The Black Oak Mine Unified School District is committed to returning to face-to-face instruction as quickly as possible. That date is likely to be October 5, 2020. The process for returning to face-to-face instruction is complex and involves decisions for which there simply are no precedences. Additionally, decisions have to be made on partial, sometimes conflicting state and federal guidance - guidance that has evolved over time. This summary attempts to compile seven months worth of information, experience, and activities, albeit in a highly abbreviated manner. The intent of this summary and a subsequent document specific to hybrid, is to provide the Board and community with the full range of instructional models currently available to the BOMUSD, including the associated risks for each.
The description of instructional models is intended to provide a conceptual framework for each so that the Board may consider and evaluate the merits and risks. The associated lists of pros and cons are by no means exhaustive. Any transition to a hybrid model is unprecedented and there will be at least some aspect of trial and error.
Generally speaking, the Center for Disease Control, in their document Considerations for K-12 Schools: Readiness and Planning Tool, asks that districts be mindful of the following guiding principles:
Lowest Risk: Students and teachers engage in virtual-only classes, activities, and events.
More Risk: Small, in-person classes, activities, and events. Groups of students stay together and with the same teacher throughout/across school days and groups do not mix.
Highest Risk: Full sized, in person classes, activities, and events. Students are not spaced apart, share classroom materials or supplies, and mix between classes and activities.
II. Background -
In March of 2020, the BOMUSD transitioned fully to Distance Learning due to COVID. Over the summer, the District convened a Reentry Task Force to develop a plan for the start of the 2020-2021 school year. The goal was to reopen our schools in the safest and most traditional manner possible. Also over the summer, El Dorado County Superintendents worked exhaustively and in partnership with the El Dorado County Office of Public Health to understand the state and federal guidance and how to implement it in El Dorado County school districts.
Part of the guidance, issued by California Department of Public Health (CDPH), included a clear expectation of routine testing for all staff and the need for rapid results on student testing. Mirroring a lack of testing capacity at state and federal levels, El Dorado County did not have the capacity to adequately address this guidance. As a result, joining with the vast majority of other El Dorado County school districts, the BOMUSD decided to start the 2020-2021 school year utilizing Distance Learning for all students. It was anticipated that adequate testing for staff and students would be in place 6-8 weeks after the start of school. Capacity to address the CDPH guidance, in fact, now exists for both staff and students. This, of course, means that the Black Oak Mine Unified School District should move to face-to-face instruction, in some manner.
Also over the course of the summer, it appeared likely that El Dorado County would end up on the Watchlist of counties, which did not happen - El Dorado County has never been placed on the Watchlist, nor does it appear likely it will. In fact, it appears likely El Dorado County will soon move from Substantial to Moderate risk on the State’s new color-coded system. This positions the District to quickly transition to some form of face-to-face instruction.
Having never been on the Watchlist, El Dorado County school districts and the BOMUSD, in particular, are NOT subject to the social distancing rules required of districts on the Watchlist.
The BOMUSD has yet to have a documented positive test.
III. Current Status -
To give time for adequate testing capacity, the BOMUSD started the 2020-2021 school year under a Distance Learning model - all students receive instruction remotely via Google Classroom. Instruction includes both synchronous instruction and asynchronous student work provided on a daily basis. Again, the District has a clear state delivered mandate to open for face-to-face instruction as soon as possible. As such, the District has already transitioned to small group, face-to-face instruction for the most vulnerable of student populations.
Negotiations regarding impacts and effects are ongoing with both certificated and classified employee groups.
Withholding volumes of the work conducted to provide high-quality and rigorous Distance Learning, suffice it to say tremendous gains have been made with regard to technology, connectivity, instructional technology practices, and staff development. It appears likely that much of this work will provide enduring positive impacts on instruction, regardless when the District returns to a face-to-face instructional model.
In preparation for a transition to face-to-face instruction, the District has surveyed students, parents, and staff with regard to their preferences and concerns. The results are summarized, as attached (attachment #1). For purposes of this summary, it is critical to know that nearly a quarter of families indicate they will remain on Distance Learning, regardless of how the District returns to face-to-face instruction. Obviously, this means the District must continue to offer a Distance Learning option for the balance of the school year.
It is imperative to know, regardless of the manner in which the District returns to face-to-face instruction, that the District is following and will continue to follow all state and federal guidance regarding personal hygiene, facility sanitization, and personal protective equipment.
IV. Instructional Delivery Models -
Distance Learning. The Distance Learning model represents the status quo and is the model with the Lowest Risk.
Hybrid. A hybrid model places students in cohorts and reduces exposure to COVID by reducing the number of minutes/days students attend school in a face-to-face manner and assumes More Risk.
Traditional. A traditional model returns students and staff to face-to-face instruction without respect to cohorts and assumes Highest Risk.
Given El Dorado County’s past and current risk, Substantial - Tier 2, and the likelihood of improving that status, Moderate - Tier 3, each of the above models are available to the District. Recently, this was confirmed by El Dorado County’s Public Health Officer.
V. Determination -
The Black Oak Mine Unified School District’s Board of Trustees is holding two meetings in the month of September to review the models. It is anticipated that the Board will take action at the second meeting in September to decide in what manner the District plans a return to face-to-face instruction on October 5, 2020. Under separate cover and with regard to the instructional models, the Board will receive greater detail, the pros and cons of each, and the associated risks for each; however, the Board and community already understand Distance Learning and Traditional models. Therefore, it is important to provide some initial, broad detail of what is meant by hybrid.
Hybrid places students in cohorts by limiting the number of minutes and/or days of face-to-face instruction. Fundamentally, there are two ways to accomplish this. First, roughly half the student population attends for only a portion of the school day - AM/PM hybrid. Second, roughly half the student population attends for only a portion of the week - A/B day hybrid.
Both hybrid models have inherent complexities that will be described and provided to the Board under separate cover. It is anticipated that this information and the subsequent discussion will occur at the second meeting in September, resulting in a Board decision for face-to-face instruction, in some manner, beginning October 5, 2020.