LASD staff presents possible reopening plans for sixth through eighth graders

STORY AND PHOTOS BY GIL RUBINSTEIN

The Los Altos School District Board met last night to review different schedules presented by staff for in-person learning for sixth through eighth grade. 

Sixth grade students are currently slated to return on Monday, January 11, while junior high students will return on Wednesday, January 20. The deadline to apply to continue fully virtual learning — which will follow the same bell schedule as the cohort plan — is Monday, December 7. 

First through third grade have already returned to LASD campuses. 

SIXTH GRADE

For sixth graders, the District presented an “AM/PM” schedule option as well as a day-based option. 

In the AM/PM model, the “AM cohort” will arrive in the morning and stay on campus until around noon, at which point they will go home to eat lunch and continue the school day through asynchronous instruction. 

Having completed a morning of remote learning, the “PM cohort” will arrive after classrooms have been disinfected.

A sample AM/PM schedule (via LASD)

A day-based model would operate similarly, with “Cohort A” attending in-person classes on Mondays and Tuesdays and virtual classes on Thursdays and Fridays; “Cohort B” would attend in person classes on the opposite days. Both cohorts would have remote asynchronous work on Wednesdays.

A sample day-based schedule (via LASD)

One concern among community and Board members with the proposed schedules was how students would commute home from school in time to eat lunch and complete their asynchronous work. 

SEVENTH AND EIGHTH GRADE

For seventh through eighth grade, the District presented a cohort model similar to the sixth grade’s day-based model, which has students on campus two days a week and one day of asynchronous learning. However, seventh and eighth graders have two full days of synchronous online instruction, as opposed to a mixed synchronous and asynchronous day. 

Students would attend in-person classes in groups of 15–18 students, although all math classes would be hosted online in order to keep cohorts diverse, as math classes are separated by skill level.

A sample seventh grader’s schedule (via LASD)

Parents of junior high students voiced concerns over what they called too few hours of in-person schooling, as well as missed “important social interaction” due to a lack of lunch and recess breaks.

Additionally, parents expressed concern that in-person learning might have to be halted in the event of a coronavirus surge in Santa Clara County, which currently sits in the “orange” tier of coronavirus spread. 

However, Superintendent Jeff Baier said that he remains confident that plans will remain on track, even if the county regresses to the red or even purple tier. As long as infection rates within a school stay low, operation will continue, he said.

Amid concerns about ventilation in classrooms, Assistant Superintendent Ron Kenyon reported that the District is purchasing carbon dioxide monitors for classrooms, which will allow staff to gauge ventilation. Kenyon suggested keeping doors and windows open to increase ventilation, as well as turning on fans. 

The District has scheduled two town halls for community input on LASD’s in-person return, one on Tuesday, November 17, for sixth graders and their parents, and another on Wednesday, November 18, for junior high students and their parents.

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