Los Altos School Board, June 2021

LASD Board Meeting June 1, 2021

The board members voted unanimously to adopt a new math curriculum for grades TK-5 following a brief presentation and public hearing.

The Citizens Advisory Committee of Finance (CACF) presented their annual report, which showed that the district is in a strong financial position. Reserves are above target levels and projected to increase due to stable tax growth and flat enrollment. LASD facility maintenance fees are higher than those of neighboring districts, so the CACF advised setting aside $5 million from Measure N ($1 million per year for 5 years) to upgrade aging facilities. (Measure N was approved by voters in 2014, allowing the district to issue bonds in order to fund facility upgrades and the purchase of a new school site.)

Assistant Superintendent Randy Kenyon presented the 2021-22 District Budget. The budget projects that revenue will exceed expenses by about $900,000 next year, bringing the district’s total reserves to almost 15%.  Property tax revenue is expected to increase by 4% while federal and other state funding sources will decrease because one-time funding to address the pandemic will be withdrawn. Expenses will also decrease for a variety of reasons, including carryover from the 2020-21 budget and the cessation of COVID-related spending. Multi-year projections show reserves growing year over year.

For more information about the budget, please see item H.10 from the agenda for the June 1 meeting.

LASD Board Meeting June 8, 2021

Assistant Superintendent Sandra McGonagle presented preliminary results from the spring academic assessments in reading and math. Despite the pandemic, the percentage of students testing below grade level was similar to previous years, with  87% of students at or above grade level in both subject areas.

The board of trustees voted unanimously to approve the 2021-22 District Budget.

Superintendent Jeff Baier also announced increased compensation for both teachers and staff.

The board will meet on Monday, June 21 to vote on the following:

  1. A one-time payment in the amount of $1000 per FTE (full-time equivalent) for the 2020-21 school year for both teachers and staff
  • A 5% raise for all teachers and staff (in addition to the 2% raise approved earlier this school year) for the 2021-22 school year to keep salaries competitive

The board also approved the annual report from the Measure N Citizens Oversight Committee. The annual report included a clean audit showing that all Measure N expenditures during the 2019-20 fiscal year met the spending requirements specified by the measure.

LASD Board Meeting June 21, 2021

The board voted unanimously to approve the increased compensation for both teachers and staff (including non-represented employees) as discussed during the last board meeting on June 8, 2021.

Stella Kam, Observer

Los Altos School District May 2021

May 10, 2021

LASD is eligible to receive $2.28 million in grant money from the State of California for the purpose of learning recovery post-pandemic. The funds must be used by August 31, 2022. The board approved the Expanded Learning Opportunities Grant Plan as presented by Assistant Superintendent McGonagle in order to apply for this funding. Full details of the plan can be found here.

An LASD subcommittee will be meeting with the City of Los Altos on June 2 at 7:15 pm to discuss topics of mutual interest, including Safe Routes to School, public housing, and school site decisions. The full agenda can be found here:

May 24, 2021

The State of California has signaled that virtual instruction will no longer be required next school year (2021-2022). When the decision is officially announced, LASD will notify parents of student placement, with the expectation that all students will be back on campus full-time.

LASD is proposing the adoption of a new math curriculum for grades TK – 5. The curriculum chosen for adoption comes from San Francisco Unified, and Assistant Superintendent McGonagle gave a detailed presentation outlining the reasons for this choice. There will be a public hearing at the next regular board meeting (June 1 at 7 pm) for further discussion before the board votes. Assistant Superintendent. McGonagle also wanted to reassure parents that the current 7th and 8th grade math offerings (including accelerated math) will not change.

In order to minimize conflicts with MVLA school board meetings, LASD approved a revised board meeting schedule for the 2021-2022 school year. Most LASD board meetings will now take place on the first and third Monday of each month. The full meeting schedule can be found here:

Stella Kam, Observer

Los Altos School District April 2021

April 25, 2021

Mr. Baier and Mrs. McGonagle shared that students in grades TK – 6 are now attending classes in-person 5 days a week (effective April 20, 2021). Junior High students are continuing with the hybrid schedule (2 days a week in-person for each cohort) but now have extended hours on campus as well an additional opportunity to meet with teachers virtually on Wednesdays. Summer school will be in-person at Santa Rita Elementary School and the first round of invitations will be going out this week.

For next school year (2021-2022), plans are being made to have all LASD students back on campus 5 days a week. It’s not yet clear whether virtual school will be an option. Under normal circumstances, the education code does not count virtual attendance as true attendance, and the district does not know when Governor Newsom’s special order for virtual instruction will be rescinded.

Sarah Stern-Benoit (LASD Director of Communications) presented the results from the parent survey conducted in March of 2021. Over 1100 LASD families responded, and of those over 93% are prepared to send their children back to campus 5 days a week. A little over one quarter of respondents (26%) agreed with this statement: “I am working regularly with my child every day on school work and I am overwhelmed.” 21% of respondents have “hired a tutor for the first time due to distance learning.” (5% of respondents had already hired tutors pre-pandemic.) A commentor asked to see some of the answers broken down by grade, as it could be the case that younger students need significantly more support. Another takeaway from the survey is that students need more social connection and community experiences, so that will be an area of focus for the district moving forward. There will be another survey going out to parents over the summer regarding enrollment.

Mrs. McGonagle presented information about upcoming academic assessments in math and language arts for students. Board member Mr. Ivanovic wanted to inform parents that they can opt-out of these assessments by notifying their school principal in writing.

The Board voted to approve the 2019-2020 audited financial report which showed the reserves at a healthy level (11.2%) and significantly increased revenue generated by the sale of development rights on excess land around the 10th site (purchased to build a new school).

Stella Kam, Observer

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