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Superintendent announces intention to move ahead with voluntary reopening of schools 

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Paso Robles Joint Unified School District Superintendent Curt Dubost sent a letter to the community on Friday, announcing the distirct’s intention to move ahead with opening schools for some in-person classes with students and teachers who volunteer to come to campuses:

I am writing to update the community regarding the current status of return to school after we return from Winter Break.

At the outset, I would like to thank the community, teachers, administration and our school board for their collaborative and problem solving approach during a time of great challenge and stress in public education.

As you may know, the District voted on October 6, 2020 to move to in-person hybrid for all students. The reopening plan was phased-in at the various District sites. Elementary schools have successfully commenced their hybrid reopening. At that meeting the Board voted also to return all secondary schools with the hybrid option on January 5, 2021. It was understood when the vote was made that the District would be serving struggling secondary students both on and off-campus as needed during the period between the meeting and January 5, 2021.

Q&A with Superintendent Curt Dubost

Curt Dubost. Courtesy photo.

Since that meeting, San Luis Obispo County returned to the Purple Tier of the Governor’s Blueprint for a Safer Economy. Prior to the return to the Purple Tier, the District’s understanding from Public Health was that a phased-in reopening plan for a site would be considered a reopening if the county returned to Purple and would allow for return of secondary students as planned.

The District has continually advocated that position based on that understanding as shown on the correspondence included in this release. Recently, public health has indicated support for this position. This development may allow the District to resume in-person instruction for secondary schools, even while in the Purple Tier, provided it complies with all health and safety protocols detailed in its reopening plan and sufficient staffing.

At this week’s Board meeting, the Board of Trustees voted 7-0 to direct administration to continue with its reopening of secondary sites. They specifi cally endorsed that any return of secondary school teachers to hybrid while in the Purple Tier be entirely voluntary. The Board would appreciate hearing from interested parties.

Throughout the pandemic, the unanimous position of the District Board has been and continues to be that all actions should be in accordance with County Health Department guidance. The Board and administration have also taken a position very candidly with the community and its labor partners to challenge any direction that seemed indefensible or arbitrary and to work in cooperation with, not at odds, with our teachers association.

The vague and ever-changing guidelines coming from the state and public health have been messy so I fully understand the position taken by the Teachers Association that they would like to discuss this further in negotiations and look forward to meeting with them to discuss and hopefully join with them in demanding more consistent and legally defensible state guidance as well as indemnification.

As it presently stands, our understanding is that public health does support our position that we have commenced our phased-in reopening. As such, based on that understanding, we are proceeding with planning to attempt to provide in-person hybrid instruction to all students, who so opt-in in January. This in-person instruction is contingent upon voluntary secondary staffing being available.

In recognition of the additional concerns of the community and teachers of continuing secondary opening while in the Purple Tier, we have taken the position that the teacher return to in-person during that period be strictly voluntary. We are working to meet with PRPE to facilitate that choice and determine how much hybrid in person instruction can safely be provided at the secondary level. As soon as we receive an update, we will promptly communicate to the community.

Given all of the uncertainty, I cannot give you any guarantee of how much in-person learning will begin in January at secondary schools. I can only promise you of the safe return of all students and staff to as much in-person learning as we can safely provide remains our highest priority. Whatever happens, it will not affect Home School nor Distance Learning. I have also attached copies of my introductory statement Wednesday, my letter to Dr. Borenstein and her response, and our letter to State Superintendent Thurmond to which we have yet to hear a response.

Dr. Curt Dubost
Superintendent
Paso Robles Joint Unified School District

Click here to read the full letter with attached correspondence to and from the county and state authorities

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The news staff of the Paso Robles Daily News wrote or edited this story from local contributors and press releases. The news staff can be reached at info@pasoroblesdailynews.com.