Bay Area counties issue indoor mask mandate

STORY BY TOMOKI CHIEN, GRAPHIC BY ALLISON HUANG

Santa Clara County residents will have to wear masks in indoor public settings effective tomorrow, August 3. The mandate applies to all residents, regardless of vaccination status, and was jointly issued by eight Bay Area health officers today.

The order, which builds off of the looser masking recommendation issued by the same counties in mid-July, aligns with guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Bay Area health officers will track hospitalization rates and case counts in determining when to end the mandate; the health officials offered no target date or metrics for ending the order.

“Vaccines remain the most powerful tool in the fight against COVID-19, including the Delta variant,” the order reads. “Nonetheless, the Delta variant is infecting a small percentage of the vaccinated in the Bay Area — who still remain strongly protected against severe illness, hospitalization, and death. In those instances of infection in a vaccinated person, a face covering prevents further spread.”

The health officers noted that the vast majority of hospitalized patients are unvaccinated, and the few that are vaccinated have other comorbidities or are elderly.

Today’s mask mandate does not ban indoor dining, although the health officers recommended that unvaccinated residents avoid “high risk” indoor activities, such as indoor dining and visiting gyms and movie theaters.

Santa Clara County’s test positivity rate currently sits at 3.1%, a percentage not seen since Feb. 6. 

MVLA: Answers to all the COVID back-to-school questions you might have

STORY BY TOMOKI CHIEN, PHOTO BY ARYA NASIKKAR

Haz click aqui para ver el articulo en Español.

In just over a week, students in the Mountain View–Los Altos Union High School District will make a full return to campus for the first time in 16 months. It’ll be a full return: but not necessarily business as usual.

Here are the answers to some pretty specific COVID-19 protocol questions you might have, which will hopefully alleviate some of your back-to-school stress — whether because you’ll have a better sense of what school will look like, or just because it’ll give you something confusing to distract yourself with.

Or, if this kind of stuff just makes you more anxious, do yourself a favor and click out of the tab now.


Note: All the answers to these questions are based on guidance that stands as of July 30. COVID-19 guidance, as always, is constantly evolving.

Q: To get it out of the way — do I have to wear a mask?

A: Yes, until at least early November. You won’t have to socially distance, though, and you can take your mask off outside. Other than the indoor masking, school should look pretty normal for now.

Q: I tend to get sick a lot, especially during the flu season. Do I have to stay home even if it’s just a sniffle?

A: Unfortunately, yes. If you’re showing any symptoms of COVID-19, many of which are the same as typical cold and flu symptoms, you have to stay home.

Associate Superintendent Leyla Benson, who serves as the district’s COVID-19 designee, said that district leadership recognizes that there may be more absences as a result of that.

“We want to be on the more cautious … side,” Benson said. “[But] if it becomes that enough people are having a problem obtaining access to school, then we may have to reevaluate.”

Q: Wait, but I’m vaccinated. Do I still have to stay home if I’m sick?

A: Yes. It’s a necessary precaution, especially with the spread of the delta variant, which — although the prevalence of this is debated — has been found to break through some fully vaccinated people. Still, though, vaccines are proven to be highly effective at preventing serious illness and stopping infection in the first place.

Q: When can I come back to school after taking sick days?

A: Well, it kind of depends. If you test positive for COVID-19, then you have to wait out a 10-day quarantine, after which you can return to school. If you test negative, then you can probably return to school — but see the next question.

It sounds like there may be cases where, for example, you have a minor sniffle for a day and your doctor clears you to return to school, so you won’t need to test. But by and large, expect to have to take a COVID test if you have any symptoms.

Your school should contact you if you take a sick day and help you through the process. And of course, you can always reach Benson at leyla.benson@mvla.net if you have individual questions (she responds to her emails, like, really fast).

Q: What if I have cold and flu symptoms, but a negative COVID-19 test?

A: This is where it gets a little tricky. (Benson let out a big sigh when asked this question.) It all depends on the day you tested, whether you came in contact with somebody known to have been COVID-positive at the time, if your test was an antigen or PCR test and what your doctor says.

