The school board meeting on Nov. 16 lasted two hours, an occurrence that is more common than not in this time of COVID-19 planning and decision making.
Public comments were read aloud by district staff. A total of 10 comments were received. Nine of those supported the district’s plan to reopen. Several comments were in regard to the pre-formal autism classes at West Valley Learning Center that won’t be reopening until Jan. 19 if the board approves the plan presented by Veronica Miranda.
Assistant Superintendent Veronica Miranda presented board members with a full reopening plan that included class schedules, cafeteria and recess protocols for pre-formal autism classes, State Preschool, and Patterson Preschool Academy. Specific cohort limitations in the preschool program were explained due to state and licensing restrictions limiting the number of students in each cohort and the number of cohorts a teacher is allowed to service.
Grants and Communications Coordinator for PJUSD, Johnny Padilla, conducted a Student Focus Group in which eight students from grades six through 12 were given the opportunity to share their perspectives and opinions about distance learning and school reopening plans.
Two students from Creekside and Walnut Grove each, as well as four students from Patterson High, were initially invited to be interviewed. One of the students appeared to have had a technical difficulty and was unavailable to participate in the focus group.
Students responded to questions about the difficulty of the work being assigned, the amount of work being assigned, technical difficulties that have been experienced, and the accessibility of their teachers, whether perceived or actual. Most students agreed that the work that has been assigned is not overly difficult. They also agreed that the amount of work assigned is excessive, and they struggle to stay on task and complete assignments. Some students also described a feeling of disconnect from their teachers that prevented them from feeling comfortable reaching out when they don’t understand the material being taught.
Students were asked about their concerns regarding mental health during distance learning and fears of the COVID-19 virus upon returning to in-person classes. All students responded with at least some concern about their own mental health or that of their classmates or siblings, specifically noting depression and anxiety. Fears of the virus were leveled at the potential spread amongst parents, grandparents, and other high-risk groups.
Although students expressed some concern and apprehension about returning to in-person classes overall, they expressed a desire to be back on campus.
The school reopening plan was discussed at length by various district staff members. The School Reopening Plan - Guidelines for a Healthy & Safe Return to Our Schools has been published on PJUSD’s website in a user-friendly format with graphics for students and parents. The district plans to distribute the document on Nov. 20 after a WebEx Parent Meeting on Nov. 19.