Menlo Park City School District School Board postpones vote on waiver application

by Parke Treadway on September 4, 2020

At its meeting on September 3, the Menlo Park City School District School Board decided unanimously to postpone until September 10 the possible vote on submitting a waiver application for returning kindergarten and first grade students for in-person instruction.

As San Mateo County is in the Tier 4 “widespread community transmission” category, schools are not allowed to open for in-person instruction except for specific groups of at-risk students as defined in the California Department of Public Health guidance from August 25.

Currently, MPCSD is pursuing a phased approach to returning some students to campus, beginning next week with those with Individualized Education Plans (IEPs) designated as moderate to severe, and a small number of high risk middle school students. Additionally, over the next couple weeks, students with IEPs who receive 40-50% of their services in specialized academic settings, or those who are English Learners and also low SES, will also return. A waiver is not required to serve these students in person.

On the agenda for the September 3 meeting was the Board’s consideration of applying for a waiver from San Mateo County to return all kindergarteners and first graders to campus. Superintendent Erik Burmeister reported that the waiver application is ready to be submitted as soon as the Board approves. The MPEA (teachers union) and CSEA (classified staff union) presidents read a joint statement recommending the Board not vote to approve a waiver application at this time as their members do not yet feel safe returning to in-person instruction.

Many teachers and parents spoke during public comment supporting both sides of the waiver decision. During Board discussion, Board members stated that while they feel that MPCSD’s plans sufficiently mitigate risk of spreading COVID, and the county data is extremely close to the level which would allow schools to open, the Board did not want to push for a waiver application without teacher and staff support.

Board members agreed that finding a way forward together with teachers and staff is crucial, and the Board feels that with further discussion with MPEA and CSEA partners, a joint plan can be achieved. Over the next several days, Board members, district staff, and MPEA and CSEA representatives will work together to identify ways teachers and staff can be assured that MPCSD’s reopening safety protocols are sufficient to garner support for a waiver application. The Board will return to the discussion about submitting a waiver at its regularly scheduled September 10 meeting.

As always, MPCSD School Board meeting information, including the agenda and details for joining meetings via Zoom, are available 72 hours in advance of each meeting on the district’s website homepage.

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