“Like, did you just get randomly sick, and then you went and got your test, it’s an absolute PCR test, and you’re fully ruled out from COVID? Then the answer is yes, last year you could return,” Benson said. “If you were actually exposed, you have these symptoms and you tested on day four when you’re really supposed to test on day five, then I want you to go back … and take the test again.”

So basically it depends, and the district will take each situation case by case in consultation with the county health department. But the bottom line is, you’re probably going to be getting some nasty looks from your classmates if you’re hacking and wheezing through seventh period chem.

Q: Wait, hang on. If I test positive for COVID, do I have to show a negative test before returning?

A: As of now, no. You just have to wait out the 10-day quarantine. At the end of those 10 days, the viral load that you shed is supposed to be low enough that, especially when combined with a mask, you can’t infect other people. Benson seemed to think that the quarantine length could be subject to change because the delta variant is more virulent, although she said she hasn’t heard any official word on that yet.

Q: Will the district offer COVID tests?

A: The district will continue to partner with El Camino Hospital to offer testing for students (Benson said they’ve gotten “really fast” at getting the results back to you), and will also look into other options as needed.

If testing is needed more prevalently, the district will host on-site testing clinics in partnership with El Camino.

The Cue COVID-19 test, a Food and Drug Administration–approved at-home and over-the-counter test is also an option Benson said the district might look into using in some capacity, although that would bring its own set of challenges; the only thing that’s certain as of now is the partnership with El Camino Hospital. 

Q: What happens if I come into close contact with somebody who has COVID-19?

A: If you’re fully vaccinated and you’ve come into close contact with somebody infected with COVID-19, you won’t have to quarantine — you just have to show proof of vaccination to the district. But if you’re not vaccinated, or decline to state your vaccination status, you’ll have to wait out a 10-day quarantine.

Benson said that there may be some limited cases where an unvaccinated student in quarantine because of a close contact could exit early if they produce a negative test, although that would depend on a number of factors, including the day of the test, whether symptoms are present and what the county decides; it would be case by case.

Q: Will it be easier for me to make up the work I miss on sick days?

A: It should be a little easier, mostly on merit of teachers being understanding given the circumstances. Benson said that district leadership discussed this, and at least for now, is asking that teachers send whatever work can be done virtually to students who are sick at home — essentially what staying home sick looks like under normal circumstances.

And of course, there are built-in extensions that teachers are required to give you if you take sick days, as in any normal year.

Benson acknowledged that district leadership has discussed the fact that having to make up work is a big disincentive to staying home sick. 

“What we have seen thus far is that people are very responsible in our community,” Benson said. “This is the current plan, [but] it was very much a plan based on COVID vastly improving and vaccination rates being very high. I have to say, in the past few weeks there have been a lot of new twists.”

So as with everything else, the current policy about making up work from sick days could very possibly change once the school year starts. But seriously, when it comes down to it, it’s going to be up to you to do the right thing and stay home when you’re sick. 

Q: Is there a remote learning option this year?

A: Yes, in the form of Option B, the district’s third-party remote independent study program. While it’ll most likely depend on the specific circumstance, Benson said that students should be able to switch to Option B more seamlessly than last year.

Q: What percentage of teachers and students are vaccinated?

A: Benson said that in a survey of teachers that’s still being completed, 96.6% said they’re fully vaccinated, 2.6% declined to report their status, 0.5% said they weren’t vaccinated and 0.3% said they were midway through the vaccination process. The teacher survey will be finalized closer to the start of school, and students will be surveyed upon return.

You don’t have to give your vaccination status, but if you decline to state it, the school has to treat you as an unvaccinated person.

Q: Anything else I should know?

A: Just know that all of this could conceivably change very quickly — even having full in-person instruction for the rest of the year isn’t necessarily a guarantee.

Regardless, Benson stressed that vaccines continue to be the best way to ensure that school can operate as smoothly as possible.

“We really do believe as a school district that vaccination for anyone who can medically do it … is our first line of defense,” she said.

And, know that even if guidance does change or the pandemic swings in an unexpected direction, the district is far better prepared than it was at the start of last year to deal with these issues.

“We are very excited at the prospects of a return,” Benson said. “We have always put the safety of everyone 100% first. So if these signs show that [our setup is] not going to be safe for everyone, we have now a lot of tried and true options.”

