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Lauren Coupland

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Jan 12, 2021, 1:09:16 PM1/12/21
to public....@laschools.net, Kurt Steinhaus, Ellen Ben-Naim, Christine Bernstien, Dawn Jalbert, s.boe...@laschools.net, Melanie Colgan
Dr Steinhaus and members of the board, 
I am disappointed to see that the agenda for the School Board meeting tomorrow January 11th does not include any updates on hybrid learning, covid-19, or the number of available substitute teachers.  

At the November 10th School Board meeting, the decision was made to pause hybrid until January 19th, with the understanding that continued monitoring of the local covid-19 cases would be taken into account.  At that meeting, Dr. Steinhaus said 
“My recommendation as of tonight, is that we do a pause, we don't stop hybrid - we pause hybrid from the Monday after Thanksgiving, until probably the Tuesday after Martin Luther Luther King holiday. So that would give us a date to plan for. And we'll follow the COVID numbers and see if that really does play out. That's about 14 days after the winter break would be over, and that would give us a chance to work back with you all to see if it's safe for us to come back to hybrid,” - Dr Steinhaus

I believe that the board and the public are entitled to an updated assessment of the safety of resuming hybrid.   

Additionally, in the newsletter from Dr. Steinhaus on 11/10/20, the following was stated - 
“In light of the data from the parent and staff surveys and low number of substitutes available, the School Board decided to pause hybrid learning for elementary schools starting Nov. 30th and a return on Jan. 19th depending on the status of COVID and approval from the state. During that time, elementary students will proceed with remote learning.” - Newsletter from Dr. Steinhaus

The community incidence of Covid-19 has dramatically changed since early November.  This should be acknowledged and addressed.  Additionally, our daily average case numbers have doubled.  On the day of the November School Board meeting, our daily average of new cases county wide was 3.1.  Today we average 7 cases per day.  Additionally, over 20% of cases in Los Alamos County have been ages 0-19 (77 out of 348), and there have been 5 cases among Los Alamos elementary students in the last 7 days, the same amount as all of first semester. This warrants an update and discussion, with or without a change in plans.  

None of this is to minimize the importance of in person learning.  But a one size fits all approach is not the best way to help students while keeping our community safe.  Online instruction in the morning only, with as needed individual and small groups in the afternoon is considered sufficient for LAOLA.  This allows the teachers more prep time, as well as more targeted interventions where they are needed most.  I believe that all LAPS staff can make decisions about targeted in person intervention.  These decisions can be made by general education teachers, special education providers, case workers, and school counselors.  Some students may not have diagnosed special needs, but need in person time.  Some may have special needs, but be thriving online.  Some families need in person support for social-emotional reasons.  LAPS has exceptional teachers and staff.  Let them use their judgement.  Increase risk only where it will do the most good. Our teachers are burned out and defeated.  Afternoon targeted in person instruction would give teachers more flexibility, breathing room, and create equity between LAOLA and the elementary schools that currently doesn't exist.  It would also alleviate the concern of low availability of substitute teachers.  

A common educational mantra is "Fair isn't every child getting the same thing, it is every child getting what they need." The morning remote instruction levels the playing field and provides much needed consistency.  Consider using the afternoons to help those struggling most.  
Lauren Coupland

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