MPCSD school board votes to resume in-person learning for grades 2 through 8

by Linda Hubbard on October 2, 2020

At its October 1 special meeting, the Menlo Park City School District School Board voted unanimously to return grades 2 through 8 to in-person learning beginning in phases on October 19. The vote came after intense discussion, as the original motion was to return students beginning October 12, earlier than even the earliest timeline that Superintendent Erik Burmeister proposed.

Many teachers, administrators, and parents spoke in favor of the measured approach in the superintendent’s recommendations, noting that the logistics of bringing hundreds of students and staff back on campus require much planning, training, and communication with all stakeholders prior to the actual opening. The original motion was withdrawn, leading to the unanimous vote to bring students back in three phases.

Phase 4 (grades 2-5) and Phase 5 (grade 6) will begin attending in-person school on October 19 following MPCSD’s Reopening Plan Hybrid Alternating Week Model. Phase 6 (grades 7 and 8) will follow on November 2, giving the middle school time to bring sixth graders back for a period of adjustment before the rest of the school joins them. See the full presentation here.

The return of Phases 4, 5, and 6 follows the successful reopening of Phases 1, 2, and 3 which was completed this week with the return of kindergartners and first graders in addition to small groups of vulnerable students in all grades. MPCSD is the first public school district in San Mateo County to open its campuses so broadly and it has been very smooth so far. The district has learned valuable lessons about the staffing, logistics, communication, and coordination required to execute a safe and successful return of students while following robust health and safety protocols.

The district now has 18 days to ramp up from two grades back to adding all seven additional grades levels over the next several weeks. Any further return of students depends on San Mateo remaining in the “red” or substantial tier of spread according to the state’s Blueprint for a Safer Economy. The recent addition of an equity measure to account for the disparate COVID positivity rates between communities of color and majority white communities has the potential to change the county’s position on the tiers. However if MPCSD reopens within the red tier and then the county moves back into purple, the schools do not have to close again.

The next regular School Board meeting is scheduled for October 8 at 5:00 p.m. 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 website.

InMenlo file photo (c) 2014

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