News

Public comments on OUSD Jan. 25 school board meeting

1 26 21 OUSD Eck letter

Ojai Unified School District school board met on Jan. 25. These 15 public comments copied below were submitted for the meeting. In addition, Superintendent Tiffany Morse read aloud some of the handwritten letters from elementary students.

The OUSD elementary schools and Chaparral are open for hybrid schedule in-person instruction because

1 26 21 School letters

they were open the week of Nov. 2 when the county of

 

Ventura was in the red tier (second-to-worst tier). The county is now in the purple tier (worst tier).

Because Matilija Middle School and Nordhoff High School were not open while the county was in the red tier, they are unable to operate on a hybrid schedule, according to the state rules. However, they are able to open in a "small cohort" model, which they are scheduled to start on Feb. 1. Currently, most secondary OUSD students are continuing distance learning until Feb. 22. (This is a recent change since the earlier decision to start secondary schools on Feb. 1.)

The state of California Public Health rules for small cohorts can be read at:

https://files.covid19.ca.gov/pdf/guidance-schools-cohort-FAQ.pdf

All OUSD students have the option to receive instruction through distance learning.

To view the school board agenda, visit:

https://core-docs.s3.amazonaws.com/documents/asset/uploaded_file/1091068/1-25-21_agenda.pdf

Members of the public may view the recorded meeting on the school district Youtube channel at:

https://www.youtube.com/user/adminojaiusdorg

or on the district Facebook at
https://www.facebook.com/ojaiusd.org

The next scheduled school board meeting is Feb. 10. Public comments can be submitted to the school board at: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1CCfKeZXXuRb167DjQXSDjggyD9OS3u9wFDiOcg1ESec/viewform?edit_requested=true 

(Those submitting public comments are invited by the Ojai Valley News to also copy those comments to the Ojai Valley News at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . There is a word limit of what can be read at school board meetings and the school board sometimes sets a limit on the amount of time for public comments to be read aloud, so that not all are heard by the public at the time of the meeting. Also, OUSD does not make publish the public comments, beyond the ones that are read at the meeting, until the meeting minutes are submitted several days after the meeting.)

 

Below are the public comments submitted to the school board for the Jan. 25 meeting:

 

Jack Gillooly

As negotiations on reopening schools continue, there may be a ready solution for everyone involved. An editorial in the Ojai Valley News this week points to the great need for a community vaccination center in Ojai. If it could be located at Nordhoff High School, teachers could receive the Covid vaccine more quickly and be ready to receive students. Other schools in the district and the wider community could also take advantage.

If we can wait to open until a center is set up, such as the testing trailer that came to Nordhoff a few weeks ago, school safety could be greatly enhanced. Also Governor Newsom has offered a new funding source for school safety upgrades; if granted, those funds would take some time to arrive – another reason to delay reopening.

The governor’s funds could pay for retrofitting school HVAC systems with high quality filters, effective against viruses. They could also fund the hiring of campus monitors to make sure students toe the line with masking and distancing. Most importantly, the funds could buy the supplies and personnel needed for weekly, school-based testing of students and staff — if Ventura County cannot provide.

There is a large consensus among experts that regular weekly testing is a critical component for keeping schools safe, and helping to stop — or at least not add to — local pandemic spread. Testing is the only way to identify the 60% of carriers who are asymptomatic, allowing for effective tracing and control.

New York City schools were a good example of a successful testing program, until Covid from other sources spread so rapidly that they were forced to shut down again. Recently, with declining numbers and regular testing, New York was able to reopen elementary schools. In the New York Post Jan 23, President Michael Mulgrew of the New York teachers’ union said, “The city will not be able to open its middle- and high schools because it lacks sufficient ability to test students and staff for COVID-19. Grades 6 to 12 may not reopen for the rest of the school year until testing can ramp up significantly.” Right now, the city is stretched too thin with community testing.

