The Mountain View–Los Altos School District is currently planning a hybrid return to campus in cohorts for this semester, according to Superintendent Nellie Meyer. MVLA administrators will make an official recommendation regarding an in-person return at the board meeting on Monday, October 5.
The move comes after Santa Clara County moved down from the purple tier of coronavirus transmission — “widespread” — to the red tier — “substantial” — on Tuesday, September 8. According to state guidelines, schools may reopen after staying in the red tier for 14 days.
Initially, students will return in cohorts, groups of up to 16 students, organized based on need; students with special needs, English as a second language (ESL) and disengagement — absences and missed assignments during distance learning — will be prioritized. More specifics about the hybrid return will be outlined in the District’s October 5 proposal.
“We’re looking at our newcomers who don’t speak English and may be recent immigrants,” Meyer said. “We’re looking at students with social-emotional needs that would necessitate an earlier return. Oftentimes, these same groups have internet connectivity issues.”
To identify and contact students for cohort participation, the District is using a list of “priority students” — students that fall under many of the same categories mentioned by Meyer — created by the coronavirus task force during the spring quarter. Student participation in cohorts will be completely optional; staff members, who may volunteer for cohort supervision, will also not be mandated to do so.
Meyer confirmed that Option A students unwilling to return to campus would be able to switch to Option B at a “natural break,” such as the end of a quarter or semester.
“Right now, our plan is to bring students back safely outside of distance learning,” Meyer said. “They would receive targeted support for socialization, check-ins and tutoring in addition to distance learning.”
Meyer acknowledged the difficulty of reopening a high school with over 2,000 students because of health concerns for both students and staff. To formulate its full-reopening proposal accordingly, the District is relying on county guidelines as well as student and public health data.
According to Meyer, the District is putting safety measures into place in preparation for the return. Schools are already equipped with personal protective equipment (PPE), including plexiglass, masks and gloves, and are in the process of identifying locations on campus with adequate space for cohorts.
“We’re taking a thoughtful, methodical approach to our return because we want to make sure everyone stays safe,” Meyer said.
Although the District takes state guidelines into consideration, it will consult with local labor groups and the county public health department in addition to the Board. According to Meyer, county guidelines supersede the state’s, as they are “more tailored to our individual needs.”
Several community groups are also involved with planning the proposal, including the Parent Advisory Committee and MVLA teachers and administrators. Although the District has only talked to students individually, it is working on ensuring additional student representation this semester.
Tune into the MVLA board meeting on Monday, October 5, to hear more about how the District will move forward.