Tuesday, June 30, 2020
|Espanol – 中文 – عربى – KhmerDear Oakland Community,|
It is summer time, so closed campuses do not seem as odd now, but thinking about how these campuses will look this fall, and beyond, consumes me. During my daily walks with my husband, our conversations often turn to the future. As we settle into our new reality of evolving shelter in place orders, it is sobering to realize that we are 12-18 months away from a vaccine and that might be optimistic. I look forward to the day when this has become a part of our shared memory, but we are not there yet. We have to meet our immediate needs, but also know that the educational, health, and budgetary impacts of this pandemic are going to be with us for years not months.
I am writing to share some updates on our budget and reopening plans for this fall. Below you will find updates on:
Budget: Short-term relief and long-term problems.The silent toll of COVID-19, and Timeline for options and opportunities for feedback
Budget: Short-term relief and long-term problems.
Good news. The details need to be worked out, but California’s budget largely spares K-12 education from budget cuts next year. There will still be a state budget revision by September that is projected to result in reductions as well as cash deferrals. While K-12 education has seemingly been kept whole, other areas of the state budget are taking tremendous cuts and that will impact our district and Oakland families directly and indirectly.
This proposed relief is temporary. We are facing longer-term budget issues.
First, the true budget impact of shutting down this spring won’t truly be felt until NEXT year’s budget. The longer it takes for our economy to recover, the longer our budget challenges will last.
Second, while we have improved our internal budgeting practices, lowered central office spending, and started reducing the number of schools, we still have important work to do. The District’s existing plans for fiscal vitality and operational reductions have been compounded by an immediate desire and expectation to address and focus on the pandemic that requires a new level of attention and strategic planning.
The silent toll of COVID-19
We have named wellness as a critical part of overall safety from the very beginning. As we plan to re-open school, we must balance the direct risks of COVID-19 against what many are calling the silent toll of COVID-19. It is the harm that comes to our students and families when they are not in school. We know that we are in this for the long-haul. That means a couple of things.
First, COVID-19 is here and outbreaks are inevitable. Success is following the guidance of our public health partners so we can reduce risk for everybody. However, zero transmissions is not a realistic goal. We have to be thoughtful and science-based about the actions we are taking to reduce the level of risk that students and staff will face at schools.Second, we also have to be mindful that extended social isolation is causing a rise in depression and anxiety among students, families, and staff. We know it impacts nutrition for those who depend on our kitchens. Students who depend on our clinics are missing medical care. The isolation also contributes to declining outcomes for all students, but especially those receiving special education services. Students in abusive situations lack our protection. When students are out of school many families cannot work. They are bearing the brunt of the job losses, food, and housing insecurity.
We have to be clear that we are talking about trade offs and how best to reduce risk; there will be no perfect solution considering the current circumstances we are facing as a nation.
When our initial recommendations are shared next week, we hope to strike the right balance given the whole picture before us.
Image: Key working groups and considerations for our approach to reopeningTimeline for options and opportunities for feedback
On Wednesday night I shared some updates during my Superintendent’s report around school for this fall. I am just like everybody else in craving certainty in the midst of the pandemic. While we cannot offer concrete plans right now, I can share a few key points:
Working group recommendations, labor partners, and shared decision making:
Our seven working groups are finalizing their recommendations this week. We will collect feedback from our staff and community towards the end of next week. Many of our major decisions are going to be made in negotiations with our labor partners as part of an ongoing process.
On July 2nd, we will host a meeting to share some preliminary recommendations (click here for more information). On July 10th we will communicate the decisions and agreements we have made at that point, but some unresolved issues will remain.
Overall, we will be making recommendations for a phase-in model. That is, bringing more students back on campus over time within the physical and staffing capacities that we have across the district. This – of course – depends upon the public health guidance we are getting from the county, our finalized labor contracts, and ensuring that we are supporting our families’ and students’ needs.
Image: Examples of community meetings and opportunities for feedbackWe will be asking more from families this year.
I want to acknowledge how difficult the coming year will be for our families. Staff is working hard to create the best possible program, but at home learning is almost certainly a part of the coming year and that is going to be hard on families. Many of us, including me (and my kids), have already felt this. This will impact every family in some way whether they are trying to work from home, are essential workers who need support, or families facing food and housing insecurity. I must emphasize that no matter how we start the school year, it will not be the traditional education model and we will be asking more of families than perhaps we ever have before.
We do want students and families to know, they’re not in this alone.
Even amidst these challenging times, OUSD’s team of educators will be here to provide as much support as we can, but we need to be real about some of the difficulties we are going to face in the coming year.
Please share your thoughtsRespectfully, Dr. Kyla Johnson-Trammell
What do you think?