BREAKING NEWS: RUSD Board of Trustees votes to implement a.m./p.m. schedule Jan. 19


On Dec. 14 at 10:50 p.m, The RUSD Board of Trustees deliberates proposed plans for the districts next steps in implementing a school format.

With a 4-1 vote, the Rocklin Unified School District Board of Trustees voted to implement an a.m./p.m. schedule to begin Jan. 19 and established that once and if Placer County is in the orange tier, immediate adjustments will be made for a full-time five-day schedule for the rest of the 2020-21 school year. The board went a step further and voted that regardless of what tier Placer County is in, by April 6 schools will be open full-time.                    

At the Dec. 14 meeting streamed on YouTube, trustees discussed the pros and cons of proposed plans for the next steps on how school attendance should be formatted while 850+ people watched from home.

RUSD has been following a phased reopening plan with five stages while simultaneously taking into consideration the health, education and safety of students and faculty members. 

Currently, all schools in the district are in Stage 3 (the hybrid model) and are on an A/B group scheduling. The vote to move to Stage 4 took place in the district’s 13th week of hybrid. 

Attached from the PowerPoint created by the RUSD Board of Trustees on Dec.14, this is the a.m/p.m schedule that will be implemented on Jan.19

The board considered whether to move on to Stage 4 of 5, a traditional schedule with restrictions (five days a week). Proposed options included a five day on-campus school week with an a.m./p.m. schedule, in which half of the students would attend in the morning and the other half in the afternoon, a five day on-campus school week with an early release, or the current hybrid model. While deliberations were occurring between trustees, Superintendent Roger Stock also stated that options could potentially differ for elementary schools and middle and high schools. 

Although the recent “Regional Stay At Home Order” was issued Dec. 11, it has no impact on schools in Placer County for reopening and closure. 

Prior to the meeting, students and staff shared their opinions on what they believed the district’s next step should be. 

I hope that the school board decides to send us back five days a week as long as it’s safe. I believe that since this year has been difficult enough [and] it would be nice, especially for the seniors, to have some normalcy. I think that by trying to go back fully, it will give us seniors a better chance to get a graduation at the end of the year. Since we have lost the majority of major events already, my only wish is to safely return to campus as an entire student body,” Brooke Blatnick said. 

Brayden Goularte also wants to return to school five days a week.

“I believe that the school board should vote yes on a five-day schedule because personally, I feel like this COVID scare has been blown way out of proportion. I myself had COVID and experienced nothing more than a cold. We need to start accepting this sickness as if it were a cold and not let it affect our lives like it has for almost the past year,” Goularte said. 

However, social science teacher Mr. Daniel Parker expressed his doubt for proper safety protocols if a return to five days on-campus school week was made, especially with the possibility of an increase in cases after winter break. 

“I don’t think we should go back to full time. Social distancing is a hit or miss. In the classroom, students do a great job, but outside of the classroom, they don’t, and out in public they don’t. We have half as many desks as we normally do and they’re barely six feet apart, so with the five days, there would be double the number of desks with somebody at your elbow, everywhere you go. If we rush it, we’re going to end up going one step forward and two or three steps back,” Parker said. 

Alicia Chiang feels the school board is not taking into consideration the health and safety of the students and staff by contemplating a decision to move to Stage 4 in the phased school reopening plan. 

“I think our school board is only rushing to a five-day agenda to please a certain group of parents in our school district. I think their decision is irresponsible and disappointing. They should be making decisions to maintain the safety of the staff and the students, but it is clear they do not have that motive. The five-day agenda completely disregards the fact that Placer County is in the purple tier,” Chiang said. 

Additionally, in an RTPA survey, 63% of RUSD teachers said they wanted to “stay the course,” favoring the option to stay in the hybrid schedule. RTPA President Mr. Travis Mougeoutte referenced the survey in his board report during the meeting along with RTPA’s official recommendation to remain in the current model.

However, teacher perspectives may have changed this month, given the spike in COVID-19 cases. Throughout the week of Dec. 7 alone, 51 students and staff tested positive for COVID-19 and 370 students and staff members were exposed to a positive case. 

Contrasting to the previous meeting deciding on RUSD’s reopening plan where spoken public comments took several hours on Zoom, the board implemented new measures.

Per Board Bylaw 9323 on Meeting Procedures, to allow the community opportunity to participate in meetings, and to hear Board discussion, deliberations and voting on items, verbal public comments (during virtual meetings) was limited to 10 people (at three minutes each) or 30 minutes total comments on one agenda item.

Of those accepted for verbal public comments, Ethan Pellegrini spoke directly to the board trustees about his opinion regarding the school board’s decision. 

“You have the power now: the power to educate, the power to save lives, or the power to take lives. I urge you to choose wisely and maintain a hybrid schedule, or distance learning for the spring semester and not to go to the five-day system,” Pellegrini said. 

Through public comments via Google Form, math teacher Mrs. Janice Stadler expressed her concerns about the instructional time that would be lost if the Board of Trustees voted in favor of the a.m./p.m. schedule. 

“I am a teacher at Whitney High School, and I teach my classes each day synchronously to the students at school and the students at home via Zoom. We have 75 minutes of class five days a week to cover required material. The a.m./p.m. schedule that has been proposed will cut instructional time in half. I am starting an AP Calculus class in January, and it would be impossible to cover all of the material if I only get 30 minutes of class each day. Please keep the hybrid schedule so I get sufficient time with my students,” Stadler said. 

Via the Google Form, Damien Lawrence shared his opinion on how RUSD should approach their decision-making process. 

“As a biologist with a K-6 student in RUSD, I would like to see a data-driven approach that eases into full implementation. If our county remains in the purple tier, then instruction should be completely remote. When and if we enter the red, hybrid would be the logical decision, and when and if we return to orange or yellow, students should go to school every day. If the board votes for full implementation while in purple, it becomes apparent that child and community safety is not valued by the board,” Lawrence said. 

Once the Board of Trustees made their vote, Nate Hauan expressed his opinion on their decision.

“I think the school board’s decision was a little early with so much already going on. It could have been decided at a later time, but it will give students an opportunity to see teachers in person every day. Hopefully, we are able to stay safe while making some sort of progress,” Hauan said.

The a.m./p.m. schedule will be fully implemented Jan. 19, and in the subsequent weeks, schools will anticipate Placer County’s progression into the orange tier. 

While the board vote became official at 1:45 a.m., district leaders will work with each site’s administration over the next week to iron out details.