Patterson’s School Board held a special meeting at 7 a.m. on July 20 to approve an alternative academic calendar for the 2020-2021 school year. The school year will begin on September 8, 2020, and end June 17, 2021. The calendar was proposed at the regular meeting on July 13.

The hope in pushing the back-to-school date to September rather than the traditional August date was that students would have a better chance of being able to return to in-person classes, thus affording them more face to face learning.

Governor Newsom held a press conference on July 17 that more or less dashed that hope.

Newsom’s most recent mandate requires schools to remain closed to in-person classes if the school district’s county has not been off the monitoring list for 14 days or more.

If the district’s county has been on the monitoring list for 14 days or more, it must open with distance learning.

Stanislaus County is one of 33 California counties on the COVID-19 monitoring list used by the Department of Public Health to determine social restrictions based on infection data.

During the meeting, Superintendent Phil Alfano acknowledged that unless something drastic happens, “we will be opening with distance learning” in September.

Distance learning could be improved

School staff will be using the delayed schedule to better prepare for full distance learning.

Assistant Superintendent of Education Services Veronica Miranda spoke during a Webex meeting for staff on July 15. She discussed the results of the parent and teacher surveys. More than 500 comments from both helped identify some of the aspects of distance learning that could be improved.

Sentiments echoed by parents included the preference of weekly versus daily assignments, daily check-ins, recorded or live video lessons, and a more structured schedule.

Teachers wanted more training on the platforms they would be using for lessons, support in offering recorded lessons, and clear expectations of teachers and students through distance learning. Some teachers also reported concerns about student engagement in lessons, student and teacher access/connection to the internet, and student emotional or social connection.

The Superintendent’s Office confirmed that vendors would be contacted for professional development to ensure successful instruction with the added benefit of PJUSD’s compliance with Governor Newsom’s mandate that distance learning is rigorous.

Safety measures

Also discussed during the staff meeting were some of the district’s steps since March to comply with ever-changing safety rules.

PJUSD has received 200 tables and 100 benches to accommodate outdoor eating at various sites. One shade structure per site has been ordered, and all are expected to be installed in September. Face shields and masks were ordered as preference dictated. 

Also discussed were significant, permanent structural changes made to the custodial department. To comply with health and safety standards and better serve the district’s needs, several custodial supervisors will lead teams at night. This will increase the efficiency of the custodial department, improve cleanliness, and extend the school budget.

One of Patterson’s District Lead Custodians and CSEA Patterson 174 Chief Job Steward, Roy Murray is on the negotiation team and said, “They [custodial staff], initially bucked against change,” but after multiple meetings with Joe Silveira and Jeff Menge are on board, and Murray believes that the new structure will be a good change.

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