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More public input needed as schools plan for fall enrollment and family-student accommodations

Plumas public schools need more input from local families to help plan workable options for the Aug. 24 return-to-school that will serve 1,700 K-12 students countywide.

One way to provide feedback is to voice your needs at 5 p.m. on Aug. 4 when the Plumas Unified School District (PUSD) hosts a Zoom teleconference meeting of its Governing Board of Trustees.

You can log in online at: https://zoom.us/j/99422115501.

Meeting ID: 994 2211 5501. Or call 283-6500 beforehand.

Enrollment outreach likely

Families may also soon receive information from the district asking them to choose one of three enrollment options for their students — the same options outlined in a July 9 survey sent to all households of local students.

1) A blended learning modelwhere students come to school Monday through Thursday for half-day sessions held mornings or afternoons. This hybrid option would feature distance learning at home for the half-days and Fridays not spent in class.

2) Plumas Digital Classroomswith 100 percent online learning. Teachers would assign work and students would check in via online resources.

3) PUSD’s Independent Study Option(ISO) program. In this model, students would not attend in-person classes. Instead, learners would be assigned a single teacher and develop an individualized plan.

Small response to surveys

The district received a 35 percent response rate to its survey asking for family preferences.

Option 1 for blended learning and part-time classes at school received the most interest followed by Option 3 for independent study and Option 2 for the Plumas Digital Classroom entirely online.

Those results were reviewed at the July 29 school board meeting and while there were 627 replies, there wasn’t enough information to guide PUSD with urgent planning needs for resuming school in a few weeks.

The school board members and district administrators were clear that they need to hear from more families.

About 73 percent of respondents (461 replies) said they preferred Option 1 with half-day sessions held mornings or afternoons on campus.

Of those, 391 replies said they want their students in the morning session. Seventy survey respondents said they would prefer to have their students attend the afternoon sessions.

Option 2 for the Plumas Digital Classroom received 77 votes and Option 3 for independent study got 87 responses.

COVID-19 impact keeps schools in flux

As they have done at every school board meeting since early spring this year, the trustees and administrators talked about COVID-19’s coronavirus impact locally and statewide with an emphasis on their top priority — protecting pupils, teachers and all site employees.

PUSD is making extensive efforts to meet health and safety needs for all students and school personnel while operating with changing infection rates, shifting public concerns and public health mandates from the state, county, and office of the Superintendent of Public Schools.

PUSD Superintendent Terry Oestreich reminded the board and teleconference audience that Plumas County is not currently on California’s “watch list” of monitored counties with rising COVID-19 cases, but this is another consideration as daily reports come out.

Some of the trustees noted that families have said their feelings about the return-to-school options changed from one perspective to another between the time the PUSD survey came out and now, at the end of July. Some even took the survey again to reflect their current preferences.

Student supervision and safety

The board heard a comprehensive update on staff efforts to date to come up with effective plans and practices that will work no matter which enrollment options receive the most parent support.

Just some of the many issues PUSD is grappling with include:

– How to meet the needs of every student and accommodate working families.

– Fine-tuning Special Education classes and programs.

– Guarding the health and safety of teachers and school site employees.

– Providing enough school nursing services.

– Personal protective equipment (PPE) for teachers and staff.

– Sanitizing sites.

– Social distancing.

– Mask wearing.

– Bus transportation.

– Budget issues and more.

Offering student supervision before and after school is another service the district is looking into. Budget projections estimate that could cost as much as $450,000 and federal CARES Act funds might apply. There are a lot of questions about this topic, including which students would be served and how.

The return-to-school conversation will continue at the Aug. 4 special board meeting.

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