Does this sound familiar? On a smaller scale, it’s Ojai — except our elementary schools opened during high numbers with no testing. Which is one more reason to keep schools closed awhile longer: currently, with Covid widespread in our community, there are many students and family members who have it. Just ask our teachers, who are seeing it on Zoom in real-time. Surely, there are asymptomatic carriers who will come on campus if we don’t test everyone before classes resume.

So why not add convenient testing to the clinic? The OVN editorial also emphasizes extending the life of the current Monday testing center at Sarzotti Park, which is closing after today, January 25. Perhaps it could be moved to Nordhoff by the time schools reopen. Nordhoff, by the way, has one of the biggest parking lots in town, and could easily accommodate both student and community traffic.

A community testing and vaccination center would need the combined efforts of district staff and union members, working together, to get it done. It would show that the Ojai School Board is serious about keeping students and teachers healthy, and thus the community they live in.

Maeve Juarez

I have two children in the Ojai Unified Public School system, one in 3rd grade and one in Kindergarten. I cannot begin to articulate the negative impacts I have seen in my family due to no school. I tried the virtual program and I tried the hybrid program. After too many days of tears, I made the heartbreaking decision to pull them both out of school. As a single mother, I cannot afford to put my children in to private school and to be completely honest, I don’t feel that I should have to be forced to make that choice. I am trying my best to homeschool both of my children. I work full-time to support my family. There was ZERO way for me to manage the virtual or the hybrid program. My children are already sad, confused and depressed because of the last year of restrictions due to the pandemic. To top it off, I had to pull them out of school. It breaks my heart when they ask me why one of their friends still gets to go to Ojai Valley School or Monica Ros and my response to my 5-year-old is that I simply don’t have that kind of money. I cannot explain to my children why the families that have financial means are allowed to have their schools open but we can't. I do not understand that so I cannot give them an answer. Perhaps you can help me understand why private schools are open but public schools are only half open. Homeschooling my kids is a HUGE disruption to any sort of normal life for a single mom working full time. I wake my kids up at 04:30 every morning to try to get their Kumon math work completed before I leave for work because there is no time by the time I get home at night and I cannot afford to pay a tutor or a teacher to come to my house every day to do their school work with them. My day care lady watches lots of other Ojai children who cannot attend school and she can’t manage to teach 5 kids all in different age groups. There are so many of us in the same predicament. We have for the most part just thrown in the towel and given up; however, this is at the expense of our children’s development, self-confidence, social skills, mental and physical well- being. I understand I have come to you with a very personal problem; however, I need to again reiterate that there are MANY families in Ojai in the same predicament. Please follow the private schools and allow our children to go back to school. It is so important for our future and the mental health of our sweet little children.

Meaghan Conrad

I am concerned for the safety of us all, but I am equally worried about the long-term effects on my school age children. They are not getting the education, socialization and various outlets that they need to be kids. This is not a natural environment for any of us but I think we can do better.

Kelly Thomas

I am writing in as a concerned parent for my children's education.

Private schools in Ojai are teaching in the classroom full-time (Monday-Friday 8:30- 2:45) and they are doing this safely for both the teacher and the student. So I ask a simple question: Why can't Ojai public schools do the same? Our children's education and mental health needs are suffering greatly. They NEED to be in the classroom interacting with their peers and teachers more than once or twice a week. The education disparity between the private and public schools is creating a two-tiered system: the 'haves' and the 'have-nots'. In our small town of Ojai the gap should not be this large. I 'am asking as a parent that the board members, Admin, teachers, parents and community come up with better and more solutions to get our children back into school full time.

