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