Any questions I missed? Email me at tomoki@gmail.com.

Sunday, Aug. 1: This article has been edited to include new and updated information.

Gunn grad finds piano in dumpster, turns it into public art project

STORY AND PHOTOS BY TOMOKI CHIEN

For months, Arunim Agarwal and a small band of friends went through the painstaking process of transporting, refurbishing and repainting a piano they found in a dumpster, installed last week as a public art project at Mitchell Park.

But get this: None of them — especially Agarwal — have any idea how to play the piano. (Just watch the attached video clip. Agarwal himself admits he’s got no business being around pianos, but also says the video should come with the disclaimer that a mix of “poor” microphone quality and an out-of-tune piano aren’t doing his musicianship any favors.)

Agarwal flaunts his musicianship.

Clearly, though, the Gunn ‘21 grad and his friends aren’t short of any talent: They were able to turn the dilapidated piano into a Palo Alto Public Art Commission–funded installation that can now be seen — and heard (the piano has a sign inviting passersby to play it) — at Mitchell Park.

Agarwal first stumbled upon the piano on a dumpster diving expedition in January with two fellow mentors at MakeX Palo Alto, a teen-founded and -run makerspace. Dumpster diving is apparently a fairly common practice for the teen makers.

The piano then had to be carted from the MakeX space down the road at 2 a.m. (to avoid traffic) to Agarwal’s house (because the city didn’t want it sitting outside of MakeX), on a dolly that broke down halfway through (which they had to fix in the middle of the night). 

“It was fun,” Agarwal said.

But once hauled to his house, the real work of the refurbishment began.

“A lot of it was just stripping down the old parts that we could, and kind of taking it apart at a basic level,” Agarwal said. “We didn’t mess around with any of the strings or anything, because we’re not professionals.”

He and a handful of friends sanded down the big pieces, cleaned up the gunk inside, then after applying base coats, handed the panels to different teenage artists they knew for painting; the piano now features a range of colorful artwork, a 180 degree flip from the faded black they found it in.

The $1,000 grant from the art commission covered all the materials needed for refurbishment, including the bench Agarwal got for $20 off Craigslist, presumably the hand sanitizer he thoughtfully left on top of the piano and it even allowed him to pay the artists.

The grant’s built-in deadline gave Agarwal a kick in the pants to finish the project after a “pretty chunky hiatus” he took from late January to March, to deal with academics and college applications.

“Originally, the date I proposed was spring break — I did not make the spring break date,” Agarwal said. “[But] they were pretty relaxed about it.”

Agarwal was in part inspired to take on the project because of similar ones like the Berkeley Public Piano and the Play Me, I’m Yours street pianos.

“A couple summers ago I was in Berkeley, and in their [main plaza] they have a public piano that’s just kind out for anyone to play,” Agarwal said. “I think they’ve gotten through a couple iterations of it because it’s gotten stolen or something. But it’s there, and I quite liked hearing it when I was walking by.”

He reached out to the person who started the Berkeley project, who encouraged him to forge on with his own project. 

Beyond being inspired by similar projects, Agarwal saw the restoration as a way to keep the piano from going to waste and to spend time with his friends.

“Part of it was just that it’s a reasonably good piano; it’s a Steinway, which is pretty fancy,” Agarwal said. “Granted, it had been outside for years just sitting at Cubberley, so it wasn’t in the best shape. But still, not to let it go to waste … Also just because it was something that was feasible and in front of me that I could do.”

In all, he estimated that some 15 to 20 people were involved in the project in some way, many of them friends that he invited over to help paint in any of the gaps on the panels.

And despite the size and time commitment of the project — not to mention the pressure of having the grant — Agarwal said it never became stressful for him.

“This was just a project I took up for fun, so I didn’t let it get anything beyond that,” he said.

As for next steps, the public art commission put an early September expiration on the project, which leaves Agarwal with the task of figuring out what the heck to do with the piano after that (his website says that anybody interested in purchasing the piano after its installation can reach out via email).

“I’ll be emailing the SFMOMA and seeing if they want it — I’m not entirely sure what the chances are of that,” Agarwal said.

But for now, Agarwal can sit back and admire his hard work.

