STORY AND PHOTO BY TOMOKI CHIEN
The Mountain View–Los Altos School District is preparing to bring more students on campus once in the red tier of coronavirus transmission, subject to approval from the school board as well as the state and county.
This latest development follows the board’s previous approval of a plan that would’ve seen the district take its first steps to a hybrid return in the orange tier rather than red.
Shifting state guidelines have made an earlier return more feasible, according to Associate Superintendent of Personnel Services Leyla Benson.
Benson declined to provide the number of students that the district anticipates will return once allowed, instead referring the Post to the Feb. 8 board study session where district staff will lay out the specifics of the plan.
At the moment, Santa Clara County sits in the purple tier of coronavirus transmission with a 4.9% test positivity rate, 32.3 new daily cases per 100,000 in the population and a 9.4% health equity quartile; in order to qualify for the red tier, daily new cases would need to fall to 7 per 100,000 in the population, and the health equity quartile to 8%.
If the board and various organizations at the state and county level approve the plans — and once the county sits in the red tier for five days — students across the district will have the option to return to campus.
Still, students for the most part won’t receive any in-person instruction, instead attending online classes from a classroom surrounded by other students attending other remote classes.
A handful of the presumed benefits of that would be social interaction, a more comfortable work environment or even stronger internet access.
Currently, both Los Altos and Mountain View high schools have around seven cohorts of students on campus, including cohorts for critical learners, English learners, students with individualized education programs, supervised study, academic support, AVID and the Advanced Scientific Investigations course.
The district is seeking substitute employees to “work in a supervisory capacity” monitoring the groups of up to 14 students to “ensure they are safe and engaged in online classes.” Benson noted that these substitutes are needed, seeing as teachers would still be leading remote classes.
Previously, the board approved a plan on Dec. 15 to begin testing the waters of an optional return in the orange tier, progressively bringing back more students and activities as the county worked its way down the state’s tier system. In fact, a relatively large-scale hybrid return would have begun in the yellow tier, which would have seen students that opted in receive in-person instruction for a majority of their classes.
But even that old plan wasn’t fully fleshed out, leaving specifics such as the hybrid schedule undetermined — those potential schedules included “rotation,” “AM/PM” and “week-on/week-off” models.
Earlier this month, Superintendent Dr. Nellie Meyer told the Post that in the spring of last year, the district had prepared a draft of the “rotation” model, but at this point any schedule would be subject to further discussion.
Another concern from community members at the Dec. 15 board meeting was that students who opted into the hybrid return would have had their schedules and classes shifted, much like the Palo Alto Unified School District’s now-scrapped plans for a hybrid return; in reaction, the board added an amendment stipulating that students’ classes must remain the same.
It is not immediately clear what items from the district’s December plan will remain in place in light of the earlier reopening — specifically, when a broader hybrid return would occur as opposed to the limited cohort return — nor what specific change in state guidance precipitated these latest yet-to-be-approved plans.
The specifics, however, should be laid out at the Feb. 8 study session.
Sunday, Feb. 7: A previous version of this story indicated that the MVLA board will amend and approve the district’s return plans at the Feb. 8 board meeting. The board, however, has scheduled a study session prior to the regular board meeting to discuss the plans with district staff.