Monday night’s nearly two hour long school board meeting on Sept. 14 in Oakdale was full of information, announcements, and updates.
The meeting began with Board President Diane Gilbert addressing Public Comment phone etiquette to provide the best environment for taking calls. While the first few livestreamed school board meetings had awkward pauses and unclear signals for when to call in, the board has finally found their groove and the online ‘virtual’ meeting ran with little to no issues.
The only public comment came from a community member concerned about rumors of the 1619 Project, the reframing of history to be taught in schools; District Superintendent Marc Malone assured that “only information and documents and facts that are obtained from state adopted textbooks are taught in our classrooms.”
Later in the meeting, Assistant Superintendent Kristi Rapinchuk took the time to explain the textbook adoption process in response to a public comment from last month. For the full report, check in around the -1:20:00 timestamp on the livestream.
Rapinchuk also addressed the adoption of Senate Bill 48. She noted that the main theme is that “history and social science curriculum must include and value all ... no one’s contributions to history should be disregarded because of race, ethnicity, religious practice, gender, or sexual orientation.”
Due to this slight change in content, some historical figures are now identified by name and orientation.
The meeting also included organization reports, where Oakdale Teachers Association representative Lisa Greenhow explained that they’ve “been in distance learning mode for nearly six weeks” and are “starting to find a rhythm.” She also shared that some teachers have felt uncomfortable about returning to school too early; she conceptualized what a socially distanced classroom and recess may look like. While they are all hopeful, they still remain wary.
Student Board Member Caroline Krum had similar reports from the student body. She noted that though students want to return to school, they would rather have opening day be pushed back than reopen just to quickly shut down again. Still craving connection, they are asking for some form of clubs to be brought to an online format so they can still interact with their peers. Krum also found from her student survey that mental health for students seems to be moving in a more positive direction.
Per the last meeting, Armida Colon took time to report on the mental health of students. They may be feeling anxious, isolated, depressed, angry, grieved, and afraid of the unknown. In light of all this, she shared resources that the schools have for students. At Oakdale High School, students and faculty are pushing out a motivational message every Monday for encouragement.
Signs of encouragement are also being posted – including a plethora on the fences and buildings on the high school campus – to help keep spirits up and offering another form of connection for students.
Colon also relayed that a prevention/intervention team has been formed that includes everyone involved in mental health support for students so they’re all on the same page “to maximize resources and not duplicate efforts.” She pointed out that resources are found on the district’s webpage: https://www.ojusd.org/
Perhaps one of the most anticipated topics for the evening was the status report on returning to schools. The district has already moved forward with a waiver application to “be prepared to reopen when the opportunity presents itself.”
Malone recognized that there is a new hurdle; while the virus tracking used to be reported on a day-to-day basis, California’s official reporting has moved to a week-by-week basis and is reported every Tuesday. In light on this information, the board motioned to move their next board meeting to Tuesday, Oct. 6 rather than Monday, Oct. 12 so that they could most effectively and quickly respond if schools are allowed to reopen.
“I encourage the public to monitor this with us,” Malone said. Other staff there also explained that the waiver mentioned has been posted on the district website for the past two weeks, if any community members want to take a look at it.
Another hurdle the district faces is county-wide; they need to test every employee once every two months (which for Oakdale alone adds up to fifteen people getting tested per day, on average). This may potentially prove as a logistical and financial strain.
After these reports, the meeting moved on with revisions to resolution language in order to be more gender neutral while also clarifying anything that could be misconstrued or confusing.
To view this month’s meeting (and past livestreams), visit OJUSD’s YouTube channel at https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCZdB-OF9xQSDVe3Csc84K0w