“On the surface level, I hope people continue to play it,” Agarwal said. “I hope people will enjoy it, and possibly even maintain it to some extent. Maybe on a [deeper] level … I think it would be very nice if people were … I guess inspired to give back to the community in a similar way, or do something else just random for fun that the public can enjoy.”

At that point in the interview, two elementary schoolers were jamming on the piano: the perfect validation of Agarwal’s work.

“I like it, I like it quite a bit,” he said. “Because they’re probably playing better than I can — so it’s gotten into the right hands already.”

Visit Agarwal’s website here, or visit the piano at 600 E Meadow Dr., Palo Alto, CA 94303. You can also find the piano’s Instagram page here, where Agarwal said he’ll repost clips of you playing the public piano if you tag the account.

A step back: Santa Clara County recommends indoor masking

STORY BY TOMOKI CHIEN

Given a rise in local COVID-19 transmission, Santa Clara County health officials Friday recommended wearing masks indoors regardless of vaccination status, in a step back from June’s significant ease in health restrictions. 

The recommendation falls short of a mandate, and instead asks that residents wear masks in public places “to ensure easy verification that all unvaccinated people are masked,” and as an “extra precautionary measure.”

It also asks that businesses once again adopt universal masking requirements for customers.

The county’s recommendation — which was made jointly with seven other Bay Area counties — comes as the county’s test positivity rate has risen to 1.7%, a number last recorded in February. 

From late April to early this month, the county test positivity rate has dwindled around 0.5%, while the highest rate this year was in early January, at 9.2%. 

Health officials have largely blamed the highly transmissible Delta variant — which now accounts for 43% of cases in California, and 58% of cases nationally — for the spike in the test positivity rate.

The county will revisit the recommendation in the coming weeks as health officials monitor transmission rates, hospitalizations, deaths and vaccination rates.

“Fully vaccinated people are well-protected from infections and serious illness due to known COVID-19 variants,” a county press release reads. “Vaccinating as many people as possible, as soon as possible, continues to be our best defense against severe COVID-19 infection.”

Newsom declares drought emergency in Santa Clara County, asks residents to reduce water use by 15%

STORY BY TOMOKI CHIEN, PHOTO BY ARYA NASIKKAR

Gov. Gavin Newsom Thursday urged Californians to cut water use by 15%, and further expanded the state’s emergency drought declaration to include Santa Clara County, along with eight others.

50 of the state’s 58 counties — home to 42% of the state’s population — now fall under the emergency declaration, which essentially allows state agencies to move more quickly and effectively to support drought response measures.

Newsom’s plea for residents to cut water use comes as part of a separate executive order, which the governor stressed is voluntary. 

“I’m not here as a nanny state,” Newsom said at a Thursday press conference. “We’re not trying to be oppressive — again, these are voluntary standards.”

The voluntary 15% reduction applies to residences as well as industrial and agricultural operations.

But while the state’s order may be voluntary, the Santa Clara Valley Water District early last month voted to impose a mandatory 15% reduction in water use compared to 2019 levels; the order leaves it up to local municipalities and private water companies to decide how they’ll impose the 15% cutback on customers.

“We can’t afford to wait to act as our water supplies are being threatened locally and across California,” said Valley Water Board Chair Tony Estremera after the vote to impose the restriction in June. “We are in an emergency and Valley Water must do everything we can to protect our groundwater resources and ensure we can provide safe, clean water to Santa Clara County residents and businesses.”

By voluntarily cutting water usage by 15% compared to 2020 levels, state officials estimate that residents could save enough water to supply more than 1.7 million households for a year.

Newsom urged residents to take “common sense” measures to reduce water usage, including cutting back on lawn irrigation, reducing time in the shower, checking for leaks on properties, installing efficient showerheads and only running full loads of laundry and dishes.

“By the way, [if] you do those things, you also save money,” Newsom said.

The Santa Clara Valley Water District is offering residents up to $3,000 dollars in rebates to replace high-water using landscapes with drought-resilient ones.

Those measures have worked before: In part thanks to the same water conservation practices, per capita state residential water use during the 2013–2016 drought fell by 21%, and still, 2020 per capita residential water use was some 16% below 2013 levels.

State agencies will track California’s monthly progress toward the voluntary 15% reduction.

