School Board approves revised reopening plan

Another long, contentious, and mentally exhausting school board meeting ended with the approval of Resolution Number 11022020-A, Reopening Plan, and Return to In-Person Instruction.

School board members failed to approve the reopening plan that was presented on Oct. 19, which would have allowed some students to resume in-person instruction beginning Nov 2. The revised schedule delays the start of in-person instruction until Nov. 30.

The board meeting was not accessible to the public except via WebEx because social distancing protocols could not be followed in the board room. The large meeting room that has recently been used to allow for in-person attendance is used as a satellite office on Election Day and was therefore unavailable.

Superintendent Phil Alfano addressed a spreading rumor that Patterson is a COVID-19 “hotspot” using data available from the county. Stanislaus County’s current positivity rate is listed as 3.2%, accounting for approximately 7.2 positive cases per day per 100,000 people. Patterson has averaged 4.3 positive cases per day since March, which is comparable to other cities in the county that have reopened schools using a similar blended model.

Mary Crawford, PHS teacher and President of Patterson Association of Teachers, addressed board members during the meeting. She reminded the board that this revised plan, as well as the previous reopening plan, was constructed with support and input from teachers. She shared her own experience as a virtual teacher instructing PHS students who don’t interact and are falling behind. Crawford credited the District with listening to the concerns of stakeholders to develop a safe reopening plan. “Elementary wants to come back. Students need to be back.”

Christina Garcia, President of CSEA, recounted an interaction she had recently with a student in her cohort classroom. When asked if she was glad to be back at school, the student, who is homeless, told Garcia that she wants to be in class. She said when she’s at school, she doesn’t have to think about what’s going on at home. Garcia is in favor of the reopening plan and also believes that students need to be back in classrooms.

There were 12 public comments read aloud. Of those, four parents and two teachers called to reopen classrooms. “….Parents should at least have the opportunity to send their children to school if they would like to.” –Christine Dodd, a teacher at Northmead elementary.

“My fourth grader gets frustrated when a program he is working on won’t work correctly. He is constantly having to click the text to fill in work, jumping between a WebEx, several opened tab, making sure his work is complete, has left him emotionally drained, and myself crying in a hallway. Please reopen our schools not just for the education of our children but for the mental, physical and emotional wellbeing of them also.” – Rochelle Pepmeier.

“I couldn’t be more sorry to the members of this community for continuing to express your valid feelings to be met with roadblocks wherever you turn. I am sorry that this has turned from a health and safety concern into trying to show that distance learning is not a valuable learning tool during a global pandemic. Cases are on the rise in our community, and we don’t want to be caught sending children back into the classroom only to throw them back into distance learning shortly after.” – Sophia Hernandez.

PJUSD’s Registered Nurse Kimberly Job recommended a year-round school schedule as well as clear and firm health and safety rules for mitigating the spread of COVID-19.

Ultimately the board was split 4 to 3, but the resolution was passed. Carlos Fierros, Jeffrey Cross, Michele Bays, and Kitty Vossekuil voted to approve the resolution. Ryan Segoviano, Amanda Lozano, and Jose Reynoso voted against the resolution.

Trustee Area 1 candidate Kieran Carter was appointed by a majority vote. Trustee Area 5 candidate Deja Nair was appointed by a majority vote. Both seats were open for Provisional Appointment due to Failure to Elect. Area 1 only received one application. Area 5 received two.

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