March 4th, 2021
Dear FUSD Community,
Thank you to all our staff, students, parents, and community for their continued communication as we navigate these dynamic times. As educators, our primary focus is on our students. As parents/guardians, our primary focus is our child(ren). In the midst of a global pandemic, not only do we keep them at the focus of our work, but we must also take precautions to care for one another. We can and will emerge from these circumstances, we will navigate the return to in-person instruction, and in due time, we’ll find our way, with the guidance of public health officials, to a much more normal school experience.
Until we reach that more normal time, I am hopeful that everyone will give consideration to the idea that this process of returning in a hybrid model is driven by the current health guidelines related to physical distancing and the need to not have all students present in one classroom at the same time. The importance of a safe return to in-person instruction is critical. However, it is also important to note that under the current guidance, any return to in-person instruction will be a modified version of what we used to know as the traditional school day, under the current local and state health mandates. It is for these reasons, we cannot fully return all students to the classroom at the same time each day as we did previously.
As I talk with many members of the community and respond to emails from parents/guardians who all share a wide range of input and advocacy, there is commonly, misunderstandings and misinformation about what is happening throughout FUSD to get our students and staff safely back on campus. Given the importance of this process, and the need to provide communication to our staff and community, I am writing to provide some clarification and provide some updated information. Please review the information below in detail.
Staff Vaccine Progress
If you have not heard the great news, please help me shine a bright light of positivity on Haller’s Pharmacy and the Fremont Fire Department! Thanks to their efforts and partnership, FUSD has been able to invite over 3500 employees to be vaccinated! That doesn’t mean that all 3500 staff members went to the Haller’s/Fremont Fire clinic, but thanks to their partnership and support, along with many employees being able to access the vaccine through the Oakland Coliseum, their own healthcare provider, or another location, FUSD has been able to send out invitations to over 3500 employees for their first vaccine. Haller’s and Fremont Fire have quite literally been a shot of hope for our staff, our schools, and our community.
What Safety Protocols will be in place for FUSD when students return in a hybrid model?
If you have not yet had a chance, you can view the FUSD COVID-19 Safety Plan, as mandated and approved by the State of California.
This safety plan will cover everything from physical distancing to mask mandates. Additionally, it provides concrete information about what would happen in FUSD schools, in accordance with local state guidance, if there was a case, or multiple cases, of COVID-19 at a school.
Where is FUSD in the process of reopening?
In our FUSD COVID-19 Safety Plan, we outlined four phases of returning to in-person instruction. Currently, we’ve implemented Phase 1 (Preschool - 12th grade, in-person,1-on-1 assessment, specific to special education). On Monday, March 8th, we will implement the beginning of Phase 2 (Learning Hubs). We’ve been working intensely to reach the implementation of Phase 3 (Preschool - 5th/6th: Hybrid Elementary School). Concurrently, we are also working on Phase 4 (Hybrid Middle School/Junior High and High Schools).
We are intensely focused on returning students back to campus for in-person instruction. This week, our signs and markers for safe travel through campus and healthy hygiene practices are arriving at each school. Last week, we ordered air purification units for every classroom in FUSD. More and more metrics on our readiness dashboard will soon be switching to “completed”.
To that point, earlier this week, we sent out a declaration form to our Preschool - 6th grade (elementary) parent/guardians to indicate if they will return to in-person instruction, or if they wish to remain in full distance learning. Additionally, as an attempt to provide students the greatest opportunity to remain with their current teacher - if that is their most important priority, we’ve asked who would prefer to remain with their teacher regardless of being in-person or distance learning.
In order to give parents some additional context for that choice, we have provided sample hybrid schedules (more information included at the bottom of this message).
What is the target date for a return to campus and how are negotiations progressing?
FUSD has been working hard to return students to campus and part of the important work is negotiating with our labor partners. While there continues to be a lot of pressure on our educators, support staff, and administration to reopen schools, I’d like to remind our community that we need the support of all employees and the cooperation of all parents/guardians and students, to make schools safe and to keep them open.
Employees have important responsibilities and considerations for their working conditions, which are ultimately learning conditions for students too. The District respects the collective bargaining process and looks forward to reaching agreement on a safe return to campus for students and staff very soon.
Today, FUSD provided a proposal to FUDTA outlining target dates for a return to in-person learning with a hybrid schedule for our preschool through elementary grades. Those target dates include a return to campus for our youngest students starting with a phased-in return on March 29th. In summary, FUSD proposed to FUDTA target dates of March 29th for our Preschool and TK through 2nd grade students, then following spring break on April 13th, our 3rd - 6th graders (at elementary schools) would return.
While we honor and appreciate the collective bargaining process, with the focus of providing direct information to our community, you can review the District’s last proposal which will be posted on our Readiness website (https://www.fremont.k12.ca.us/readiness)
Where Can I Ask Questions/Provide Feedback:
We’ve recently added a link on our Readiness webpage to receive real-time feedback and questions. Please feel free to reach out if you have questions or feedback.
Additional Information Regarding Declaration Form:
Many people asked for more information and context about our schedules sent to families. Here is one schedule example, with some notes to help provide our community with more detailed information.
I am aware that some families have reached out to their student’s teacher to ask if that employee would be returning to in-person teaching or distance learning. While I can certainly understand that level of inquiry as the parent of a 5th-grade student myself, please know that our first task is to identify the students’ needs. From there, we’ll address our staffing needs. It remains our primary intent to keep students with their current teacher when possible, but it is important to note that this may not be possible in all cases as we provide both in-person and distance learning programs.
It will take a lot of patience and communication over the coming weeks to navigate our return to campus. That same patience will be needed throughout the rest of the year during this transitional phase back to a more normal school schedule and environment. I remain hopeful that with increased vaccines, and lower case numbers, that as we make more progress toward low case rates, some of the local and state guidelines will be adjusted to allow for greater flexibility in our student groupings. As we have in all cases, we’ll be guided by the local and state health experts on that front.
Is there a Q and A document I can see regarding the Hybrid model?
Yes, check out the Q and A document on the District website’s Readiness Dashboard page.
New Deal Reached in California Legislation:
As you can imagine, FUSD is watching the developments in the state closely. As I indicated in our Board of Education meeting last week, it was expected that a compromise would be reached between the Governor and the Legislature for a proposal on returning students to campus. Accordingly, it was announced on Monday that a conceptual agreement had been reached and it may be voted into law this week.
Under that plan school districts that did not already reopen would need to reopen in the Red Tier for grades TK-6 (elementary) by April 1st to remain eligible for specific state funding to support reopening, or have a plan approved before March 31st to implement a return to in-person instruction. It also provides that at least one grade level at the secondary level would need to reopen, along with other provisions related to specific populations of students based on state-identified criteria.
As we monitor and analyze the developments at the state level, we will keep focused on getting back to school, starting with our youngest students, and we are committed to making that happen soon. Many of you have asked for specific information on this process, I encourage you to keep checking our Readiness dashboard for more information and updates on our progress with negotiations.