Locally, the state of the drought is dire.

The U.S. Drought Monitor labels Santa Clara County as being in “extreme drought,” the second-highest ranking on the six-tiered scale. 

Among other symptoms, regions experiencing extreme drought generally see intensified, year-round fire seasons; wildlife encroaching on developed areas in search of food and water; a hard-hit livestock industry; and extremely low reservoir levels.

The county’s largest surface reservoir has been drained and put out of commission for a decade to allow for the Anderson Dam project, which officials say is crucial to protecting against floods in the future.

Imported water supplies, which account for 55% of the county’s water, have also seen a “significant reduction” this year, spurred by the depleted Sierra Nevada snowpack.

“If the drought continues into next year, we could face the possibility there will not be enough water to meet basic demands without serious risk of subsidence in 2022,” Estremera said in a statement Thursday.

Subsidence occurs when large amounts of water are removed from ground, which causes it to sink because the soil was partially supported by the water.

“The proclamation by Gov. Newsom amplifies how important it is for all our communities to reduce their water use during this extreme drought,” Estremera said. “Many people reduced their water use significantly during the last drought. Valley Water thanks them for their conservation efforts and encourages everyone to keep up the good work.”

CDC says vaccinated teachers and students don’t need to wear masks

STORY BY TOMOKI CHIEN

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Friday said that fully vaccinated students and staff no longer need to wear masks, as part of an update to its guidance for K–12 schools to reflect the impact of now widely available vaccines.

The CDC’s recommendations should guide — if not mirror — the policy set by the California Department of Public Health, which Santa Clara County will likely default to. 

Friday’s guidance also says that in general, people don’t need to wear masks outdoors regardless of vaccination status, with the exception of unvaccinated people in crowded settings in areas of high transmission.

Cases where the CDC suggests schools consider implementing universal mask usage include having high COVID-19 transmission within the school or community; lacking a system to monitor vaccine status of students and staff; having difficulty enforcing mask policies that are not universal; and receiving community feedback that teachers and students would not participate in in-person learning without universal mask usage.

Masks continue to be required on school buses, regardless of vaccination status.

On the social distancing front, the CDC’s guidance recommends 3-foot distancing between all students, but that recommendation appears to be more flexible than the masking policy; if 3-foot distancing would prevent schools from fully reopening, the requirement appears to be no-longer necessary.

“Because of the importance of in-person learning, schools where not everyone is fully vaccinated should implement physical distancing to the extent possible within their structures, but should not exclude students from in-person learning to keep a minimum distance requirement,” the guidance reads.

Ultimately, the guidance acknowledges that vaccines are the most effective mitigation measure, and encourages schools to promote vaccination among eligible students and staff.

Local school districts are expected to set their COVID-19 safety policy for the fall once the state releases its guidance.

MVLA adopta LCAP, y se enfoca en la inequidad educativa durante los próximos tres años

ARTICULO DE TOMOKI CHIEN, FOTO DE ARYA NASIKKARTRADUCCIÓN DE RODRIGO SEPÚLVEDA SAGASETA

Esta historia fue escrita y reportada originalmente en inglés. Todas las citas son traducciones.

Click here to read the original article in English.

El 21 de junio, la junta de consejo del Mountain View – Los Altos Union High School District aprobó su último Local Control Accountability Plan o Plan de Rendición de Cuentas con Control Local, un plan estableciendo metas y presupuestos para los distritos escolares. 

El LCAP establece objetivos amplios para los próximos tres años, que incluyen garantizar el acceso equitativo a una educación de alta calidad, aumentar la participación de la comunidad y ofrecer apoyo para el bienestar y la salud mental de los estudiantes. 

Todas las agencias educativas locales en California, que incluyen escuelas públicas, oficinas de educación del condado y escuelas “charter”, deben adoptar un LCAP en ciclos de tres años.

El LCAP es parte de un modelo de financiamiento para la educación estatal conocido como la Fórmula de Financiación con Control Local, que asegura que las escuelas que reciben fondos estatales presupuestan el dinero de una manera que se alinea con las prioridades estatales y comunitarias. Una gran parte de la adopción de cada LCAP incluye revisarlo con actores interesados del distrito.

