply membrane roofing. They have served customers statewide in California and Nevada since 1996.

The affected buildings include Chester Elementary portables 14 through 20; C. Roy Carmichael portables 7, 8, 12, 16, 20 and 23 through 26; and Quincy Elementary portables 14 through 17.

Work will begin before the end of September on some of the portables and continue into the early fall.

Charter petition revision/update

Plumas Charter School’s Quincy Site Director Patrick Joseph made a special presentation to the school board to update the district for a procedural item about a material revision to the PCS five-year petition that was approved last spring.

The revision clarified that PCS is temporarily locating its Quincy K-12 students, staff and programs in three downtown locations while development moves forward on the charter school’s permanent home near Quincy High School.

In addition, Joseph updated the school board on a few other minor changes in enrollment numbers and iReady testing data.

“All of our special-use permits for the temporary facilities have been completed and our code inspections with the county building department are concluded,” Joseph explained. “We’ve also completed our financing process with a USDA loan (for the permanent site development).”

He added that moving downtown temporarily has resulted in positive outcomes for the PCS enrichment programs, such as adding yoga instruction, enhancing outdoor education and forming partnerships with a number of Quincy businesses.

“It’s been a shuffle to make sure that all student needs are met,” Joseph said with confidence, “and our enrollment is up to 327 students from last year’s 304.”

The trustees voted 4-0 in favor of approving the charter petition revision (member Edlund was slightly delayed in arriving and did not vote on the item).

Improving school calendar process

Taking up an informational item for general discussion, the school board members also readdressed some concerns they have received from Plumas families after last spring’s adoption of the 2018-19 and 2019-20 school year calendars.

The calendars are in effect now through this and the next school year and they established vacation days for Thanksgiving week as well as four days off as a school holiday in February. The result was that school started three days earlier this fall, on Aug. 22, and runs a little longer at the end of the year.

The changes were made to deal with high student absenteeism around the holidays that costs the district Average Daily Attendance funds, among other issues.

“This (discussion) has come about because we’ve heard from our constituents (families) that they feel they didn’t have a say in the approval of the new calendars,” Edlund commented.

She added that some families didn’t like having to start school earlier and others expressed concerns about finding childcare in February when school closes for a few days.

Other remarks focused on the data received from parent surveys taken before the calendars were voted upon, issues with turnaround time for responses, desires to improve outreach to parents and teachers for input, and more.

The Plumas County Teachers Association provided a representative at the meeting and confirmed that teacher members had considered three of the calendar options debated at the time, but didn’t have an opportunity to “weigh in” on a fourth option added late in the process.

One significant concern teachers had during last spring’s discussion, and which the trustees had taken into account, involved the impact of earlier August start-date options and hot classrooms that lack air conditioning.

Addressing the complexity of the calendar adoption process, Trustee Holt said, “I like that we’ve received data about the percentage of student absenteeism during Thanksgiving week. It’s highly important that we have kids in school as much as possible now that we are switching to the Local Control Funding Formula. But I was concerned about the process (for choosing a calendar option) and felt there wasn’t enough opportunity for all of our stakeholders to weigh in.”

She further spoke to the need for an improved vetting process to obtain feedback from families. In common with her fellow board members, Holt indicated she knew efforts were made to solicit parent input at the time and she wants to see additional consideration given in the future to better ways of getting messages out to families to ensure their participation and responses.

All of the school board members and staff agreed the process of adopting a school calendar is not easy. Trustee Pierson noted it’s very difficult to arrive at the “perfect” school calendar under the best of circumstances.

Trustee Cline said, “Next time, we need a standard across the district to do an equitable job of informing families (in all of our communities). This is something that people take very personally — it affects every person in the district.”

District staff pledged to continue collecting data and feedback about student attendance rates and family input, information they will use to report back upon periodically.

The teachers’ union would be glad to consider and vote upon proposed future changes to school calendar options, with enough notice and time to reach all of their members, they said.

And Lisa Cavin, PUSD’s associate superintendent of Business Services, reminded everyone of the significant financial impact that increased student attendance days can have on the district and school site budgets.

Reviewing part of the reasoning behind moving the school year to a slightly earlier start date, Cavin said that getting in as many attendance days as possible before the end of May each year directly determines PUSD’s federal and state funding for the following year.

“That also includes (applies to) our California Lottery money and other funding sources,” she stated.

At the conclusion of the discussion, the school board members agreed to continue collecting attendance data and family feedback with an eye to improving their calendar adoption process next time. Regardless of changes, data and additional monitoring, family input to the district over the next school year or two will be essential.

For more information or to provide feedback, call the district at 283-6500.

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