RSF School District looks toward full reopening in August

R. Roger Rowe School
(File photo)

At the Rancho Santa Fe School District’s June 18 virtual board meeting, Superintendent Donna Tripi said the district is continuing to work on reopening plans which will include a distance learning option for students who choose not to come back on Aug. 24 and also a plan for if a classroom or part of the school needs to be closed down again due to COVID-19 cases.

“Fortunately we’ve done the math on our classrooms and we can safely create a six-foot distance with up to 16 or 17 students in a classroom,” Tripi said. “That was more than we thought…by eliminating some furniture and using all of the room, we feel like we can do 16 to 17 students in room so that was good news.”

The reopening guidelines set by the county with input from the California Department of Health and the California Department of Education require student and staff screening and the use of facial coverings. Tripi said the district is still considering the protocols for how they will include those requirements in their reopening plan—she said a special board meeting may be held in the coming weeks with further details.

As the guidelines also include promoting healthy hygiene and considering the use of non-classroom space for instruction, Tripi said the district is considering some facilities enhancements such as renovating the restrooms on the blacktop by adding sinks for hand washing as well as adding shade structures to allow more effective use of outdoor spaces for learning.

Lori Edwards, a Rowe middle school teacher and representative of the RSF Faculty Association, said the teachers see some areas that the district can improve on as they look ahead to an “uncertain future” this fall. The association surveyed 67% of the district staff and 100% agreed that there was not clear communication about the distance learning phases over the last 13 weeks and that their expertise was not considered in the district’s decision-making.

“Staff felt important distance learning decisions were made by administration prior to meetings where teacher input was given and the input given was often disregarded,” Edwards said. “A common theme was that different information went home to parents than went home to staff. Often the staff learned new information through emails to the parent community.”

Edwards said the teacher survey revealed that “morale is exceptionally low” and that teachers reflected feeling confused, disheartened, dejected, sad and uninspired. “We understand that distance learning has played a part in our frustrations but with clearer communication and strong leadership this could have been an opportunity for our leadership to build a more solid relationship with the staff,” Edwards said. “(Teachers) said missing from this whole experience was empathy, compassion, trust and respect.”

Edwards said she wanted to make the survey results public in hopes that the district can move forward in a more positive direction as they plan for fall 2020.

The district’s instructional committee on reopening includes a teacher from every elementary school grade level and from every subject department at the middle school level.

“I’m hopeful that the process that we have, continuing to work with the staff and the community, will create a really awesome plan for returning to school in the fall,” Neal said.