July 19, 2020

Dear MPCSD Parents/Guardians,

MPCSD’s planning for August continues at a brisk pace as the recent news cycle also produces a great deal of new information regarding school reopening; I would like to update you on both. 

Governor Newsom and CDPH’s New Guidelines on Reopening Schools
The MPCSD Board met most recently on Thursday, July 16 via Zoom. Unlike some area districts, I encouraged the Board to hold off on providing any further reopening direction until Governor Newsom presented his widely anticipated new guidance on school reopening. On Friday, the Governor provided greater clarity and uniformity with California’s new reopening guidelines . Included in the guidelines are: 
  • new mandatory face mask expectations for students in grades 3-12 (grades K-2 are strongly encouraged, but not mandatory, and expectations are age appropriate); 
  • a commitment to high quality instruction whether in-person or virtually; 
  • the standards by which districts must open virtually; 
  • the standards by which Superintendents should consider closing once open for in-person; 
  • and, COVID testing expectations and resources for school staff. 

The MPCSD School Board added an additional Board meeting to discuss the Governor’s new guidelines and their impact on MPCSD’s reopening plans. The meeting will be held Thursday, July 23 at 5:00 p.m. See the District website under "Announcements" for Zoom information to join the public meeting. Information will be posted 72 hours prior to the meeting.

Understanding “The Dial” 
Since the beginning of reopening discussions, we have used the analogy of a “dial” that moves up or down, responsive to the moment, rather than a “switch” that is either on or off. As visuals are helpful, we created the following illustration of how to think about what it is we are attempting to plan.
The “further dial up” point on the dial is included to represent any number of added positions along the dial that would describe modified efforts to the fully distanced or fully in-person models. 

As I shared with the Board on Thursday, regardless of our opening model on August 20, we must design our scheduling around the Hybrid Model (parent choice of Alternating-Week In-Person or Distance Learning) because staffing can’t easily change throughout the year. This will allow us to transition between models more fluidly. More information about how we will transition and under what conditions will be forthcoming and informed by the Governor’s guidelines.

In order to ensure we know what your choice will be in the Hybrid model, we will continue to provide confirmation surveys to ensure our records indicate your most accurate choice at the moment. The next survey will be sent this Thursday, July 23. Please complete the one question survey as soon as you receive it . You will only have 48 hours to respond. Those who have not yet responded to previous surveys will be contacted by phone this week. 

If opening with the Hybrid Model, we still hope to be able to bring kindergarten back daily in two groups, AM and PM. We also hope to bring first grade back daily with increased hiring; however, this decision will be dependent on funding, staffing, negotiations, and timing. We know kinder and first grade parents are eager to know; however, if we made the decision now, it would likely result in us not being able to move forward so we are delaying a decision as long as possible. If we are unable to offer daily accommodations for kinder and first grades, these grades will join the other grades in an every other week capacity when in Hybrid mode. 

Decision on Reopening
MPCSD continues to benefit from the commitment and proactivity of our COVID-19 Response Team and site level planning and advisory teams. I informed the Board that July 30 is the latest date for us to determine at which point on “the dial” we will begin the year. It is our intention to make that decision at the July 30 Board meeting. I know you are eager to know so that you can anticipate and plan; hopefully knowing that July 30 is the target date will ease some of the anxiety. 

As the Board considers the reopening plan, it is important to note that as of Sunday morning, July 19, San Mateo and Santa Cruz Counties are the only Bay Area Counties NOT on the state’s “watchlist” for problematic COVID rates. This is not to say that SMC’s data are not concerning, just to say that our county has not yet been put on the state’s watchlist. The reason this is notable is because being on the watchlist is the standard Governor Newsom and the CDPH will be using to force schools to open via Distance Learning . Per the new guidelines, a county must be off the watchlist for 14 consecutive days before opening schools in person. The Board and I will continue to monitor SMC’s potential placement on the list and keep families informed. 

Please note : it is still possible that MPCSD would open virtually on August 20 even if SMC is not on the watchlist. Many SMC districts have already decided that opening virtually is the safest and least problematic model in which to open, for many reasons. MPCSD may follow suit. 

Valued Partnership
For those of you who have tuned in to Board meetings this summer, you are aware that many parents are desperate for schools to open, fearing the very real impacts of their children remaining away from their teachers and peers. You also have heard the anxiety and concerns of our beloved teachers and staff as COVID cases continue to rise. The fear is palpable all around for a variety of reasons. 

I have been so proud of the way in which our teachers, staff, administration, union leadership, and parents continue to work together productively and proactively. It’s been an example for many districts and an illustration of the unique and special nature of MPCSD. I am so grateful to each of you for this continued collaboration. Please join me in continuing with patience and understanding as we try to make the best decisions for all involved. I invite everyone to engage with positive presupposition about people's intentions and the very difficult position in which we find ourselves. 

New Parent/Public FAQs Now Available
While they are always changing and adapted, the COVID-19 FAQs on our website remain the best place for regular and timely information. I encourage you to review the Parent/Public FAQ . You will begin to see many answers to important questions about health and safety that I know are top of mind, with more questions being added regularly. Please provide your input, questions, and edits to info@mpcsd.org ; your input to improve the document is necessary and appreciated. 

  • July 23 morning: Parents will receive the second of three “program choice confirmation” surveys to confirm their choice for which Hybrid model they will choose. The survey will be sent early Thursday morning and close on Friday late afternoon. Please complete the one question survey as soon as you receive it. 
  • July 23 @ 5:00 p.m.: Next Board meeting to respond to the Governor’s reopening guidelines.
  • By July 30: San Mateo County Office of Education is expected to release revisions of the Pandemic Recovery Framework.
  • July 30 @ 5:00: Board meeting to determine at which point on “the dial” MPCSD will open on August 20, assuming SMC is NOT on the state’s watchlist and required to open virtually; thus, the decision will have been made for us. Regardless, the meeting will occur. 
  • First Week of August: MPCSD expects to publish a written document detailing the reopening plans and procedures (however, much of the information can now be accessed via the FAQs).

In closing, I would be remiss if I didn’t share that there is only one way the world has seen communities begin to resume some semblance of normalcy-- a universal commitment to wearing masks, social distancing, limited mixing, and following health guidelines . If we want our kids to return to school, we must all--without exception--be committed to strict health guidance. Stay home, stay distant, stay masked. It’s hard, but not returning to school will be much harder. 

I continue to be immensely grateful for the support and understanding of our parents and greater MPCSD community. Thank you for partnering with us in such a meaningful way. 

Journeying with you,
Erik Burmeister, Superintendent | mpcsd.org
Governing Board
Stacey Jones , President
Sherwin Chen, Vice President
David Ackerman
Mark Box
Scott Saywell