The Governing Board of Coronado Unified School District met on Zoom on Thursday, December 17, marking the last meeting of the year. New board members Whitney Antrim and Stacy Keszei joined veteran members Lee Pontes, Esther Valdez-Clayton and Helen Anderson-Cruz to discuss the recent school closure, learning remediation plans, and the Equity Action Committee.
“I know the huge undertaking and disruption that closing school midweek caused for our families, our staff and our students, but we really appreciate everyone’s efforts to provide the continuity of learning and to understand that we are operating on the best of ability to provide safe learning experiences for our students, and that our commitment to bringing our students back as quickly and safely as possible will not waiver,” said CUSD Superintendent Karl Mueller, in regards to the sudden school closure that began on December 9.
Mueller shared that there are staff members and members of the extended CUSD community who have been hospitalized, and he looks forward to a time of “health and prosperity” when the district can move forward. He also thanked district nurse Jo Ellen Semo, who has been busy contact tracing and keeping the district in compliance with health and safety protocols.
Director of Student Services Niamh Foley shared that the Equity Action Committee has held two sessions, each with more than 40 people in attendance. Over the next two years, there will be three primary phases: building trust and the equity community, building the team that will dive into the data and start looking at equitable practices in CUSD, and lastly the action phase which will help ensure inclusive practices for the district. She shared the district has added an equity web page to the district website which shows the agenda of each meeting and the slides shared at each meeting, with links to resources in an effort to be transparent to the community.
When it comes to instructional learning updates, Dr. Megan Battle shared that AM/PM cohorts for elementary schools are expected to return on January 5, whereas Coronado middle and high schools will begin the new year with Bridge Learning. The schedules will be updated in January, as CUSD continues to prep for a hybrid return for CMS and CHS.
Dr. Battle also shared that the district is trying to utilize outdoor spaces for electives such as band and choir which have much stricter regulations for safety procedures, as well as P.E. This could potentially extend to other classes as well, she explained, in response to a question from Keszei.
“Our site administrators have been looking at how we can optimize our outdoor spaces, whether we have pop up tents where classes are meeting outside, as being outdoors is a safer option for longer periods of time,” said Battle.
When it comes to indoor learning, Battle shared that all safety regulations will be followed: masks, six-feet of distance, and plexiglass shields when appropriate.
In response to a question that Valdez-Clayton asked, in regards to equity when it comes to internet connection for CUSD students, Foley shared that, according to her data, 100% of students are connected. However, some students on the Strand have experienced trouble in regards to the strength of the connection. She said they are working with the resources to help students work outside of Strand Hall where the connection is strong.
Antrim raised a question in regards to air quality ratings, if the district had data or records of air quality at the various campuses. Deputy Superintendent Donnie Salamanca said that the district is routinely required to conduct air quality tests on campuses, and in preparation for in-person return of students, they have increased the frequency at which they change the air filters and maintain the filtration systems. Salamanca said the district has upgraded to the most powerful filtration systems where possible.
Antrim also asked about the new COVID testing site in Coronado that is set to open in January, and asked if staff, faculty and/or students will have access to this facility, as many testing centers nearby have closed.
“It’s my understanding that we would have access as residents and employees to the City of Coronado’s testing site,” said Salamanca. “In addition, we are working on another opportunity to provide testing on site on our campuses. The district is in partnership with the California and San Diego Department of Health to pilot rapid testing for students and staff. We hope to hope to roll it out as early as January.”
Pontes said he still wants to see kids back in the classroom, and he’s encouraged by the district’s efforts to bring CMS and CHS students back to campus. But the district can only do so much in accordance with safety protocols and guidelines, and it’s time to start helping the students who are falling behind, he said.
“In regards to the pandemic rates…this is a rope I can’t push,” said Pontes. “But it’s fairly obvious that there are a lot of students who have fallen behind. Until we get the pandemic under control, we are limited in what we can do. The light at the end of the tunnel is that the vaccines are coming out. But I would like to begin a conversation on how we are going to catch these kids up.”
Pontes suggested that the district consider a “robust” summer school program, extending the school year or allowing students to repeat a year of education.
“I think it’s time for us to begin a serious conversation so we can present something to our parents that presents them with hope,” said Pontes. “So parents realize, OK, my district does have concern for my child, concern for the education that they have lost, that they have a plan to get them caught up.”
“We need to brainstorm ideas to help our students academically, and summer school is a great idea,” said Anderson-Cruz. “With many options for our students, K-12, as there are foundational skills in elementary school you need to have, in order to move on. I would like to see this as an agenda item.”
Valdez-Clayton underscored the urgent nature of learning remediation, and said things needed to get started sooner, rather than later. She said some districts are sending kids home with supplemental materials for a “Saturday school.”
“The sooner, the better,” Valdez-Clayton said in regards to learning interventions. “I’m all about not waiting for summer to happen. There’s a lot of scaffolding that can happen now.”
In other business, Salamanca shared that the district budget is healthy, and is set to enter future “uncertain times” with projected reserves for the 2020-2021 school year of more than $14 million.
In his long range plan update, Mueller brought up the concern of wellness and morale of teachers and staff. He said the district is working with Association of Coronado Teachers and the California Teachers Association to establish connections and boost morale.
“Students aren’t the only ones feeling isolated and disconnected, our staff members are feeling the same way,” said Mueller.
Parents are encouraged to continue checking emails from the district in regards to school re-opening and scheduling for January.