This week, Milpitas Unified School District (MUSD) called a Special Board of Education meeting to address the recent COVID surge in the community.
After confirming 760 new COVID cases in a single day, Santa Clara County announced new directives last weekend to push back against the high number of cases and hospitalizations. One of the directives involves a 2-week quarantine for anyone traveling back to Santa Clara County from beyond a distance of 150 miles.
Earlier this Fall, MUSD began conducting in-person learning sessions with students who’ve been struggling with the online learning format. A total of 372 students have been meeting with staff members for short sessions across various sites throughout the district. Since September, a total of 7 MUSD staff members and 1 student have tested positive for COVID-19.
One of the most recent COVID cases occurred toward the end of November, at the district’s Rose Elementary CDC preschool program, which has been serving 54 students in-person since June.
At this Monday’s special meeting, the board discussed how best to move forward with in-person learning in light of the high possibility that, despite the County’s warning to refrain from travel, many families did leave town over the Thanksgiving holiday.
Diana Orlando, President of the Milpitas Teachers Association (MTA), called in to speak at the meeting, saying, “It’s imperative we shut down for these next 2 weeks, if not 3 weeks…I do not understand why we would want to put people — teachers, staff, admin, kids, especially our kids — why would we want to put them at risk?”
Machelle Kessinger, Area C Director of the California School Employees Association (CSEA), spoke next, agreeing with Orlando: “…if that’s what it takes, shutting down for 2 weeks through winter break…I think we need to take a breath and just really pause and think about why we’re doing this,” said Kessinger. “And it’s because we care about our community, our students, and our staff.”
A couple of parents also spoke, expressing their concern that if in-person learning was paused for a period of time, their children who are undergoing special education might regress.
Milpitas High School Principal Francis Rojas acknowledged the difficulty of the decision faced by the school board. At the same time, he mentioned a group of 6-8 students who were unable to make distance learning work for them. “It’s a really small group,” said Principal Rojas. “It’s 6-8 students spread out into two groups of 3 or 4. And the interactions are limited to — at max — 75 minutes. And this is the group I’m most concerned about around disruption to learning…”
In the end, the board agreed to give direction to move forward with a 2-week quarantine period and pause all in-person learning for the most part. (They’ll still be providing some in-person support to those students with exceptional needs.)
Due to the COVID-19 surge, it is uncertain as to whether the district will continue to move forward on their plans to reopen elementary schools for 1-2 days a week come January.
Keep reading The Beat for updates on this story.