School board to resume debate on reopening

The Davis school board will resume its ongoing discussion about when, and how, to reopen local elementary schools when the trustees meet on Thursday evening, Feb. 4, starting at 6:30 p.m.

Included will be a discussion of the school district’s proposed model for hybrid instruction at the elementary school and preschool level — the hybrid being part in-person learning in a classroom with a teacher, and part online “distance learning.” During the school board’s January 21 meeting, the trustees asked for some revisions and refinements to the initial staff proposal, and staff has been reworking the document over the past two weeks.

In addition, Thursday’s school board meeting will also include an update regarding the Davis school district’s budget prospects in light of the January state budget revision, which Gov. Gavin Newsom made public on Jan. 8. There will also be references to Gov. Newsom’s Dec. 30 announcement of what he dubbed his “Safe Schools for All” program, which included a request for $2 billion in funding by the California legislature to set up a variety of financial incentives for California school districts to reopen more local school campuses during the month of February.

However, the governor’s “Safe Schools for All” proposal got a chilly reception from California legislators as they returned to Sacramento in mid-January.  In fact, some political observers said that the initiative was politically dead on arrival by the time it reached the legislators’ hands.

Associate superintendent for business services Amari Watkins, who joined the Davis school district last fall, will describe the likely impact on the Davis district of the governor’s annual January budget revision, as well as the increasingly faint political prospects that the Governor’s Safe Schools for All proposal will ever be enacted, during her presentation to the Davis school board trustees.

And then the trustees will likely consider how the rapidly shifting financial scenario at the state level will impact the Davis school district’s annual budget. The school district’s budget is still a work-in-progress (it is normally approved by the school board trustees in early June). And this year’s school district budget is particularly volatile because of the not-yet-fully-calculated costs of reopening local elementary school campuses for in-classroom instruction on a limited basis at some point in 2021.

Actually, in many ways, the budget discussion will go hand-in-hand with the “return to campus” discussion regarding when and how to bring local students back into local classrooms.

Parents tend to focus on what that experience will be like for their children as they return to school campuses. The school board trustees will certainly be thinking about that topic as well, but the trustees also need to calculate whether the school district will have enough money on hand to cover the many costs associated with reactivating local school campuses after what has basically been a year-long shutdown, prompting a related shift to online distance learning.

Thursday’s meeting is scheduled to start at 6:30 p.m., and will very likely continue for several hours. Since this will be a regularly scheduled meeting, there will be a live broadcast of the proceedings on Davis cable television Channel 17, and live streaming video will also be available online via the school district website

— Reach Jeff Hudson at [email protected]