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AUSD Board Hears COVID-19 Health and Safety, Budget Projections

An enthusiastic group of fourth and fifth graders offer their suggestions during a workshop in February, 2020. Photo by Helen Arase

Location

Alhambra , CA

The Alhambra Unified School District board of education heard the second part of the district’s reopening plans Tuesday night and the updated budget status. The health and safety presentation is part two of reopening plans, following the layout of fall teaching plans at the previous meeting.

The AUSD fall semester is scheduled to begin on Aug. 12 with distance learning.

Health preparations

The board heard the district’s plan of safety practices, new COVID-19 symptom tracker system, temperature screener, scenarios for possible COVID-19 exposures or symptoms on campus, facility preparation and additional COVID-19 employee resources.

While students are not immediately returning to campus, the district is preparing the staff, teachers and administrators to the daily health checks and additional screening that will be mandatory for the 16,600 students when the times comes to transition to a hybrid virtual/in-person learning environment. The district has 13 elementary campuses, three comprehensive high schools – with Alhambra High now housing Century and Independence high schools – and Moor Field that houses special education and LIFT.

“We get to see how it works in the microcosm in terms of the larger the macrocosm,” said the district’s director of student and employee welfare Lindsay Ma. He is also the lead compliance member of AUSD’s COVID-19 Compliance Team and designated liaison to the L.A. County Department of Public Health (LACDPH).

The COVID-19 Compliance Team is a required task force, comprised of seven AUSD assistant superintendents, department directors and health professionals. They are the body responsible for establishing and enforcing all COVID-19 safety protocols and education.

The team is working under county-mandated health directives and creating plans for daily health checks and each campus’ individual needs.

California public health guidance recommends monthly testing of half the staff, rotating each month.

The district has begun “beta testing” the Qualtrics XM daily symptom screener on the staff and faculty before students return to school, meaning AUSD staff will begin utilizing the application and address any system or tech issues.

The application sends a daily alert, reminding the user to answer a series of questions about their symptoms on that particular day – but only if they are going to appear on campus. If given a green checkmark, the user is cleared by administrators to enter campus. If the user says they are working from home, they will not fill out the symptom survey.

At each entrance to campus, there is a medical infrared no-touch temperature screening conducted by campus security wearing PPE, face mask and face shield. At the moment the district is testing one device.

Each campus needs to have quarantine rooms for students, staff or faculty who may present COVID-19 symptoms or other exposure situation, like the school is alerted of a possible exposure through contact tracing efforts. Each person must have their own room, so the campuses must be prepared for multiple sickness rooms and disinfection protocols.

Director of facilities Keith Kovach said they are fulfilling hundreds of work orders after walking through each campus with administrators to determine how to best modify classrooms and upgrade ventilation systems. In some cases, the facilities team is building their own plexiglass shields and various dividers on desks to accommodate assessment centers. They are also finishing their summer cleaning and disinfection process. See examples on page 22 of the presentation.

When students return to school, the district has planned procedures for those returning to school who have a confirmed exposure. See page 30 of the presentation.

The district is fielding questions or concerns at [email protected].

District employees concerned with possible exposure should contact Lindsey Ma. The taskforce and human resources will provide a list of COVID-19 testing resources, communicate with the employee’s campus/worksite and the employee will be tested.

Effective April 1, 2020, employees who are unable to work due to COVID-19 reasons may be eligible for up to 80 additional hours of paid sick leave. Classified employees will contact Sandra Gomez and certificated or management employees will contact Lisa Fernandez.

Financial status

The board also heard a 45-day budget revision, presented by assistant superintendent of financial services Josephine Quach.

The $7.27 million in cash that was supposed to be given from the state by June was received about two weeks ago, and Quach said this is an indicator of the road ahead.

Millions of dollars are being pushed back each month, sometimes into the next school year.

In May, Quach indicated that the district anticipated a qualified budget – or possibly unable to meet its current financial obligations – then reaffirmed the fiscal status again in June.

Tuesday, Quach said the district now has a positive certification, meaning the district will meet its financial obligations.

“I want to caution all of us. It is very tenuous. We just don’t know how long this will last,” Quach said, mentioning the financial depression, pandemic and cash deferrals.

The budget “doesn’t reflect actual cash to operate,” Quach explained.

Layoff fears by staff labor union

For the second meeting in a row, California School Employee Association (SCEA) representative Craig Proffitt spoke to the board about the need for more communication about whether the district will lay off classified staff. He asked that the board and district be creative in moving personnel around to avoid layoffs. There are over 900 classified employees in the district.

“My phone is ringing off the hook today,” an exasperated Proffitt said. “We’ve given input but sometimes we feel like it falls on deaf ears. We sat at a round table in March. That’s what CSEA is looking for – a place at the table – is a place to put their input.”

Alhambra Teachers Association (ATA) president Tammy Scorcia also spoke to the board. ATA signed their first memorandum of understanding with the district on Tuesday, outlining distance learning expectations.

ATA is planning a major food distribution at the end of August. The federal waiver to provide free meals has expired for the 2020-2021 school year, so students who do not qualify for free or reduced-priced meals will have to pay once again.

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