School Board Meeting 7/14/20

Most Importantly

After much discussion (see below), the Los Alamos School Board just voted unanimously, with member Christine Bernstein abstaining, to start school online for all schools. Here is the motion in its entirety:

"(We) move that students begin school on August 13, 2020 in a fully remote model. Any change to the hybrid model will include a 4 week lead time to the fullest extent possible (no sooner than September 8, 2020) and be based upon meeting criteria developed by LAPS staff approved by the School Board, subject to PED requirements and Health Orders."

In Detail

The format of this meeting was:

1. 2-minute reports from each of the Safe Start Task Force Committees

2. School Board Discussion

3. Public Comment

4. The second round of Board Member Comments

5. Proposed motion


Dr. Steinhaus began the discussion by sharing the fact that "Infection rates have bumped up in the Northeast quadrant over the last week". The district received a scoring rubric for District reopening documents on Friday at the same time that the School Board Agenda and packet were due according to the Open Meetings Act.


It is important to note that Dr. Steinhaus and Mrs. Guy also shared that they currently do not have enough PPE for us to safely begin on campus and have recently received a quote for cleaning wipes that was 4x the "normal" price.


The online and in-person learning groups shared that they have worked to identify platforms and additional software packages that would be beneficial for school staff to have access to during both the hybrid and the online models.


The CDC guidelines group has created posters for entry points in the buildings, handouts for parents, and a recommended cleaning protocol for teachers.


The Emergency Drills and Standard Response Protocols group looked at each drill and discussed what modifications are needed to safely follow CDC guidelines.


Family Engagement reported that their goal is to keep engaging families and inviting opportunities for feedback over the year


Staff Engagement shared that they spoke to several groups of employes and identified the following areas as priorities: personal safety, technology needs, best practices, online learning, and a resource bank.


The communications group shared that their four target audiences are students, parents, staff, and the community.


The calendar community proposed 3 models with some flexibility for parent choice when appropriate. Option 1 is the hybrid model as proposed by the PED, option 2 is a delay in starting the hybrid model with students starting fully remote with the intention of moving to the hybrid model as soon as it is safe and option 3 is fully remote for a longer period of time.


The policies group reported that they looked at current policies around the state and how they align with the CDC guidelines and the Governor's public health orders. The district already has a multi-tiered approach regarding student attendance and have started that across any of the proposed models, we will be taking attendance and following up with students who do not participate in classes. This is a huge difference from the learning model in the Spring.


The Athletics group will continue to follow the NMAA guidelines and will keep an eye on the governor's orders. As of right now, there is no football, soccer, or wrestling with the current plan being for these sports to take place in the spring.


From there, School Board President Ellen Ben-Naim outlined her two goals for the discussion tonight. Goal #1 is to focus on the safety of staff and students and Goal #2 is to make a decision tonight and give clear guidance on how to move forward.

She echoed our belief that "we don't have a really good option. We have to look at the least bad option and do everything we can to make school as good as it can be".


School Board Member Julia Baker stated that "there are no great solutions" and "we are reacting to what the PED has given us but the question is do we have time?" She also discussed the disconnect in the number of families that want to return to campus in comparison to the number of staff that does. How do we reconcile these numbers? She proposed that we start everybody online then ease into the hybrid model but most importantly "the focus has to be on safety".


Board Member Dr. Stephen Boerigter shared that he read the Wallstreet Journal article about "The Case for Reopening Schools" (found here if you have a subscription to the Wallstreet Journal: https://www.wsj.com/articles/the-case-for-reopening-schools-11594681985). He also stressed his belief that as a public education entity, we have to do what we can to make public education accessible and equitable. He also stated that the "mainstream media has a narrative of things being either safe or unsafe" and that "when we ask students to return, it should be a separate issue than staff".


Board Member and former LAPS teacher Dawn Jalbert asked if option 2 as presented by the calendar committee is the same as the slow start onboarding plan from ATF. (It is the plan we shared with you here: https://www.smore.com/yx91f-school-reopening-updates) and shared her belief that we must "err on the side of caution". She recommended that we "go slow and adjust as circumstances change".


