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Board Meeting Summary: April 21, 2021

April 21, 2021
School Board Regular Meeting

On Wednesday, April 21, the school board held a regular meeting. The meeting was open to the public via live video on Zoom, live audio stream, and radio broadcast on KRVM 1280-AM.

Regular Meeting

Introductory Comments

Interim Superintendent Cydney Vandercar said all grade levels have returned to school buildings, and it’s exciting for the district to have reached that milestone. She noted the COVID-19 case rate is rising again in Lane County, and the area is heading back to a High Risk designation. She said the designation would not mean that students would have to return to comprehensive distance learning, but it may have impacts on some activities. She urged the community to continue to follow basic public health guidelines to reduce the spread of the virus. Some individual students may have to shift to distance learning if they need to quarantine due to exposure to the virus, she said, but otherwise students will continue learning in the hybrid model to finish the school year.

The superintendent said the district is looking forward to summer programs and returning in the fall with in-person school schedules five days a week with public health protocols continuing based on state guidance for school health and safey, including face coverings and physical distancing of less than six feet. She noted that the district will offer online options for families who prefer all online learning during the coming school year. However, resources will need to be focused on on-site school programs, and there will not be an online program tied to individual schools like the Same School Online option that was offered this year.

Superintendent Vandercar said 4J is joining with community providers to make COVID-19 vaccines available at no cost for students. The district is also working to organize vaccine clinics solely for 4J students. Vaccines currently are available for Oregonians who are 16 years of age or older, and the district will continue to make vaccination opportunities available for students as they are approved for younger ages.

In the wake of the trial verdict in the murder of George Floyd and recent crimes directed against Asian Americans, the superintendent encouraged the board to continue its work to support students who have historically been marginalized. She also reaffirmed 4J’s commitment to become an anti-racist school district.

She extended condolences on behalf of the entire district to the family of a South Eugene High School student who died in a car crash on April 19.

Following the superintendent’s remarks, board chair Mary Walston read an open letter to the Eugene community expressing sadness for recent acts of violence against Asian-Americans, including the March 16 shootings in the Atlanta area. She said 4J supported and stood with the AAPI (Asian American and Pacific Islander) community in calling for an end to hate crimes against these members of our community who are valued. She said the district is dedicated to creating a community focused on diversity, inclusion and tolerance.

Items for Information (no board action is expected to be taken)

Received an update on COVID-19 and return to on-site learning: District staff reported that the launch of hybrid learning at all levels—elementary, middle and high—has gone relatively smoothly, and teachers and students were excited to again be together under the same roof. Questions from board members focused on the experience of secondary students who have chosen to remain online this year and the plans for welcoming back students during the 2021–22 school year.

District staff discussed the ongoing efforts to vaccinate 4J’s older students, now that individuals 16 years of age and older can receive the vaccine and testing is underway on the effectiveness and safety of the vaccines for younger age groups. 4J has worked to ensure students have access to vaccination through community partners such as Cascade Health and Lane County Public Health, and the district is also organizing its own vaccine clinics solely for 4J students.

District staff provided a general outline of planning for summer school programs for students of all grade levels. They also noted that the abbreviated spring sports season is underway.

Every high school will hold a virtual graduation ceremony on June 10, as it won’t be possible to have traditional in-person commencement ceremonies. High schools are each planning for additional in-person recognition, but the size of those events will be affected by the county risk level and what gathering restrictions are in place later this spring.

Received an update on 2020–21 statewide testing:  U.S. public schools conduct state testing each spring for students in grades 3–8 and 11. State tests measure students’ proficiency in state and district standards, and test results provide important information for students, parents, teachers, schools and districts.

State testing is different during the pandemic. Last spring, state tests were canceled, with a waiver from the federal government. For the 2020–21 school year, state tests will be reduced. The U.S. Department of Education has approved Oregon’s plan to reduce the amount of testing, but did not approve a request to waive all state testing this year.

4J schools will conduct state testing on a Wednesday in May, outside of regular class times, to avoid taking up the limited time teachers have with students this spring.

Families will have three options for their students in grades 3–8 and 11: Complete state tests as scheduled, complete additional tests for the other subjects normally tested at their grade level, or opt out and not complete state tests this year. They are asked to select their choice by completing an online form in English or Spanish by Friday, April 30. Students who participate in state testing will complete the tests on-site at school. School meals and school bus transportation will be provided.

Following the discussion, the board publicly endorsed the plan, directing that 4J conduct annual state testing for math, language arts and science during the 2020–21 school year in a manner that doesn’t take time away from in-person or online instruction. The vote was unanimous.

Items for Action

• Adopted the school calendars for the 2021–22 academic year: State law requires that the school board adopt the district’s academic calendars. The vote was unanimous.

This year, school will begin with a transition day for students in selected grades on Thursday, Sept. 9. This day will support students’ shift to the new school year in-person after more than a year of distance and hybrid learning. The first day for all students will be Friday, Sept. 10.

Traditionally, the first day of school for 4J students is on the Wednesday after Labor Day, sometimes with a transition day for selected grades the preceding day. This year, the Tuesday and Wednesday after Labor Day falls during Rosh Hashanah. While the district does not close schools during the year for major religious holidays, by policy and practice the district seeks to avoid scheduling unique events on such days. The adopted calendars place the transition day on Thursday and the first day of classes for all grades on Friday to avoid this scheduling conflict.

The district and Eugene Education Association also agreed to add an instruction day in October, in place of the non-contract day traditionally included in the district academic calendar on the annual statewide in-service day. This will provide instruction time not provided to all students on the opening transition day.

Items for Future Action (board action is expected at a later meeting)

• Considered approval of an overhaul of the board policies prohibiting sexual harassment: The district has had policies prohibiting sexual harassment in place for decades. Due to extensive changes to state and federal laws, district staff recommends the board remove existing policies on sexual harassment and readopt new ones.

The language of the two proposed policies, GBN/JBA and JBA/GBN, is identical, but they are separated to be easily found under policies related to staff and policies related to students.

The proposed policies reflect both changes to the definition of sexual harassment and new procedural requirements under Oregon law, such as supportive measures and required written notices. The proposed policies protect students who report sexual harassment and witnesses participating in a related investigation from discipline for violations of the district’s drug and alcohol policies. This protection extends to violations that occurred in connection with the alleged violation or uncovered as part of the investigation. It does not extend to situations where an individual gave another individual alcohol or drugs without their knowledge for the purpose of making the other person incapacitated and vulnerable to prohibited conduct.

The proposed policies also reflect detailed regulations the U.S. Department of Education adopted last year related to Title IX sexual harassment, including a definition of sexual harassment, when the regulation would apply and the required district response to reports of sexual harassment.

Public Input

The board heard live public comment via Zoom. Seven community members spoke about standardized testing and the hybrid learning schedule. To request to speak to the school board, community members may complete an online request form the Monday before the next regular board meeting. Community members also may send comments via email to board@4j.lane.edu.

Agenda and Materials

April 21 regular meeting materials
April 21 regular meeting audio recording

 


NOTE:  This is a quick summary of the topics and actions at a meeting of the school board. This document is NOT the official minutes of the school board. Official minutes are posted after they are drafted, reviewed and approved by the board. Audio recordings of meetings are typically posted within two days after the meeting. 

School Board Meeting Schedule & Information

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