Licensed child care available through Champions, Boys & Girls Club

ATASCADERO — The Atascadero Unified School District Board of Trustees met Tuesday morning to discuss the upcoming school year and the continual changes that occur while trying to open school during the COVID-19 pandemic safely.

AUSD Superintendent Tom Butler said they are applying for the educational waiver available in the state to allow in-person teaching to students in kindergarten through sixth grade.

“There are a number of steps as a school district we must take,” Butler explained. “We are fortunate enough to have the mechanisms in place to do that. We have to consult in a formal and documented way with an active parent group. We have a very strong superintendent’s parent advisory committee that I’ll be consulting with for their opinions about this. In addition, we have to consult with both of our labor partners, which is our teacher’s association and our classified employee’s association.”

Butler also stated that the District would need to certify that they have all the required safety needs such as hand sanitizer, PPE, and cleaning supplies and the proper steps regarding filtration systems.

Should the District make a request, County Public Health Officer Dr. Penny Borenstein would review the application along with epidemiological and consult with the County Department of Public Health before making a decision.

“There is a lot to the waiver, but we are well-positioned with existing groups to start to consider that, and the board can consider it more formally in upcoming meetings,” Butler stated.

A few moments later, Butler announced that the District would have two fully licensed childcare providers at the start of the school year.

“We have had two great meetings with the Boys and Girls Club as well as Champions, so we do have two formal child care providers that are fully licensed and meet all COVID-19 requirements,” Butler said. “In addition, both of them have committed to support children with distance learning during their program and will help them log into their classes and be able to support them with their education.”

The topic of child care incited some discussion from trustees who raised concerns and derided the idea that in-person child care is available and considered safe while school is not.

“This is the most ridiculous thing I have heard the governor do,” Trustee Ray Buban said. “He is going to turn schools and libraries and parks into child care centers. You can send your kid to one of these child care centers for this type of learning at Champions and the Boys and Girls Club, but I can’t have them in my school. That is just absurd, that is the most ridiculous thing I have ever heard in my life.”

Following Buban’s comments, Trustee Mary Kay Mills echoed his sentiments, saying, “I think it’s fantastic that we have that at the schools and I think it’s fantastic that it will support the students, but I don’t understand why that is allowed, and our students can be there. Aren’t their adults just as important?”

The board members made sure to point out their ire was not intended at Butler or the District but the decision made by the state and Governor Gavin Newsom.

Butler responded saying, “I want the community to be aware that they have existing licenses. There is a lot of requirements for childcare to be offered right now with all the face coverings full time, all the temperature checks which are active screenings for the students, regular testing and there is a whole lot of things there with a very tight ratio, and roughly it’s 1-to-10.”

Butler expounded on the 1-to-10, stating that the hybrid model the school is currently working with, which brings in half the students at a time, would operate at around a 1-to-15 model.

Assistant Superintendent Jackie Martin joined the Zoom teleconference following the discussions and announced that the District received preliminary entitlements for four additional resources of COVID relief funding. Two of the funds are for expenditures are in access of $2.6 million and must be spent between March 16 and the closure date of Dec. 30. The two other sums of money are equal are around $600,000 and available until 2022.

The District announced that it is looking into where the resources might be needed but will first allocate an additional $150 per teacher for supplies. They have also authorized up to six hours on a time card for each teacher to start the school year.

The District suspects the funds will go toward acquiring more devices for distance learning, custodial supplies, food support, and other critical areas of need.

The meeting finished with several presentations covering various topics surrounding the return to school and can be accessed on the District’s youtube channel titled “Atascadero Unified.”

Getting through this together, Atascadero