Cada LCAP asigna una parte del presupuesto de la agencia de educación a acciones específicas destinadas a ayudar lograr las metas.

Un LCAP también debe ofrecer métricas que puedan marcar el progreso en alcanzando los logros, lo que, en teoría, hace que las agencias educativas sean responsables de los objetivos que establecieron y los fondos que utilizan para alcanzarlos.

Una meta clave descrita por el LCAP del distrito es seguir garantizar la “excelencia académica para todos” al ofrecer una educación equitativa y de alta calidad. 

El LCAP 2017 del distrito identificó muchos de los mismos problemas reconocidos en el nuevo documento de 2021, específicamente GPAs bajos, calificaciones bajas en matemáticas y falta de cumplir con los requisitos A – G en los latinos, los estudiantes con discapacidades, los estudiantes todavía aprendiendo inglés y los estudiantes con desventaja socioeconómica.

Las soluciones clave para estas desigualdades incluyen continuar ofreciendo recuperación de créditos y opciones de escuela de verano, servicios de intervención, dentro o incluso después del día escolar, que se dirigen a los estudiantes en riesgo de no graduarse con apoyo académico adicional.

Ofrecer acceso a Internet, Chromebooks, soporte de pago de exámenes, asesoramiento académico, servicios de salud mental y “educación culturalmente relevante” también son acciones mencionadas.

“Muchas de nuestras clases tienen una visión del mundo euro-centrada, cuando la mitad de nuestros estudiantes no se ven reflejados en ese punto de vista,” dice el LCAP. “Los maestros aumentarán la cantidad de textos, lecciones y materiales culturalmente diversos. Esto apoyará a nuestros [estudiantes todavía aprendiendo inglés] porque históricamente son nuestros estudiantes de color. “

Una parte de eso podría incluir un curso de estudios étnicos planeado por el distrito, que debutará en 2022. 

El LCAP ofrece una serie de métricas para determinar el éxito de asegurar la excelencia académica, algunas de las cuales incluyen puntajes más altos en las evaluaciones estatales; un aumento en el porcentaje de estudiantes que completan los requisitos A – G; GPAs más altos en Álgebra I; y un porcentaje más alto de inscripción en cursos de Colocación Avanzada (AP).

Se pueden encontrar métricas específicas a partir de la página 11 del LCAP.

Un objetivo separado titulado “aprendices de por vida”— que detalla el apoyo para los maestros— complementa el objetivo de “excelencia académica para todos.”

El LCAP enumera un “programa de inducción de maestros,” en el cual los nuevos maestros se emparejan con un mentor del equipo de apoyo instructivo, específicamente para ayudar a los maestros a enfocarse en apoyar a los estudiantes en riesgo.

El distrito también planea continuar ofreciendo oportunidades de desarrollo profesional, incluyendo la capacitación de “anti-prejuicios y anti-racismo.”

Otra meta incluye aumentar la comunicación y el compromiso con actores interesados, creado con la equidad en mente. El distrito espera que al aumentar la participación de la comunidad, específicamente con los padres de estudiantes en riesgo, el ausentismo continuo, los abandonos y las suspensiones disminuirán, mientras las tasas de graduación mejoraran.

Otra parte de eso también incluye trabajar en colaboración con los distritos escolares de Mountain View Whisman y Los Altos para alinearse con prácticas comunes, lo que en teoría asegura que los estudiantes entrando a noveno hagan la transición a la preparatoria de manera fluida.

La especialista en divulgación comunitaria recientemente designada va a tener un papel importante en esto.

El único objetivo del LCAP que no está vinculado explícitamente a la equidad se relaciona con la seguridad y el bienestar de los estudiantes, específicamente el apoyo a la salud mental.

“Es necesario usar la información y datos que tenemos de manera efectiva para identificar las necesidades específicas de los estudiantes y conectarlos con los recursos y servicios apropiados para asegurar su acceso a una educación alineada con nuestros estándares y apoyarlos para que estén listos para la universidad y sus carreras,” dice el LCAP.

Una parte esencial de esto es el nuevo puesto de coordinador, que será responsable de evaluar y dirigir las referencias de salud mental al apoyo correcto— ya sean terapeutas, administradores o consejeros escolares.

