In response to the omicron surge, the vast majority of students in the Milpitas Unified School District (MUSD) have opted to stay home and receive synchronous learning online this week.
After students and staff returned from Winter Break on January 3, school sites were overwhelmed with rising case numbers and staff shortages. MUSD’s data from last Thursday revealed that over 10% of students across the district were absent. Test kits were running out and staff members were overwhelmed, scrambling to find ways to cover classes.
In an effort to help stop the spread and create a safe learning environment for students and staff, MUSD found a creative solution – they decided that they would ask parents to sign an Independent Study Contract, per Assembly Bill 130, to allow their kids to stay home and learn remotely for the week of January 10. Not only that, but all students would be on the same bell schedules, with their teachers present online and teaching.
An initial message from the Office of the Superintendent which went out to families on January 7 stated that “ALL MUSD SCHOOLS WILL BE PLACED ON A 10-DAY DISTRICT-WIDE QUARANTINE.” The quarantine was to last from January 10-January 17. Families were asked to sign the Independent Study Contracts to initiate the process.
But after consulting with Santa Clara County Office of Education’s County Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Mary Ann Dewan, the district discovered that it could not legally call for a quarantine; it’s something that only the County and State are able to do. MUSD also realized that they had to make something abundantly clear: Families had to know that they were the ones in charge of deciding whether or not to keep their children at home to learn remotely, based on the risk to their health and safety.
With this in mind, MUSD sent out new messaging to district families on January 8, letting them know that the in-person option would still be available to them, should they choose not to sign the contract.
After the new message was sent out, many parents took to social media, unsure about whether or not they could still keep their children home to learn for the following week. Families were further confused by headlines from local media outlets stating that MUSD had reversed their decision and that Milpitas schools would remain open after all.
MUSD teachers and principals spent hours on the phone last weekend, clarifying the situation to parents.
This past Monday, teachers began the process of teaching students remotely. Over 90% of students in the district have been learning from home. Students who opted to go to school in-person also attend virtually via chromebooks.
Data reported at yesterday’s MUSD Board of Education meeting shows that attendance rates have spiked across the district.
Last Thursday, the attendance rate was at 92.79%. But this Monday showed a rate of 97.18%. At yesterday’s board meeting, Superintendent Cheryl Jordan attributed the change in attendance to the fact that staff and students who are quarantining can still get access to learning.
The Beat spoke on the issue to Devi Sreepada, a parent of two Curtner Elementary School students. Sreepada praised the school district for their hard work and for coming up with a solution that would allow her to keep her kids safe at home this week, while still learning.
“It’s been going remarkably well,” she said. “The teachers are there all through the day. And I feel like my kids are getting exactly what they would get in-person.”