Los Altos School District March 2021

LASD Special Meeting March 1, 2021

Superintendent Jeff Baier announced that 7th and 8th graders will start returning to campuses this month using the blended model. (The blended model is designed such that half of the students are in-person Mon & Tues and the other half of students are in-person Thurs & Fri. When they are not in-person, students continue with virtual learning.) Other grades have already been using the blended model (see chart below for dates), with a portion of students electing to continue with virtual-only rather than spending 2 days a week in-person.

Blended Start Dates:

Special Day Classes: Sep 28

TK & 1st grade: Oct 12

Grades 2-3: Nov 9

Grades 4-5: Dec 7

Grade 6: Jan 21

Grade 7: Mar 8

Grade 8: Mar 15

Sandra McGonagle presented preliminary student performance data (reading, writing, math) for grades K-5 and emphasized that there does not appear to be learning loss in the form of regression or missed opportunities for learning.  It is too soon to tell whether there is less growth than in previous years, and there seem to be more students struggling with writing and in Kindergarten and 1st grade. She also shared that academic support is available to students that need it in the form of extra hours and subject-based interventions. Over half a dozen parents spoke during public comments to share their personal experiences and to ask for more opportunities to provide parental feedback (e.g. by conducting a parent survey). Many parents have either hired private tutors in multiple subjects or even quit their jobs to be more involved. Commentors pointed out that these factors may be compensating for academic losses that would otherwise be observed. Several parents expressed that they want more time in-person for the students, and board member Jessica Speiser replied that they are working toward that very goal. Board member Bryan Johnson stated that though the data may not show it, based on parent feedback it sounds like many students are struggling behind the scenes.

The board also gave some guidance regarding summer school offerings (which will be in-person). The board suggested casting a wider net and offering longer hours in order to boost attendance.

LASD Board Meeting March 8, 2021

Superintendent Jeff Baier shared some good news regarding school re-opening. The majority of LASD employees should be vaccinated by Spring Break, and cases continue to be very low among LASD families. (Case data can be found here: https://www.lasdschools.org/District/Portal/coronavirus-information) Grades K-12 are now subject to state health orders rather than those formerly issued by Santa Clara County. In light of these changes, the Board would like to see the school district prepare to offer in-person instruction 5 days a week. The expectation is that all students will be back on campus 5 days a week by the fall of 2021, with the possibility of doing so even sooner (especially for grades TK-3). The board would like the district to prepare to make this happen as quickly as possible and to figure out what it will cost to meet state guidelines.

Randy Kenyon presented the 2nd Interim Financial Report with updates to the budget. Funding from the Los Altos Educational Foundation (LAEF) is now expected to be $2.4 million (down from $2.7 million). COVID related spending has cost the district $2.9 million so far. $1.8 million in funding for this purpose has already been received with another $3.8 million on the way from State and National sources. The additional funds can be used retroactively to cover what has already been spent.

In December 2019, LASD purchased over 11 acres of land at the corner of California St and Showers Dr, some of which will be used to build a new school. (The property is commonly referred to as the 10th site, because there are 9 existing campuses within LASD.) The school will not occupy all the land that was purchased, so the board approved a transfer of development rights to Merlone Geier for 150,000 sq ft. This agreement will bring in $19.5 million to help pay for the construction of the new school.

LASD Board Meeting March 22, 2021

Superintendent Jeff Baier shared a recent change (effective March 20, 2021) in the CDC and California Department of Public Health guidelines stating that a 3 ft distance between students in the same cohort is now sufficient (6 ft was formerly required). In order to accommodate more students in each classroom, the school district has ordered additional single-student desks which will take a couple of weeks to arrive.

For grades TK-6, board members directed Mr. Baier and Mrs. McGonagle to prepare for the switch to 5-days of in-person instruction to occur the week after Spring Break (April 12-16). (Families may also continue with 100% virtual learning if they so choose.) Shorter school days or a minimum day on Wednesdays will be considered as a response to teacher requests for adequate prep and collaboration time. The board also instructed the district to look into longer in-person school days for 7th and 8th graders rather than switching to 5-days of in-person instruction due to the overwhelming burden of making that change.

Greg Drummond and Bhavna Narula gave a presentation on behalf of the Equity Task Force and asked the board to adopt a new framework to serve as a guide for anti-bias instruction. The board unanimously approved the new framework, which can be found here: https://agendaonline.net/public/Meeting/Attachments/DisplayAttachment.aspx?AttachmentID=1285264&IsArchive=0. The board also unanimously approved a resolution “Denouncing Hate Crimes and Bigotry Targeting Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.”

Stella Kam, League Observer

Los Altos School District February 2021

February 8, 2021

Superintendent Jeff Baier provided an update on school re-opening plans. The 7 elementary schools are fully open using a hybrid model. (Half the class in-person for 2 days, then the other half. Virtual learning when not attending in-person.) New state guidelines mean that the 2 Junior Highs cannot re-open until the county has been in the red tier for at least 5 days. There have been low COVID-19 case counts at all 9 schools, with only 26 cases since resuming in-person instruction on Sept 28, 2020. A total of 5 cohorts have been required to quarantine. CARES (Coronavirus Relief) Act funding has paid for modifications (e.g. ventilation) and supplies necessary to operate in person. PPE (including N95 masks) are available to teachers and staff who want them.

Based on the results of a mental health survey conducted in October 2020, board members would like to see better dissemination of information regarding where to go for help. LASD is working with the Community Health Awareness Council and has dedicated additional resources to better support the mental health of both staff and students (e.g. district wide training on suicide warning signs).

Randy Kenyon presented the preliminary budget and emphasized that it is still very early in the process and the numbers are subject to change. Governor Newsom is introducing a cost-of-living adjustment to the Local Control Funding Formula. Since Bullis Charter Schools receives funding from LASD based on this formula, an additional $350,000 will be owed to BCS next year. The $2.7 million grant from the Los Altos Educational Foundation is now considered to be at-risk, and the grant for next year is estimated to be $2.5 million (significantly less than in previous years). Board member Bryan Johnson commented that he feels comfortable tapping into the reserves as long as it continues to meet its target range of 8-10% in order to ameliorate the effects of the pandemic and stated that this is not the time to cut programs. The Budget Review Committee will take that into consideration when they begin meeting.

Fred Gallagher presented the mid-year report from the Citizens Advisory Committee for Finance and focused on the impact of the pandemic. Whether required to or not, LASD is considering a significant upgrade in the HVAC system, which could cost around $1 million. A member of the public commented in support of this upgrade and inquired about the use of HEPA filters. LASD experienced an unprecedented decline in enrollment this year of 11%, so the committee is preparing for a possible post-pandemic spike in enrollment next school year. The committee would also like to allocate resources to address learning loss caused by the pandemic. Governor Newsom’s proposed budget calls for one-time funds to address learning loss. LASD may be eligible for around $2.4 million in funding.

Stella Kam, Observer