The Milpitas Unified School District (MUSD) is working to usher in Phase 3 of its EducatEveryWhere program, developed earlier this year to help students learn at home during the COVID-19 pandemic.
As the current school year began, the plan was for distance learning to continue for at least half the year, even if as a part of a hybrid with in-person learning.
Come mid-January, 2021, with the arrival of Phase 3, hybrid learning is expected to become the norm. This means MUSD’s elementary school students will experience a combination of distance learning and in-person learning, with the exception of those students/families who prefer to keep going with 100% distance learning.
At the moment, MUSD is in the Phase 2 Targeted Support; since October, they have been offering in-person support for students struggling with distance learning.
“Before moving to Phase 3, we must ensure our staff, students, and parents have internalized and practiced proven safety protocols, our safety checklist for in-person instruction is followed, and there is time to model with small cohorts,” MUSD Superintendent Cheryl Jordan wrote in an email to The Beat. “We continue to learn and iterate each day and understand as the county and state changes tiers, we must prepare accordingly. These factors including safety conditions in Santa Clara County and in particular our Milpitas community set the course for moving into Phase 3 of our plan.”
San Jose Unified School District also plans to offer in-person learning starting on January 5. In a letter to families last week, San Jose Unified stated that they would “continue monitoring the health information and will postpone returning students to campus if Santa Clara County moves into the red or purple tier on California’s Blueprint for a Safer Economy.”
Earlier this week, Santa Clara County Public Health officials informed the public that COVID-19 cases have been surging in the region. Last Sunday, November 8, the daily case total hit 358 new cases, which was second only to the highest daily amount of cases — 385 — which occurred on July 15.
During a Monday press conference, County Health Officer Dr. Sara Cody said that it was too early to say whether or not this would affect plans to reopen schools in early 2021. She also mentioned the possibility of moving back toward having more restrictions in Santa Clara County, should the amount of cases continue to remain high. Yesterday, November 11, the County reported that the 7-day rolling average of cases was currently at 157.
Diana Orlando, a second-grade teacher at Milpitas’s Pomeroy Elementary School and President of the Milpitas Teachers Association, told The Beat: “We miss our students and families and want to return to in-person teaching and learning as soon as it is safe; however, we are very concerned about returning especially following the holiday season with the possibility of so many large social gatherings. MTA continues to work with the District to plan and prepare for the next stage of phasing in. We want to ensure that students and staff will be safe and healthy.”
In October, after beginning in-person support for a small number of students, two COVID cases were flagged at two different MUSD sites. At the Cal Hills High School location, where 20 elementary students and 5 MUSD staff were working together in learning pods, 1 COVID case arose. And at the San Jose City College Milpitas Extension, where 33 middle and high school students, along with 4 staff members, were located, 1 COVID case was found. The Beat reached out to the district to confirm whether or not the 2 cases were students, but so far, there has been no reply. MUSD has also had 2 additional COVID cases among adult individuals working within their departments.
It also bears noting that 35 teachers and paraprofessionals across MUSD have been providing in-person support to 204 students across the district’s school campuses, and 0 COVID-19 cases have surfaced among that group. And since June, 54 preschoolers and 16 MUSD team members have been coming together in-person, also with 0 COVID cases reported.
Come January, 2021, MUSD is planning for only elementary school students, as well as Cal Hills students, to begin in-person hybrid instruction, for 1-2 days a week. In-person support will also be offered for any students who are struggling or disengaged at Milpitas High School or either of the two middle schools. It’s uncertain when hybrid learning for high-schoolers and middle-schoolers would begin, as it’s dependent upon capacity in accordance with county tiers, as well as ensuring that everything is safe.
Presently, about 300 students across the high school and middle schools are failing 3 or more classes, which is something Superintendent Jordan brought up at this week’s Board meeting…
“…That is, as you can imagine, a tremendous concern because while 90 percent of our students are doing well and engaged in distance learning, 10 percent are not,” said Jordan. “And that’s 10 percent too many, because every single student needs to be engaged.”
At the meeting, Superintendent Jordan also mentioned that MUSD team members are all concerned about safety, which makes it imperative that all the appropriate safety measures are in place. She noted how important it is for parents to make sure children know how to wear their masks and are prepared, and that everyone needed to “take ownership of ensuring we have a safe community by not stretching the protocols and parameters that our public health department has set upon us.”
“It takes all of us,” said the superintendent. “It can’t just be one of us or a few of us. It takes every single one of us.”
Another Board report on COVID will be included in the next Board meeting, which is scheduled for Tuesday, November 24.