News

Portola Valley School District to discuss school waiver in special board meeting

An approved waiver could allow elementary school to open amid pandemic

The Portola Valley School District board will meet Thursday to discuss a state waiver option for elementary schools that would allow in-person classes to resume at the district's two schools, Corte Madera (pictured) and Ormondale. Photo by Michelle Le

The Portola Valley School District has called a special meeting of the school board to discuss a waiver program that could allow elementary schools to reopen amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

On Aug. 20, the San Mateo County department of public health sent out waiver applications to all elementary school superintendents, according to the district's executive assistant Karen Lucian.

"The board is going to discuss the waiver and application process with the administration. This is not an action item, but I think if you attend you will likely get an idea of what the district's next steps might be," Lucian said.

The meeting will be broadcast via Google Meet, and the public can join at 3:30 p.m., Thursday, Aug. 27. A slot will be reserved for online public comment at the start of the meeting.

Although San Mateo County is currently on the state's coronavirus watch list, making county schools unable to open, elementary schools that successfully apply for the California Department of Public Health's waiver may be allowed to open. The waiver would apply to transitional kindergarten through sixth grade.

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"In counties on the monitoring list, CDPH guidance allows a district superintendent, private school principal/head of school, or executive director of a charter school to apply for a waiver from the local health officer to open an elementary school for in-person instruction," the state's waiver application reads.

The watch list was announced by Gov. Gavin Newsom July 17, and tracks counties based on benchmarks for reopening, including positive COVID-19 case rates and hospitalizations.

Portola Valley School District, which serves over 700 students across Ormondale School and Corte Madera School, announced in a July 24 board meeting that the district would start the fall semester fully online. The school year began on Aug. 21.

Notably, the district teachers union, Portola Valley Teachers Association, submitted a letter to the board July 25 which strongly expressed that it did not want teachers and students to return to campus amid the pandemic.

"The in-person 'COVID Classroom' would be no classroom at all," the union wrote. "With its social distancing, masks, and constant attention to sanitation, in-person instruction during a pandemic promises nothing less than a learning environment devoid of the very things that make school both beneficial and attractive to young learners."

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The union went on to claim that in-person instruction classrooms amid the pandemic would be like a "hospital ward."

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Portola Valley School District to discuss school waiver in special board meeting

An approved waiver could allow elementary school to open amid pandemic

by / Almanac

Uploaded: Wed, Aug 26, 2020, 6:20 pm

The Portola Valley School District has called a special meeting of the school board to discuss a waiver program that could allow elementary schools to reopen amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

On Aug. 20, the San Mateo County department of public health sent out waiver applications to all elementary school superintendents, according to the district's executive assistant Karen Lucian.

"The board is going to discuss the waiver and application process with the administration. This is not an action item, but I think if you attend you will likely get an idea of what the district's next steps might be," Lucian said.

The meeting will be broadcast via Google Meet, and the public can join at 3:30 p.m., Thursday, Aug. 27. A slot will be reserved for online public comment at the start of the meeting.

Although San Mateo County is currently on the state's coronavirus watch list, making county schools unable to open, elementary schools that successfully apply for the California Department of Public Health's waiver may be allowed to open. The waiver would apply to transitional kindergarten through sixth grade.

"In counties on the monitoring list, CDPH guidance allows a district superintendent, private school principal/head of school, or executive director of a charter school to apply for a waiver from the local health officer to open an elementary school for in-person instruction," the state's waiver application reads.

The watch list was announced by Gov. Gavin Newsom July 17, and tracks counties based on benchmarks for reopening, including positive COVID-19 case rates and hospitalizations.

Portola Valley School District, which serves over 700 students across Ormondale School and Corte Madera School, announced in a July 24 board meeting that the district would start the fall semester fully online. The school year began on Aug. 21.

Notably, the district teachers union, Portola Valley Teachers Association, submitted a letter to the board July 25 which strongly expressed that it did not want teachers and students to return to campus amid the pandemic.

"The in-person 'COVID Classroom' would be no classroom at all," the union wrote. "With its social distancing, masks, and constant attention to sanitation, in-person instruction during a pandemic promises nothing less than a learning environment devoid of the very things that make school both beneficial and attractive to young learners."

The union went on to claim that in-person instruction classrooms amid the pandemic would be like a "hospital ward."

Comments

Parent
Registered user
another community
on Aug 27, 2020 at 9:08 am
Parent, another community
Registered user
on Aug 27, 2020 at 9:08 am
2 people like this

I wonder if school board members would seriously be considering authorizing applying for waivers and opening schools, if personal legal and financial liability was extended to their decision making and they could be sued and held responsible should a child or teacher fall seriously ill after a school opened?

Can the school district be sued and held responsible for workers compensation, should a teacher become permanently and chronically ill and contact tracing leads to a clusters of cases at the school district? How many such workers compensation cases would bankrupt the school district?


TriciaHC
Registered user
Portola Valley: Central Portola Valley
on Aug 27, 2020 at 1:45 pm
TriciaHC, Portola Valley: Central Portola Valley
Registered user
on Aug 27, 2020 at 1:45 pm
6 people like this

I am happy to see that our district is willing to look into all options. They may decide to stay with distance learning, but at least they are considering the alternatives. Thank you to the school board and staff for doing the extra work to explore these options. And, I believe that employer liability will not be an issue. If employers such as a school district would be held liable, no one would be doing business - from restaurants to grocery stores to doctors offices to government offices. Employees everywhere are being exposed all the time. And, since the actual mode of transmission hasn't been solidly discovered yet, it would be a hard case to prove in court.


Parent
Registered user
another community
on Aug 28, 2020 at 7:29 am
Parent, another community
Registered user
on Aug 28, 2020 at 7:29 am
Like this comment

My question about personal liability wasn't intended to making an argument that liablity should be extended to boards. I was trying to illustrate that if this question causes one to pause and assess what the risk of liability would be, they should consider that the risk of injury is still present irrespective of their own personal liability.


Regarding workers compensation, workers compensation claims are already being filed throughout the state of California related to Covid-19.

Web Link

"Workers’ compensation claims for COVID-19 have spiked dramatically in the past two months, from about 4,700 in May to about 10,900 in June and more than 11,600 in July, according to data from the California Department of Industrial Relations, which oversees the program.

Those claims could mean more than $2 billion in costs for employers and their insurers, according to projections by the Workers’ Compensation Insurance Rating Bureau of California"


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