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Straight Talk With The Superintendent

In an effort to provide the most comprehensive and accurate information regarding the fluid situation concerning students in the Oakdale Joint Unified School District, The Oakdale Leader will collect pertinent and timely questions for Superintendent Marc Malone to address for the community. The Oakdale Leader will dedicate space every week as needed to address the community’s questions and concerns.


1). There is some confusion about whether school districts in Stanislaus County are cleared to open grades 7-12 now that the county has progressed to the red tier. Can you explain some of the challenges inherent to opening secondary campuses that are not shared by the elementary school campuses?

All schools can open under the current Red Tier of the California Blueprint to a Safer Economy. Unfortunately, what has gone largely unreported is that in order to open, all schools grades 7-12 must meet the protocols communicated in the COVID-19 Industry Guidance for Schools and School-Based Programs produced by the California Department of Public Health. Section 6 of this Industry Guidance clearly communicates expectations for opening that simply cannot be achieved by comprehensive schools grade 7-12 without clear and concise clarification from Public Health on the cohorting (students grouping) and social distancing expectations of the document. As everyone is aware, the configuration of grade 7-12 schools is vastly different than the configuration of grade TK-6 schools. The expectation that “students must remain in the same space and in cohorts as small and consistent as practicable, including for recess and lunch” is problematic at best. When you add the stated expectation that teachers should stay “with one group of students for the whole day” it is very difficult to maintain any integrity to the grade 7-12 instructional school day. The OJUSD, as well as the other Districts in Stanislaus County has sought clarification on the language contained in the Guidance Document for an extended period of time. Effective 10/23/20 we received some verbal (not written) clarification of the document and immediately began building a plan that can be communicated with the public and negotiated with our stakeholders. The OJUSD will move to open our 7-12 schools safely and on a date that creates the best educational advantage for our students.


2). With the elementary school campuses opening, and the potential of the secondary school campuses opening, what is the district protocol for a positive test result within cohorts? (i.e.: quarantine, tracing, notification, etc.)

The process for Identification and Tracing of COVID contacts is stated in detail in the Waiver Application. Stated succinctly, upon notification of a confirmed positive case the OJUSD notifies Stanislaus County Public Health immediately and works with that agency for our response. The confirmed positive case triggers an identification procedure to determine if the positive case has come in “close personal contact” with any other individual(s). If any CPC is confirmed, then both the positive test and anyone in CPC is quarantined for the mandated 14 days. Individuals that need to be placed in quarantine are notified. If any cohort needs to be quarantined the entire school site and stakeholders will be notified. The notification will be consistent with legal counsel guidance regarding the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act.


3). A potential timeline for the opening of secondary campuses is slated for discussion at the Nov. 9 school board meeting. What kind of education model is up for consideration? Full-day? Hybrid? Will students be required to wear masks?

The instructional model recommended by the OJUSD will be a Hybrid Block Schedule. Monday would continue to be Distance Learning for all. Tuesday through Friday would be the same basic Hybrid Model utilized now at the elementary schools with one-half the student body attending on Tuesday/Thursday and one-half attending on Wednesday/Friday. The difference would be that the schedule on Tuesday through Friday would be an extended minimum day for grades 7-12 utilizing a block schedule. Tuesday group A of the split schedule would attend period 1, 2 and 3, with a release at approximately noon. On Tuesday Group B would be completing independent practice for periods 1-6 at home. On Wednesday, Group B would attend school live until noon, again completing a block schedule of periods 1, 2 and 3. Group A would be home completing independent practice for periods 1-6. On Thursday, Group A is back on campus and will follow the schedule explained above except the block schedule will consist of periods 4, 5 and 6. On Friday, group B is back on campus and will follow the Block schedule of periods 4, 5 and 6. Teachers will provide office hours daily in the afternoon to address any questions that students may have. This model has been approved by County Public Health because it eliminates the need for navigating the social distancing concerns with a brunch and lunch period and maintains better cohort control. It appears a version of this model will be utilized by the majority of the larger Districts in Stanislaus County. The safety protocols currently used at the elementary sites will also be in place for the secondary sites. Face coverings will be required and social distancing and hand sanitizing will be stressed. Independent Study will be an option for those families uncomfortable with in-person instruction.


4). Parents and administrators are concerned about student grades. How does the district hope to help students get back on track when they transition back to the classroom?

Student support and intervention will be a primary focus when students return to in-person instruction. Teachers will assess students for learning gaps and then begin to design instruction to address any identified gaps. For grades 7-12, the afternoon office hours will be an additional tool that will be utilized for needed remediation.


5). What can parents do in the interim to help ready their children for a return to the classroom?

It is imperative that students attend ALL their virtual classes EVERYDAY. In addition, students need to complete all assignments as we begin to approach the end of the first semester. Finally, grades 7-12 have final examinations pending, students need to give due diligence to the study guides that teachers provide in advance of their respective final examination.