Previamente, el distrito había contratado al Community Health Awareness Council para ofrecer un coordinador, pero el coordinador de bienestar William Blair dijo en un correo electrónico que el distrito decidió hacerlo internamente.

Una gran parte de los fondos, unos $ 1.1 millones, se destinan a brindar servicios de salud mental a los estudiantes a través de consejeros y terapeutas.

“Para fortalecer este esfuerzo en mejorar la salud mental, definiremos mejor nuestros roles, prácticas, protocolos y servicios dentro de nuestro equipo clínico,” dice el LCAP.

MVLA adopts LCAP, targets inequity over next three years

STORY BY TOMOKI CHIEN, PHOTO BY ARYA NASIKKAR

Haz click aqui para ver el articulo en Español.

The Mountain View–Los Altos Union High School District board approved its latest Local Control Accountability Plan, a goal setting and budgeting document for school districts on June 21.

The LCAP lays out broad goals for the next three years which include ensuring equitable access to high-quality education, increasing community engagement and offering wellness and mental health support.

All local educational agencies in California — which include public schools, county offices of education and charter schools — are required to adopt an LCAP on a three year cycle.

The LCAP is part of a state education funding model known as the Local Control Funding Formula, which essentially ensures that schools receiving state funds budget the money in a way that aligns with state and community priorities; a large part of adopting each LCAP includes revising after meeting with various stakeholder groups across the district.

Each LCAP allocates a portion of the education agency’s budget to specific actions expected to help achieve those goals.

An LCAP must also offer target metrics that can track progress in reaching those goals, which in theory holds educational agencies accountable to goals they set and the funds they use to get there.

A key goal outlined by the district’s LCAP continues to be to ensure “academic excellence for all,” by offering equitable, high-quality education. 

The district’s 2017 LCAP identified many of the same problems acknowledged in the 2021 document, specifically lagging GPAs, low math grades and failure to meet A–G requirements in the Latino, students with disabilities, English learner and socioeconomically disadvantaged populations.

Key remedies to those inequities include continuing to offer credit recovery and summer school options as well as intervention services, which target students at risk of not graduating with additional academic support within or even after the school day — that can be done within a student’s assigned classroom or in a separate room specifically for support instruction.

Offering internet access, Chromebooks, exam fee support, academic counseling, mental health services and “culturally relevant education” are also stated actions.

“Many of our classes have a Euro-centered view of the world when half of our students do not see themselves reflected in the point of view,” the LCAP reads. “Teachers will increase the amount of culturally diverse texts, lessons, and materials they use in the curriculum. This is partially supportive for our [English learners and foster youth] because they historically are our students of color.”

One part of that could include the district’s planned ethnic studies course, which is set to make its debut in 2022.

The LCAP offers a number of metrics for determining success in ensuring academic excellence, some of which include higher scores on state assessments; an increase in the percentage of students completing A–G requirements; higher GPAs in Algebra I; and a higher percentage of student body enrollment in Advanced Placement courses.

Specific metrics can be found starting on page 11 of the LCAP.

A separate goal titled “life long learners” — which details supports for teachers — goes hand in hand with the goal of “academic excellence for all.”

Of a number of actions, the LCAP lists a “teacher induction program,” in which new teachers are paired with a mentor from the instructional support team, specifically to help teachers focus on supporting at-risk students.

The district also plans to continue offering professional development opportunities, including “anti-bias/anti-racism” training.

Increasing stakeholder communication and engagement is another goal, similarly created with equity in mind. The district hopes that by increasing community engagement — specifically with parents of at-risk students — chronic absenteeism, dropouts and suspensions will decrease, while graduation rates increase.

Another part of that includes working closely with the Mountain View Whisman and Los Altos school districts to align common practices, which in theory ensures that rising ninth graders transition into high school as smoothly as possible.

The recently appointed community outreach specialist should play a large role in that.

The only goal on the LCAP not explicitly tied to equity relates to safety and wellness, specifically mental health support.

“Effectively using data to identify specific student needs and connecting them to the appropriate resources/services is necessary to ensure their access to standards-aligned instruction and support them in becoming college and career-ready,” the LCAP reads.

A key part of that is the newly created intake coordinator position, which will be responsible for assessing and directing mental health referrals to the correct support — whether that be therapists, administrators or school counselors. 

