Piedmont Unified is in DISTANCE LEARNING until further notice. Distance learning worsens educational inequalities and students are estimated to lose months of learning which could harm an entire generation.
What happens when Alameda County satisfies the Governor’s criteria and the school board regains autonomy? This question should be answered by all candidates for our school board.
On June 24th Dr. Rutherford attended our school board meeting as an epidemiologist familiar with Piedmont and our schools. I was thrilled because I knew he had the right expertise having published a scientific paper on reducing hospitalizations working closely with epidemiologists. Rutherford testified that with precautions including masks and social distancing it is next to impossible for a student to infect a teacher and that student infections rarely result in complications requiring hospitalization.
The school district took Dr. Rutherford’s advice and crafted a hybrid option to allow parents to choose 50% classroom instruction or 100% distance learning. The hybrid option required daily clearances prior to student and staff participation, daily deep cleanings, frequent air changes per hour within all classrooms, and many other precautions.
The majority of parents were convinced regarding the safety of this modified classroom instruction and that majority persists in my recent survey as well as a Gallup survey of parents nationwide. An even larger percentage of parents were happy with having the choice of learning options. It was not a matter of either distance or hybrid learning but a choice based on risk assessments by individual households as the CDC recommends.
Despite the success with parents, teacher-endorsed board members and many teachers remained unconvinced that the precautions being taken would withstand the testing and hospitalization surges. Having a range of increasingly stricter precautions would allow classroom instruction to continue during unplanned hospitalization rate surges. A public summit with experts like Dr. Rutherford, teachers, and board members would allow the school district to find base implement additional precautions to address their concerns.
Days before the Governor put our county on a watchlist and during a closed session our school board ordered a distance learning plan for all students. They did not follow prior criteria for closing schools or specify criteria for resuming the hybrid option or reveal what transpired behind closed doors. Why were classrooms closed before higher-risk segments of the economy were? Dr. Rutherford was not consulted about this change in direction. This action was the opposite of following policies crafted by scientific research and approved by local epidemiologists.
Full-disclosure transparency behind decisions that impact all students reaching their potential is of the utmost importance. The school board should use its legal autonomy to maximize the safety and achievement of every student in Piedmont.