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Distance learning continues in fall

Castro Valley schools’ classes will begin with distance learning for all students on Aug. 13, but students will have the option either to participate in a hybrid schedule beginning as early as Sept. 14, or remain in distance learning for the full school year. Those were the main points decided at the CVUSD board meeting on July 9. 

For those choosing to return to campuses, the middle and high school students will follow an A/B model, attending live classes two days a week and studying remotely on the other days. Elementary school students will follow an a.m./p.m. plan, coming to campuses either in mornings or afternoons four days per week. 

Some parents were upset when the board announced students could have the option of returning to campuses beginning on Sept. 14 because they felt that a return date should be based on scientific statistics and the number of COVID-19 cases at that time. Parents and teachers voiced their concerns during the public comment portion of the meeting.

“Families want their kids to return to school. We do, but when it’s safe. And we all have different ideas of when that is,” said Creekside science teacher Laura Sepulveda. 

The board later clarified that any return date was tentative and could change, based on the guidance of the Alameda County Department of Public Health and state health officials.

“We recognize that there is still great uncertainty and we will continue to monitor and follow the guidance of our public health officers. While restrictions have been gradually easing, we know that public health could reverse course and tighten restrictions should a substantial COVID-19 surge happen in Alameda County,” wrote Superintendent Parvin Ahmadi in an email to families. 

Middle and high school students will be following the A/B model, with group A on campuses on Mondays and Tuesdays, and Group B on campuses on Thursdays and Fridays. All students will learn virtually on Wednesdays, as well as the days they are not learning in-person. Custodial staff will clean campuses each day after students leave, as well as doing a more through deep clean on Wednesdays and weekends. 

The decision of which students will be in which group has not been determined yet, but CVUSD assured parents that “siblings will absolutely be on the same schedule.” Information about the return of extracurriculars is still unclear, but information about sports and clubs are expected to be announced by Monday, July 20.

The decision to follow the A/B plan was passed on a vote of 3-2, with School Board President Lavender Whitaker and Trustee Dot Theodore voting no. Theodore was also the only board member to vote against the a.m./p.m. model for elementary students. 

“I don’t think that this is the best way to serve our community. The lack of time to clean between the a.m. and p.m., the potential for teachers to be exposed to a whole classroom of students every day for four days in a row, I don’t think that’s the safest thing to do for teachers,” Theodore explained. 

Alternatively, families may choose for the students to learn online for the full school year. Elementary students will be enrolled in a new program, Castro Valley Virtual Pathway for Elementary (CVVPE), and secondary students will be a part of Castro Valley Virtual Academy (CVVA). Parents will have until July 27 to fill out an online application requesting their children to be enrolled in one of these online programs. If students choose to switch in or out of the online program, they would be able to transfer at the end of the trimester (elementary) or semester (secondary).

“We have and we will continue to work directly and closely with the Department of Public Health,” Ahmadi assured community members at the meeting.

“If nothing else, I have to say, what has happened with this pandemic has taught us the value of human connection, the value of public education,” said Ahmadi. “Technology is fabulous, but technology doesn’t replace human connection and the wonderful job that our staff and our teachers and custodians and office staff and our principals do.”

Castro Valley Teachers Association would have to agree to the revised working conditions. Talks between the union and district are ongoing.