Dear Parents and School Staff.
Earlier today, I called a special meeting of the Bolinas-Stinson Board of Trustees so that they can consider amending the class configuration decision they had made earlier in the summer. (The meeting is scheduled for Friday 8/28 at 2:30PM)
Over the course of the pandemic and shelter-in-place order, our enrollment grew dramatically with families new to the district considering our school rather than returning to the schools where their children had previously been attending.
As it became clear that we would begin the year with distance learning, nearly all of those new families withdrew their children. Over the last 2 weeks, we had an enrollment decrease of 24 students, most of whom would have been new to our school.
As a small school, our enrollment is variable from grade to grade and the loss of 24 new students would not be felt equally from class to class. As of this morning, two of our classes (4th and 5th grades) have only 4 students each. In sharp contrast, 3rd grade has 18 students.
If we proceed with our approved configuration plan on Monday, one of our teachers will be responsible for more than quadruple the class size of her colleagues in the classes immediately above and below hers.
Our recommendation to the Board will be to combine 4th and 5th grade and to split the 3rd grade between two teachers, creating one class with 8 students and two with 9 students each.
This issue has been complicated by new guidance from the state that may in the future, allow us to have in-person activities with student cohorts of up to 14.
To be very clear, my recommendation to the Board is about balancing class sizes and not about adhering to the new state guidance that remains unclear and is subject to further input from our own local health department. (Marin DPH has scheduled a conference call to address this issue with superintendents on September 3).
By sheer coincidence, two of our classes are enrolled at 14 students each (Kindergarten & 1st grade). So if we were to have working cohort sizes of 14, we might be better prepared to apply the new guidance if and when we determine it is appropriate for our school and if it is in keeping with agreements we have made with our teachers’ union.
We have already agreed to limit in-person teacher interaction to 13 students at a time when public health allows for in-person learning. So today, as a preliminary step, in order to be better prepared for the possibility of applying the new guidance, I asked the teachers’ union if they would be willing to change the agreement to create working cohorts of 14. They are considering that request.
Tomorrow’s Board meeting was called at the last minute to allow for the legally required 24 hours of public notice and to allow us (pending the Board’s decision) to act so that our students will begin school next week with the teachers they will have for the rest of the year. We believe that that consistency will be better for children emotionally and will prevent anxiety that might result from a class change later.
As always, thank you for your community spirit, flexibility and perseverance during this uncertain time.
John Carroll, Superintendent