School Board President Ellen Ben-Naim said that over the last week we have seen the COVID-19 numbers in Los Alamos county double. The district is working tirelessly to be ready and acquire adequate PPE but there is no guarantee that "our advocacy efforts will work". She suggested that we plan for the first quarter to be remote unless conditions call for otherwise.


At this point, Jennifer Guy shared the tally of public comments received for this meeting.

24 comments were in favor of the fully remote model, 4 were in favor of the hybrid, 5 were in favor of returning to school full time 5 days a week and 3 suggested that the district looks at different models.


President Ben-Naim suggested that if we were to go fully remote, the District would ask for flexibility for the students that truly need face to face time to receive it.


Jennifer Guy shared that a new public comment received was from a frustrated parent that didn't know that fully online was even an option.


President Ben-Naim shared that she is empathetic to how this parent must be feeling but stated that "conditions on the ground have changed rapidly in the last week and a half".


There was a lengthy discussion about the necessity of providing parents, staff, and community members adequate notice when they will "pivot" from one model to another and much discussion about what "adequate" notice means.


At this point, Jennifer Guy shared another new public comment which asked "what is deemed an acceptable infection level?


Dr. Steinhaus answered that they have requested the metric that the PED expects Districts to use to determine this.


At this point, they circled back through the Board Members to share which way they are leaning. Dr. Steinhaus shared that he had spoken to Rio Rancho Superintendent Sue Cleveland and she said they are leaning towards option 2, he spoke to (our friend) ATF president Ellen Bernstein and she predicts that at their Board Meeting on Wednesday, Albuquerque will choose fully remote or option 2, and as this meeting was occurring, Las Cruces decided to begin fully remote.


Athletic director Ann Stewart asked what will happen to allowed athletics and activities if we do go fully remote. The direction given is that LAPS is committed to educating the whole child and they will continue to follow NMAA guidelines even if we are fully remote.


There continued to be much discussion about how long to stay in the fully remote model. Some ideas proposed were August 24th, the end of the first quarter (10-19) or the Tuesday after Labor Day (9-8). Ultimately, the board agreed that adequate notice is a minimum of 4 weeks and set the first benchmark to begin the hybrid model as 9/8.


This decision will be made based on the current COVID-19 case numbers, the District's ability to acquire adequate PPE, and other criteria that will be set by LAPS staff and the school board soon.


At this point, the motion was: "(We) move that students begin school on August 13, 2020, in a fully remote model. Any change to the hybrid model will include a 4 week lead time to the fullest extent possible (no sooner than September 8, 2020) and be based upon meeting criteria developed by LAPS staff approved by the School Board, subject to PED requirements and Health Orders."


The Los Alamos School Board voted unanimously, with member Christine Bernstein abstaining.

What comes next?

So, what comes next? We know that right now, there is no easy answer. There is no perfect solution. We all want to be back to "normal" as soon as possible but we also know that with any model, there will be questions to answer and problems to solve. We fully anticipate that in the coming days, we will continue to have discussions with the District about what a fully remote beginning of the year looks like, what resources are available to us, and what the expectations are. As always, please continue to reach out to us. Now is the time to figure this out and we want to make this transition as easy as possible for everyone.


We also want to highlight the very real reality that soon, Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham could change the school order to reflect what we believe is true- on-campus time is not safe yet. If this new order comes with any guidelines or new dates, we will be sure to share them immediately and will work with the district to adjust our plan as needed.

THANK YOU.

Thank you to every single person that has called, emailed, showed up, wrote letters, answered surveys, checked to make sure we put commas in the right places, and did the work.


This has been an impossible situation and while we know that having a clear (clearer?) path forward doesn't make the path any less difficult, it has been amazing to see union members across the District fight to have their voices heard. It was an honor to share the feedback we collected over the last week with the Board.


With that being said, we are going to try to leave your inboxes alone for a little bit. We will be in touch if there is information from the PED or the District that we want to share. Please reach out if you have any questions or concerns, we are here.