The district had previously contracted with the Community Health Awareness Council to offer an intake coordinator, but Wellness Coordinator William Blair said in an email that the district decided to transition to doing so internally. 

A sizable portion of the funds — some $1.1 million — are also slated to go toward providing mental health services to students through counselors and therapists.

“To strengthen this work in mental health, we will better define our roles, practices, protocols and services within our clinical team,” the LCAP reads.

Vaccinated Californians no longer need to wear masks; state lifts majority of COVID-19 restrictions

STORY BY TOMOKI CHIEN

Fully vaccinated Californians no longer need to wear masks or socially distance in most settings, in a dramatic ease of state COVID-19 restrictions.

The relaxed health restrictions — which effectively fully reopen the economy by lifting capacity restrictions on businesses, and scrapping the color tier system that dictated restrictions in counties — has been planned since April.

Exceptions to the no mask policy include when on public transit, indoors in K–12 schools and childcare settings, healthcare facilities and homeless shelters. The state has indicated that it will align K–12 safety restrictions with pending guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which could include a lift on masking and social distancing requirements for certain ages.

Unvaccinated individuals are expected to follow previous state COVID-19 safety restrictions which include wearing masks indoors and socially distancing.

The state has also lifted its travel advisory, which had previously discouraged Californians from traveling outside of their local region.

As per usual, local health officers are permitted to implement tighter restrictions, but Santa Clara County health officials have fallen in line with the state’s mandates.

Con una subvención estatal, MVLA busca incrementar el apoyo para los estudiantes

ARTICULO DE TOMOKI CHIEN, FOTO DE EMILY MCNALLY, TRADUCCIÓN DE RODRIGO SEPÚLVEDA SAGASETA 

Esta historia fue escrita y reportada originalmente en inglés. Todas las citas son traducciones.

Click here to view the original article in English.

Con fondos de la Beca de Oportunidades de Aprendizaje Expandido del estado de California, el Distrito Escolar Unificado de Mountain View–Los Altos buscará reforzar el apoyo académico y socioemocional para los estudiantes

Una gran parte de los fondos se usará para apoyar la recuperación académica de los estudiantes con falta de créditos y para el desarrollo profesional de los maestros.

El 1 de junio, el consejo del distrito aprobó un plan de gastos de $2,520,000, el cual presentarán al estado. Este plan incluye una asignación general del dinero, dejando los detalles para después; La superintendente adjunta de servicios educativos, Teri Faught, dijo en la junta de consejo que eso era lo que esperaba el estado, debido al poco tiempo que tuvieron. 

La subvención, que comienza este verano y dura hasta el verano de 2022, es parte de un paquete de ayuda estatal de COVID-19 destinado a ayudar a las escuelas a recuperarse de los efectos de la pandemia y hacer la transición al nuevo año escolar. 

Además de ofrecer oportunidades de escuela de verano para los estudiantes que necesiten recuperar créditos para cumplir con los requisitos de graduación, el distrito también ofrecerá “academias de verano” para estudiantes en el programa de AVID. 

“Es para los estudiantes que están [en] AVID, para traerlos al campus para desarrollar su habilidades para leer y escribir, desarrollar su comunicación y sus habilidades y confianza”, dijo Faught en la junta de consejo.

Faught dijo que este año, las academias de verano trabajarán con los estudiantes entrantes de AVID para darles más conocimiento. Las academias tendrán un componente centrado en las matemáticas, para apoyar a los estudiantes que han sido identificados por las escuelas intermedias que actualmente tienen dificultades en matemáticas.

El plan describe una serie de otros apoyos planeados para los estudiantes que lo necesitan, el cual incluye ofrecer un horario extendido de la biblioteca para permitir tiempo adicional para que los estudiantes trabajen bajo supervisión o con un tutor; un programa de recuperación de créditos en línea; y clases de apoyo según la necesidad.

Los fondos también se irán a entrenar a los maestros para “involucrar a los estudiantes y sus familias en el tratamiento de la salud socioemocional de los estudiantes” y construir comunidades de aprendizaje después de la pandemia.

El distrito también ampliará sus servicios con el Community Health Awareness Council.