Summary of the Special District Meeting

Jessie Blattner, Staff Writer

On Mar. 24, the Capistrano Unified School District Board of Trustees held a special meeting to discuss the future of students’ school schedules as well as speak with labor negotiators from the district.

A key outcome of this meeting was the announcement that the Board of Trustees would urge schools within the district to formulate plans for increasing the number of days students are on campus each week. This comes as COVID-19 cases are decreasing in the state of California and many guidelines have been updated to reflect this.

In the open session of the meeting, President of the Board Judy Bullockus stated that “In response to the newly revised California Department of Public Health guidelines under closed session… the board gave direction to staff to explore all options with urgency working with the employee groups reopening team to create, develop, and implement a phased-in plan to increase in-person learning during the current 2020-2021 school year.”

Many parents have seemed to be in support of this move at all grade levels, with several parents speaking in support of five-day school weeks during the closed session comments section of the meeting.

Colleen Bryan, a CUSD parent who spoke during the session, believes that “pressing forward with hybrid learning falls short of meeting the needs of the diverse student population of CUSD and encourages the disparate treatment of students.”

She hopes that the district will push to offer a full-time in-person option to students at all grade levels during the 2020-2021 school year.

Another CUSD parent, Elizabeth Silverthorne, spoke on behalf of the CUSD chapter of the parent association, a group of parents in the district who are urging the district to reopen fully as soon as possible in compliance with the new guidelines laid out by the CDC.

She stated “As parents of children in the Capistrano Unified School District we are united in calling on the board of trustees and district administrative staff to fully reopen all CUSD schools immediately for full-time classroom instruction five days per week.”

There were also teachers who spoke during the closed session comments section, many of them speaking about the issues that the sudden increase in on campus learning may cause, especially at the elementary level.

Jennifer Vega, a math teacher at Arroyo Vista Middle School, urged against further reopening, stating that “In [her] professional opinion, another change in a middle school student’s schedule is not in the best interest of students nor teachers.”

She also noted how “at Arroyo teachers and administrators have planned the remainder of the year,” and asked the board to “please consider how another change will affect not only students but also their teachers.”

Michelle Procter, a first grade teacher at Chaparral Elementary School, believes that bringing her two cohorts together “will be detrimental to their well-being and learning.”

She also pointed out how combining her two cohorts and bringing the number of students in her class would be unsafe. She stated, “my classroom was built for 20 students. I physically cannot fit all my students safely three feet apart,” and worries about children being forced into new classrooms with only a few weeks left.

Individual schools throughout the district have been left to make their own decisions and plans for the rest of the 2020-2021 school year. With each plan being made, they are following the safety plan set out by the district for reopening.

Aliso Niguel High School made the decision to have students currently enrolled in the hybrid schedule begin attending school four days a week beginning the week of Apr. 26. All instructional days will be in person for hybrid students, excluding Mondays which will remain online for everyone.

Students interested in switching their schedules either from hybrid to fully online or vice versa have been instructed to contact their guidance counselor by Wednesday Apr. 14.

Jessie Blattner