Woodland teachers and educators are going public over what they feel is a lack of options as they begin to grapple with the safety concerns over the district’s five-phase reopening plan for the start of the 2020-21 school year.
Over 1,000 community members, teachers and parents have signed a petition demanding the district allow educators the option of carrying out instruction for distance learning from home.
Some district teachers have been voicing their concerns during the public comment portion of the school board of trustees meetings but feel those comments have not been fully appreciated.
There is less than a month before the first scheduled day of instruction: now set for Monday, Aug 31.
“The Woodland School Board cannot ignore the voices of the teachers and the community at large,” stated President of the Woodland Education Association Jen Drewek Shilen. “There is clearly broad support for trusting educators to do our jobs from the location of our choosing.”
“The WEA calls upon the WJUSD to join neighboring districts in adopting the sensible and smart policy of trusting teachers and other professional educators to choose their workplace location during distance learning,” Shilen continued.
Nearby districts like the Davis Joint Unified School District and Washington Unified School District of West Sacramento have announced that teachers and certified staff will be given the choice of working from home if they do not feel safe on campus.
During a school board meeting last month, Woodland Superintendent Tom Pritchard mentioned that teachers and other school staff would be the only ones allowed on campus — at least during phase one of the five-phase plan.
Teachers would be able to instruct online from their classrooms, but some want the option of working from home.
“It has been the district’s message for teachers that we will be working from our classrooms,” said Lee Middle School teacher Jenna Meyers. “Our focus right now is really on the start of the year and to make sure it’s as safe as possible. Having teachers healthy and able to conduct class from wherever that is an option for them is really what we think would be best.”
In phase one, classrooms will be closed to students, while lunch will still be served on a grab-and-go basis similar to the spring and summer.
Students wouldn’t be allowed on campus until phase two at the earliest, albeit in a limited capacity.
Phase two moves into limited blended learning with no more than 10 students per group allowed in a classroom at once. This phase will be a minimal return to in-person learning. Social distancing will be one of the main focuses while health precautions remain in place before a fully blended learning model as a part of phase three.
“The public health conditions that would have to be present along with the district’s plan to do every possible safety protocol will potentially help families and educators feel safe returning to school in person,” said Shilen.
The goal for the district is to return to an in-person setup but to do so in the safest possible way. Staff will monitor the conditions in the community and gradually move up the phases as conditions permit. There will be no skipping of phases, according to Pritchard.
If teachers’ concerns over safety don’t align with the moving up of phases based on county and state case numbers, it would likely put the five-phase plan in danger or keep everything firmly entrenched in phase one for much longer than anticipated.
To get to a full reopening, counties would need to have been removed from the state monitoring list for 13 consecutive days as a part of Gov. Gavin Newsom’s five-step plan to reopen California public schools safely.
Yolo County has been on the monitoring list since July 8
School trustees had initially set the first day of instruction as Aug. 17, but later rescheduled it for Monday, Aug 31.
The next board meeting is set for Thursday, Aug 6, where more details about the reopening will be discussed.