News

Citing coronavirus increase, high school district to start fall semester with full distance learning

All Sequoia Union High School District students will stay home until at least October, superintendent says

High school classrooms will remain empty when school starts next month, Sequoia Union High School District officials decided Tuesday. Locally, that means Woodside, TIDE Academy and Menlo-Atherton students will attend classes online until at least October. Photo by Magali Gauthier.

In a packed Zoom school board meeting that hit the virtual platform's capacity of 500 viewers, the Sequoia Union High School District on Tuesday night gave its most concrete decision about the fate of the fall thus far: High school students will learn from home for the first quarter of the school year.

Superintendent Mary Streshly said that recent coronavirus case increases have pushed the district to keep students learning remotely until at least October, saying that the district works from a system of phases meant to adapt to ongoing health conditions.

She said that the administration's decision was based on "current health data in conjunction with our evaluation of our current abilities to keep both staff and students safe in classrooms."

Students and staff will follow a consistent bell schedule during distance learning, Streshly said, and students will receive letter grades -- a notable change after the district had moved to a credit/no-credit system for the spring semester.

The announcement Tuesday follows a two-month-long community debate about a single question: return students to campus, or keep them home?

What's local journalism worth to you?

Support Almanac Online for as little as $5/month.

Learn more

At a June 10 board meeting, parents flooded the board with public comments imploring the district to allow kids to return to campus with a hybrid schedule -- half online, half on-campus.

Meanwhile, a June 24 meeting saw hundreds of comments from district teachers and staff asking for greater caution about reopening schools. A survey done by the Sequoia District Teachers Association found that 46% of teachers opposed returning to campus in the fall, with most citing health concerns. At that meeting, the board voted 4-1 on June 24 in favor of a hybrid learning model as part of a phased reopening plan that changes based on county health conditions.

The meeting follows a July 17 announcement from Gov. Gavin Newsom that public schools on the state's coronavirus watchlist cannot open campuses until they've been off the list for 14 days.

The Woodside High School campus is empty on July 20. Photo by Magali Gauthier.

Newsom also announced new safety criteria for schools, including face masks for staff and students in third grade and above, 6 feet of social distance "as practicable," and regular temperature and symptom checks.

As of now, Sequoia Union High School District -- which includes Menlo-Atherton and Woodside high schools and TIDE Academy -- has not made concrete plans beyond the first quarter.

Stay informed

Get daily headlines sent straight to your inbox.

Sign up

In June, the district board committed to a four-phase system that adapts to local health conditions. The first quarter of the fall semester will correspond to phase one, which is full distance learning, while a hybrid schedule would represent phase three and fully reopening schools would be phase four.

Streshly said at Tuesday's meeting that during distance learning, which will begin in August, students will receive "daily live interactions with teachers and other students," and that students will receive "class assignments that are challenging and equivalent to in-person instruction."

Streshly emphasized the "dynamic nature" of the district's response to COVID-19. "As we move forward we need to stay flexible and adaptive," she said. "Because that's the beast that we battle in the global pandemic."

Local elementary schools

Other school districts are poised to discuss fall reopening plans in light of recent coronavirus case increases and the governor's announcement. Board meetings are planned for Menlo Park City School District on July 23, Portola Valley Elementary School District on July 24, Woodside Elementary School District on July 28, and Los Lomitas Elementary School District on August 5.

Belle Haven Elementary in the Ravenswood School District and Selby Lane Elementary in the Redwood City School District have both already announced they will start the school year with full distance learning.

Craving a new voice in Peninsula dining?

Sign up for the Peninsula Foodist newsletter.

Sign up now

Follow AlmanacNews.com and The Almanac on Twitter @almanacnews, Facebook and on Instagram @almanacnews for breaking news, local events, photos, videos and more.

Citing coronavirus increase, high school district to start fall semester with full distance learning

All Sequoia Union High School District students will stay home until at least October, superintendent says

by / Almanac

Uploaded: Wed, Jul 22, 2020, 6:13 pm

In a packed Zoom school board meeting that hit the virtual platform's capacity of 500 viewers, the Sequoia Union High School District on Tuesday night gave its most concrete decision about the fate of the fall thus far: High school students will learn from home for the first quarter of the school year.

Superintendent Mary Streshly said that recent coronavirus case increases have pushed the district to keep students learning remotely until at least October, saying that the district works from a system of phases meant to adapt to ongoing health conditions.

She said that the administration's decision was based on "current health data in conjunction with our evaluation of our current abilities to keep both staff and students safe in classrooms."

Students and staff will follow a consistent bell schedule during distance learning, Streshly said, and students will receive letter grades -- a notable change after the district had moved to a credit/no-credit system for the spring semester.

