SCUSD Board adopts return to school plan, anti-racism training
Here's what happened at the Sac City Unified School District (SCUSD) board meeting on March 4.
Thanks to Mo Kashmiri for taking detailed notes of what we summarize below.
What happened at this meeting?
1) RETURN TO SCHOOL PLAN ADOPTED-
SCUSD Trustees voted unanimously to return to a hybrid form of in-person learning. Students will have the choice to return to a concurrent hybrid model (similar to Elk Grove and others), or continue distance learning. Students will attend school in-person for two days each week and distance learning the other three days each week. Classes will be in cohorts (smaller groups) to ensure safety and physical distancing. While there was debate about what model to return to, there were pros and cons to all models, and none of them are perfect. The District will also continue to operate learning hubs for a small number of students who need more support.
TIMELINE (assuming the District meets CDC, CDPH, and County guidelines)
o April 8 – Return of PreK – 3 students, and K-6 Special Day Classes
o April 15 – Return of 4-6 grade students
o May 6 – Return of 7-12 grade students (if Sacramento County is in Red Tier)
More details about each learning option can be found at www.learn.scusd.edu/.
The District has added more MERV13 HEPA filters and increased the number of portable air filters, which has been a concern among staff. However, unlike other Districts, SCUSD did not develop their reopening plan in collaboration with their principals and staff. The directive came from the top-down, a style of decision-making not conducive for long-term labor partnership and buy-in.
One challenge to the return plan is that the City was not planning to offer its “4th R” city-funded after-school programs. This could be a major challenge to working families’ ability to actually send their kids back to hybrid in-person learning. Some parents are advocating that the City Council reinstate this program, but with students expected to return April 8, the window is tight.
Board Member Lavinia Phillips commented about the need to ensure more outreach to communities that are usually left out, and ensuring that there is access to information in many languages.
Chinua Rhodes stated “getting info out to the community is often where we stumble and that often comes back to bite us. That info should be readily accessible through the District.”
2) DISTRICT SIGNS MOU RE: SPECIAL EDUCATION ASSESSMENTS
The Board unilaterally approved an MOU with Sacramento City Teachers Union that will allow the District to reduce the backlog of special education assessments that are required by state and federal law. The District has not been in compliance in terms of assessments due to the unreliable/ineffective nature of virtual platforms for this purpose during COVID. A complaint filed with the California Department of Education resulted in an investigation and directive requiring the District to start reducing its backlog through in person assessments. The key will be providing the resources required to those conducting the assessments under the MOU (teachers, volunteers) to ensure special education students’ needs can be assessed and met as required by law, without compromising the public health and safety of anyone involved.
3) DISTRICT UNANIMOUSLY ADOPTS HIGHER BUDGET RESERVE
The District received approximately $42 million of new one-time revenue since the State adopted Assembly Bill (AB) 86 (the COVID-19 relief and school reopening bill) which allows for new money to help schools open due to COVID-19. AB86 also gives more financial incentives through grants for schools to open. The District is also expected to receive additional one-time money from the Federal Government as a result of the stimulus bill recently signed by President Biden. While there have been concerns about an ongoing structural budget deficit and receivership, for now… the attention is on this influx of funds.
The Board unanimously adopted a resolution for a 5% reserve (instead of the state mandated 2% reserve). It also changed the policy so that one-time funding shall not be used for ongoing expenditures except as a last resort.
4) DISTRICT ADOPTS LIMITED ANTI-RACISM TRAINING
The District announced it was starting anti-racism training for school principals. They expect it to then filter down to staff. It’s a start - but anti-racism and anti-bias training should be available to all staff across the board - directly.
Erin Duarte’s (sp?) comments to the District underscored “Every staff member needs this training and they need it undiluted...without what amounts to a ‘game of telephone’...Anti-racist training cannot be skimped on nor done without the intense time and effort it requires”
Direct anti-racism/anti-bias training is an ongoing expense that the Board has not committed to.
Are there important next steps on this issue?
Short-term: Extra eyes are needed to ensure after-school programs are adopted by the City and the District.
Long-Term: Advocacy is needed to increase District funding to give the education our students deserve. The vast majority of SCUSD's students are low-income, foster-youth, English language learners, etc. Long-term improvements to facilities and movement towards community school models (with wraparound support and staffing) are needed.