The 2020-2021 school year will prove to end much different than the year it followed. That was the biggest takeaway from the most recent Oakdale Joint Unified School Board meeting hosted Monday, April 19.
As the Class of 2021 has missed out on many things by way of activities, class time and memorable events, they will not miss out on taking a seat in The Corral for a formal graduation in late May.
At the start of Monday night’s meeting, District Superintendent Marc Malone shared that the California Department of Public Health released its latest outdoor live event guidance. That guidance, Malone shared, allows a max of 20 percent for any outdoor venue.
Keeping that in mind, Malone stated the board remains committed to the graduation dates communicated to the community. He added that this latest guideline allows for this outdoor activity, yet they must adhere to the 20 percent spectator guideline.
“The high school stadium seats 3500 people, 20 percent of that equals 700 and it just so happens that we are right at roughly 350 graduates both for the junior high and the high school,” Malone said.
“This will allow for two tickets per graduate, per household,” he continued. “Tickets will be issued to the graduate. Social distancing will be adhered to in the stadium as well as the standing areas.”
The graduation ceremonies will also be video streamed for family and friends restricted from attendance.
Board member Larry Betschart posed the question of ceremony traditions, questioning the passing of diplomas and handshakes which are customary.
Malone indicated that portion of the ceremony would be modified. Graduates will continue to cross over the ramp as is customary and receive a nod versus handshake from administrators in attendance. They will be permitted to remove their mask for a formal photo before returning to their distance location on the field, with mask back in place.
“There will be no actual exchange,” Malone noted. “That’s not our rule, that’s the recommendation of the Department of Public Health.”
Distribution of diplomas will be handled separately of graduation ceremonies by the administration of each campus.
Public Comment continued to be a lengthy part of the meeting as community members remain at home and phone in to voice thoughts or concerns with the board. Close to 45 minutes of the 90-minute meeting consisted of callers phoning in, many prompting the board for resolution during the call. While the new forum of “phone ins” has become old hat now to the board, many callers were unaware of the Public Comments guideline which states: “The president may allot time to those wishing to speak, but no action will be taken on matters presented. (Education Code section 35145.5). If appropriate the president or any member of the board may direct that a matter be referred to the superintendent’s office for placement on a future agenda.”
In other business, Deputy Superintendent Dave Kline presented a synopsis of the past 13 months of guiding learning throughout the Oakdale Joint Unified school sites, noting his report as the “TK-12 Reopening Plan-Final Phase.”
“As we oversee the COVID cases related to our district, I do need to point out that we’re not seeing an uptick in cases with this increase in students being on campus,” Kline said of the current state of the district with students back on all campuses. “In fact I want to make sure the board understands, currently we have two positive cases at the elementary level and two positive cases at our seven- twelve schools for a total of four.”
Kline went on to share the State has recommended a “thoughtful and phased implementation” of returning students full-time.
“That is something that we have done,” he said.
The proposal Kline offered to the board was that effective May 3, grades TK-6 return to five day a week instruction, as well as 7-8 and 9-12.
“Five day a week full day instruction to close out the school year,” the Deputy Superintendent stated.
“The result of this, that OJUSD ends (the) 2020-2021 school year with a full traditional instruction,” Kline continued. “Setting the clear intent to re-open the 2021-22 school year in the same fashion. All existing protocols remain in place until further instruction.”
He additionally noted if the virus should begin to climb, the board can implement a return to distance learning.
Independent study remains an option for families uncomfortable with students returning to the five day a week schedule. The board voted unanimously in favor of the proposal.
The next School Board meeting will be held Monday, May 10 at the OJUSD Technology Center. Meetings will continue to be accessible via Webcast Live with the link posted on the OJUSD.org website. Open session begins at 6:30 p.m.