Tensions rise and tea is spilled as Superintendent Cammack reveals an updated reopening plan during Wednesday’s school board meeting
“I’d like someone to say that to my face when we go back in person.”
“You’re a bully and a disgrace.”
The exchange above is just one of many emotionally-charged responses at Wednesday’s school board meeting as a group of parents push FUDTA, the Fremont Unified District Teachers Association, to accept FUSD’s reopening proposal. As the one-year mark of distance learning approaches, the Superintendent announces a fairly quick opening, with elementary schools in hybrid as soon as March 29th and high schools like AHS starting hybrid on April 19th, pending approval from FUDTA.
However, March 29th isn’t the first-day FUSD students would start learning on campus. In-person education assessments were approved in December of 2020, and learning hubs, which bring select students back on campus in elementary, middle, and high schools, started on Monday, March 8th, including at AHS.
Even though the superintendent’s presentation gave an overview, proposals found in the Returning to Campus Dashboard go into more detail about what a hybrid model would look like for each type of schooling. According to FUSD’s secondary education proposal, dated March 5th, (the same day as the signing of AB 86 that provided additional state funding for in-person education), all teachers will be required to return in person, while students can elect to continue full distance learning or the hybrid model. Also proposed are transition days before reopening that consist of slightly shortened school days so teachers can set up their classrooms and attend trainings related to reopening.
The number of cohorts will be based on those electing to enroll in the hybrid program. The proposal uses an example of three cohorts, A and B in hybrid and C as full distance learning. Each hybrid cohort would have two days of in-person instruction and one synchronous class day when all cohorts would meet online only. The plan requires teachers to teach both in-person and online at the same time.
The proposal outlines numerous safety features that are either already being implemented or will be implemented upon approval of the plan, such as one-way walkways and HVAC systems in every classroom to mitigate the risk of transmission. However, while those exhibiting signs of COVID-19 will be sent home, it is not clear whether those who have been in contact with the symptomatic student will also quarantine.
While some community members see this as a long-time coming, others are concerned about the motive behind reopening before the school year is over. To get the in-person instructional grant from the state under SB-86, a hefty 10.2 million dollars, FUSD must offer instruction by April 1st. The expanded learning grants have a less stringent deadline but still push for in-person education, and with a higher incentive of 21.6 million dollars. Superintendent Cammack denies that the district is rushing for the sake of money, a concern brought up multiple times during public comment.
“I want to clarify, as has been shared with our community before, the Covid-19 safety plan for Fremont Unified was published on February 1st, it was a public document for a long time, and it’s already been approved by the California Department of Public Health. So the decision to bring it back to the board is really just based on a condition of the new legislation,” says Cammack.
Some FUSD parents, such as speaker Arun Romani, worry that delaying reopening and foregoing state money would affect students negatively.
“Everyone has been wondering where we will get the money to address the growing mental health epidemic, which is being caused due to the pandemic. We have to take it . . . you would fail the students if you do not secure this funding. Show that you really care, and do what’s required to get this funding,” comments Romani.
Some teachers speaking at the board meeting expressed less excitement about the state funding, disillusioned with the idea that any type of in-person education is better for students. Lane Melcic, a teacher at Mission San Jose, shares the parent’s desire to be back in the classroom, but is wary of the consequences of learning loss that could occur from the proposed hybrid proposal.
“A neighboring district, New Haven, has been working on a return plan for the entire school year, and just recently came to the logical conclusion that returning this year would cause more harm to its students than it’s worth; perhaps FUSD should also be conserving its limited resources and just make plans for opening safely and successfully in the fall. . . we must be honest and acknowledge to our community, that if we move to a hybrid schedule so late in the school year, our students will have less interaction with their teachers, not to mention the time it will take for students to readjust to all the new variables,” says Melcic.
The proposal is set to return to the board on March 24th at 6:30 pm for action, five days before the start of some of the proposed campus openings. It is available to watch via livestream or on the Fremont Comcast Cable, Channel 26 and 1084. At least 72 hours before the board meeting, links to the zoom meeting, a Google form to submit written comments, and a guide to making verbal public comments during the zoom meeting will be available on the meeting’s agenda.