The announcement Tuesday follows a two-month-long community debate about a single question: return students to campus, or keep them home?

At a June 10 board meeting, parents flooded the board with public comments imploring the district to allow kids to return to campus with a hybrid schedule -- half online, half on-campus.

Meanwhile, a June 24 meeting saw hundreds of comments from district teachers and staff asking for greater caution about reopening schools. A survey done by the Sequoia District Teachers Association found that 46% of teachers opposed returning to campus in the fall, with most citing health concerns. At that meeting, the board voted 4-1 on June 24 in favor of a hybrid learning model as part of a phased reopening plan that changes based on county health conditions.

The meeting follows a July 17 announcement from Gov. Gavin Newsom that public schools on the state's coronavirus watchlist cannot open campuses until they've been off the list for 14 days.

Newsom also announced new safety criteria for schools, including face masks for staff and students in third grade and above, 6 feet of social distance "as practicable," and regular temperature and symptom checks.

As of now, Sequoia Union High School District -- which includes Menlo-Atherton and Woodside high schools and TIDE Academy -- has not made concrete plans beyond the first quarter.

In June, the district board committed to a four-phase system that adapts to local health conditions. The first quarter of the fall semester will correspond to phase one, which is full distance learning, while a hybrid schedule would represent phase three and fully reopening schools would be phase four.

Streshly said at Tuesday's meeting that during distance learning, which will begin in August, students will receive "daily live interactions with teachers and other students," and that students will receive "class assignments that are challenging and equivalent to in-person instruction."

Streshly emphasized the "dynamic nature" of the district's response to COVID-19. "As we move forward we need to stay flexible and adaptive," she said. "Because that's the beast that we battle in the global pandemic."

Local elementary schools

Other school districts are poised to discuss fall reopening plans in light of recent coronavirus case increases and the governor's announcement. Board meetings are planned for Menlo Park City School District on July 23, Portola Valley Elementary School District on July 24, Woodside Elementary School District on July 28, and Los Lomitas Elementary School District on August 5.

Belle Haven Elementary in the Ravenswood School District and Selby Lane Elementary in the Redwood City School District have both already announced they will start the school year with full distance learning.

Comments

Never reopening?
Menlo-Atherton High School
on Jul 23, 2020 at 2:44 pm
Never reopening? , Menlo-Atherton High School
on Jul 23, 2020 at 2:44 pm
5 people like this

In a mass email from Dr. Mary E. Streshly, Superintendent, she states: The decision to reopen schools will be made when: "the County must demonstrate 14 days of no new COVID-19 cases".

If so, schools will not be reopening for a year (or more), and parents should be protesting vehemently. Write to your school board and the governor and state your opinion. That is far more strict than any other school district or even country.

I sadly understand the need to go to distance learning for now, but such draconian rules for reopening are horrendous and unacceptable.


Reality bites.
Menlo-Atherton High School
on Jul 23, 2020 at 2:48 pm
Reality bites., Menlo-Atherton High School
on Jul 23, 2020 at 2:48 pm
5 people like this

And second point.

"daily live interactions with teachers and other students". Really?

Teens need daily live instruction, not just interaction. More watered-down ridiculousness that will make this situation worse than it needs to be.

Teachers are amazing. I love teachers. They are capable of so much more than "interaction" but if all you hold them accountable for is interaction, then why bother pretending that teaching is valuable and necessary?


Tyler Callister
another community
on Jul 23, 2020 at 3:22 pm
Tyler Callister, another community
on Jul 23, 2020 at 3:22 pm
Like this comment

To the commenter above,
Would you be willing to talk more about your opinions on this? I'm seeking more parent / community voices on this topic. If you'd like to talk, please feel free to reach out [email protected]

Thanks,

Tyler Callister


Local
Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jul 26, 2020 at 4:05 pm
Local, Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jul 26, 2020 at 4:05 pm
2 people like this

It appears Dr. Mary E. Streshly, Superintendent, misspoke.

The HS principal sent out an email to all parents stating that schools will remain closed until the county is off the watch list for 14 days.

Regardless, please stay home and stay safe so that our kids can go back to school and people can go back to work.


Don't miss out on the discussion!
Sign up to be notified of new comments on this topic.

Post a comment

In order to encourage respectful and thoughtful discussion, commenting on stories is available to those who are registered users. If you are already a registered user and the commenting form is not below, you need to log in. If you are not registered, you can do so here.

Please make sure your comments are truthful, on-topic and do not disrespect another poster. Don't be snarky or belittling. All postings are subject to our TERMS OF USE, and may be deleted if deemed inappropriate by our staff.

See our announcement about requiring registration for commenting.