AUHSD Board Held Virtual Meeting Discussing 2020-2021 School Year

Ania Keenan, Staff Writer

May 20 the Acalanes Union High School District Board (AUHSD) held a virtual meeting to begin the discussion of the 2020-2021 school year in light of the coronavirus pandemic. 

Superintendent John Nickerson addressed the district’s plan for the fall semester and stressed cooperation between the district and public health officials, “As much as we want things to be normal, it’s hard to anticipate that they will be,”’ Nickerson said. 

The opening of AUHSD schools will happen under the compliance of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention(CDC), and the state and county health regulations. Nickerson announced that a task force will be formed by the district to create models for re-opening to fit a number of scenarios ranging from the normal school process to distance learning at home. “What everybody desperately wants to know is what school will look like when we’re open in the fall. Navigating the school year with the uncertainty is very trying for everyone,” Nickerson said. 

Nickerson’s model predicts that the school will modify to a “blended learning” structure in the fall, with extra precautions taken to observe the student body for COVID-19 and the maintenance of social distancing. Some strategies for “blended learning” were suggested such as staggered schedules to divide the student body in order to limit the number of students on campus at one time and to make it easier to maintain social distancing. 

Nickerson also addressed possible changes to the grading system with the possibility that the district could continue some form of distance learning in the fall, “If we have distance learning we will need to train staff so that we can have letter-grade systems with integrity and without forgetting the equity question,” Nickerson said. 

Nickerson introduced an update for the board to discuss the budget for the coming school year.               

 AUHSD qualifies as a basic aid district, meaning its schools receive minimal money from the state and supplement a majority of their funding locally. As California faces a 19 billion dollar reduction in state revenue, Amy McNamara reported that the revised state budget would include a ten percent reduction in state funding due to AUHSD. This would drop the overall district budget by three to four million dollars for the 2020-21 school year.

“School districts across the state are going to be hit hard as state revenues decline so far,” Nickerson stated.

During the recession of 2008, AUHSD received four to five million dollars of federal funding over the course of a few years. 

Nickerson explained how aid programs in the past helped the district survive, “That allowed us to maintain our programs, given the current situation a loss of 4 million dollars could be detrimental to our districts’ programs,” Nickerson said.  

McNamara highlighted the district’s concern over students’ mental health during and after quarantine. “To start addressing some of the issues that our students may have been dealing with in the isolation of quarantined, We would like to have a mental health program this summer that would most likely be in person,” McNamara said. 

Other in-person programs that may be instituted over the summer are foundational classes for students learning English. 

Nickerson concluded his planning for the fall semester by announcing a survey coming out early next week for AUHSD families about distance learning. The hope is that the district could roll out a preliminary plan for the fall to release June 3.