Board approves reopening plan and elementary waiver application

ATASCADERO — Following a long and arduous discussion, the Atascadero Unified School District Board of Trustees voted unanimously to approve the District’s reopening plan as well as their application for the elementary waiver.

The topic of reopening schools has been a hot-button issue across the county this week and was no different in Atascadero on Tuesday night. The meeting opened with Atascadero District Teachers Association President Christine Williams addressing trustees and the public regarding ADTA’s statement on Facebook, asking for more information on how the plan will be executed.

“We have serious concerns with these documents as they are extremely light on actual details for keeping students and staff safe. We want to be in our classrooms with students. We have to trust that the plan in place will do that,” the Facebook post stated. “Right now, the plan that the Board will be voting on is extremely light on details and full of ‘trust us’ we will figure this out by the time school opens November 2.”

Over the next two and a half hours, AUSD Superintendent Tom Butler and his staff worked to answer questions surrounding the reopening plan and the new details added to it. Trustees asked their questions and presented their arguments.

The approved health and safety plan is a version of the blended model, which is posted on the District’s website, and will continue with reduced class sizes, and require students to wear masks while on campus as well as washing their hands and or sanitizing before entry or exit of any classroom.

The plan covers a number of topics from drop-off and pick-up times and hand washing to the contact-tracing protocols and school shutdowns if someone tests positive. It is recommended that every parent with a student in the District read the plan and familiarize themselves with it as there is also a checklist to run through with their child before sending them to school.

Starting as early as Wednesday, Oct. 7, the District will begin sending out parent registration surveys to determine each family’s educational choices for their child. Full distance learning, the blended in-person model and independent studies will be offered to all.

The District is looking at reopening kindergarten through second grade on Nov. 2 and third grade through fifth grade on Nov. 16.

While the younger kids could get back in the classroom as early as next month, the older students, grades six through 12, will wait until the beginning of 2021 to start fresh with a new semester rather than shuffle around the master schedule before the holiday break.

This week also marked the beginning of extracurricular activities in the District. Beginning Monday, cohorts of small groups started working together, provided that there is still no shared equipment.

In closing, Trustee Tami Gunther and Donn Clickard asked for the creation of a teacher “taskforce” that could raise specific questions regarding issues or absences in the reopening plan that have given them pause. Butler agreed and, according to sources close to the situation, has already made contact with teachers regarding its formation.

Moving forward, the ADTA and the District will continue to work together. According to Williams, Tuesday night’s meeting answered several of the teachers’ questions from the beginning and is hoping to continue to get answers through the Taskforce.

“I have never had this many teachers sign up for a committee before. I can tell you that,” Williams said.

For more information on the reopening, check the Atascadero School Board Website and The Atascadero News for future updates.

Getting through this together, Atascadero