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By Tim Hunt

Pleasanton elementary students should be back in school now

Uploaded: Feb 11, 2021

Young elementary students in the San Ramon Valley started attending in-person classes Wednesday, returning to the classroom for the first time in about 11 months or nearly 300 days.
Meanwhile Pleasanton students, who by health department guidelines, could have joined their San Ramon Valley counterparts, remain working with their teachers remotely. Last week, I praised the trustees for staying committed to getting the schools open without realizing they could have resumed classes sooner.
Trustees stuck to the plan they approved in December that elementary students can return after the county is in the red tier for five days. It’s currently in the purple tier, but state guidelines allow students to return in the purple tier based on infection rates.
Pleasanton mom Samantha Niesen politely took me to task and pointed out the situation in an email last week. She has three children—a 2nd grader, a kindergartner and a 1 ½ year old—so she’s certainly got her hands full during school hours.
“A team of very smart people with impressive degrees worked on the recommended guidelines and accompanying protocols. They have been proven safe around our country and throughout the world. The board should have done right by our kids and voted them back ASAP,” she wrote.
“Even if we do hit projections and return to red at the end of the month, most of secondary won’t return until after spring break. There are 70 instructional days left in the school year. If we stay on the projected path and 7-8 and 10-12 returns after 5 weeks in red, they’ll have 35 days left to see the inside of their classrooms. It’s time. “
Well said.
The district has agreements in place with both the teachers’ union and the classified employees’ union so that key hurdle has been cleared.
Samantha certainly is not alone in pushing trustees to reopen in-person classes sooner. Some people have demonstrated publicly and someone hired a single engine plane to fly over the district office with a banner urging opening the schools.
Trustees need to revisit the timetable and get students back into the in-person hybrid program in the lower grades. Zoom has been a major challenge for many students, but it’s particularly vexing for younger students with limited attention spans.
In an email responding to my questions, district spokesman Patrick Gannon wrote, “(I) did want to clarify…that in our January 28th (staff) presentation we did not recommend all middle and high school students remain in remote learning through the end of the year. We did recommend that we focus on improving remote learning, as this will be required for us to continue by law, as well as improve and enhance support to students - which would include in-person academic and social emotional support.”