The Mountain View–Los Altos School District clarified its plan to continue distance learning for the rest of the semester at a Board meeting yesterday at 7 p.m. The District will continue keeping the majority of the student body in distance learning, but move forward with its planned cohort return, which is organized into three phases dictated by student need.
This semester, the first students to return will be English Language Learners (ELL), special education (SPED) students and students with high absenteeism or internet connectivity issues at home. Students with “minimal” engagement, a no-credit grade from last year’s spring semester or mental health challenges will comprise the second wave, with any other available seats being offered to students in need of “out-of-home support.”
Distance Learning Administrator Teri Faught offered insight into the District’s decision to delay an in-person return, citing health risks for both students and staff and learning disruptions during the transition to a hybrid learning system. According to Faught, 12–15% of MVLA teachers reported that they are unable to return to campus due to health concerns.
In order to retain small cohorts, students’ schedules might be significantly changed; teachers would also have to prepare both synchronous and asynchronous material.
Faught pointed out that schools across the country have experienced rising case numbers after reopening, forcing them into another closure.
“Even with the most detailed safety precautions, we are still at substantial risk in our county,” Faught said, citing Santa Clara County’s transition down into the red tier of coronavirus spread — “substantial risk” — on Tuesday, September 8. “We’d be putting students, family and staff at risk.”
Faught listed several hypothetical hybrid models involving staggered start times, rotating groups of students and block schedules to limit the extent of student exposure for teachers. District staff will select a hybrid model and report it to the District sometime in December, according to Meyer.
Laura Teksler, an MVLA parent and candidate in this year’s Board elections, said she was disappointed with the District’s lack of communication with parents — the District’s decision to continue distance learning without consulting a wider range of parents made her “feel powerless.”
“Sending a newsletter and talking to a group of three parents isn’t communicating with us,” Teksler said, referring to Superintendent Dr. Nellie Meyer’s limited outreach before the decision — she talked only to a select few parents.
“Distance learning has improved greatly, but it cannot replace being in the classroom,” Teksler added. “We’re not in an emergency scenario anymore — we’re at the point where we need to adapt our schools to a COVID-world because we’re going to be in it for months.”
District administrators also shared the results of the Thought Exchange survey regarding distance learning plans. The survey was sent out to MVLA families in mid-September and received 14,581 responses, with “Safety” and “Tools/Wifi” tied for the community’s highest concerns.