thank you, Kelly Thomas

Max Thomas

My name is Max Thomas. I was born and raised in Ojai, and have two kids at Topa Topa Elementary. I work for the fire department and as a firefighter we take oaths to protect our communities no matter the circumstances. I personally have gone into homes and transported hundreds of severe covid cases. At our stations (where we live) we have had outbreaks where we couldn’t go home to see our families for 14 days. Through all of this the members of our organization valued our commitment to our communities over our personal beliefs and fear. My question to the board, the teachers unions, and administrators is where is your integrity? You are elected and paid to educate our children and you are failing! The fact that private schools have completely different standards is creating a two tier system in the education system in Ojai Valley and please save us the smaller class size EXCUSES. I would have thought in this time you would have had the leadership to put fear aside and see how lost, and depressed our children have become. If you truly cared about our kids' education this should make you sick and instead of giving parents excuses we should be finding creative solutions. To the teachers who have become paralyzed with fear and are unable to perform their jobs, they should be asked to resign. It’s not just us firefighters who have figured out how to safely get back to work, the county roads department , cops, grocery stores, Airlines, hospitals, gas stations. You name it they all figured this out. Why is the public education system the last to get this figured out? Are teachers dying in the states and private schools where there is in-person classrooms? You have the most important job to me, my kid's future. Please don’t use our kids education and a pandemic as a union negotiating tools to gain more revenue for yourselves and programs.

Concerned Parent, MAX THOMAS

P.S. How many families actually like keeping their kids home? How many of them recently moved here to Ojai from LA?

Emily Lyon

My children are not currently enrolled in the ojai district, but previously 2019- 2020 school year attended Mira Monte. I pulled them from the district because I was concerned about the level of education they would receive with “distance learning.” I believe I was right to be concerned. My kids currently are being home schooled by myself and my husband through a private home school program based in Ojai. They are doing well and thriving. My intent was to send my kids back into Mira Monte this fall but if it’s still distance based and with no return to normal, we will continue with our current program or seek in person private schools. If private schools can do it, so can public. There is a vaccine and if teachers get it, I don’t see what the problem is. As adults we need to get our act together and realize we are ruining our children!

Amber Wilde

My kids were so happy to go to school every day and have a safe happy place to be with their friends and teachers.

This year has been very helpful since my 1st grader can go to ABC Club- which he loves, but I unenrolled my daughter in 4th because learning on zoom just wasn’t working for her. Kids need to see each other and be in class with teachers to learn well. They miss their social life and teachers. So many families that can will need to move to Ventura private schools and it will take a lot of funding out of the ojai school system. This is unfortunate and we have to find a way for our kids to go to school safely.

Everett Kemp

I am a third-generation Ojaian, I was born in the Ojai hospital and raised in this school district thru high school. I am passionate about my town and the people that live here.

It has been brought to my attention that there is an issue with bringing the children back to In Class schooling within the district and the valley. I have several close friends with children in the school system and an educator myself. I would like to voice my concern for the children missing out on crucial learning opportunities with their peers while in school after a year of this pandemic. As we begin to gain a handle on this virus, it is time to make a turn back to “normal life,” and the children should be top priority for their development Into strong young adults. As humans, we need social interactions and learning from our friends, classmates and teachers. That starts in school. That time is now and we are losing it every day. Not to mention the stress in the parents having to juggle work schedules and day to day life. I strongly encourage the powers at be within the Ojai Unified School District to step into high gear and bring the children back to In-class sessions with social learning and growing for our children. Thank you for your time and leadership moving forward in educating our next generation of Ojai Youth.

Linda Thomas

To Ojai Unified School District:

The elementary school children need to return to the classroom. The computer is a wonderful tool once the basic skills of “learning” to read, write and do arithmetic have been taught in a classroom. The one-dimensional platform of zoom classrooms is not working for elementary students who have no mastery over basic reading, writing and arithmetic. They need in person learning to resume. By contrast in Ojai, the private elementary schools have returned to in person learning. What are they doing to ensure that the students and teachers feel safe on campus? The Ojai School District has had over ten months to explore reopening the school campuses. Would you please address what has been done? Have additional janitorial and maintenance personnel been hired for the daunting task of continually sanitizing the classrooms , offices, playground equipment and bathrooms which would reduce the risk of COVID transmission? The teachers can’t be expected to do that. Is there a protocol for getting students on campus through one entrance, one exit, where temperatures and masks could be checked? Have the teachers and staff been supplied with plexiglass barriers in classrooms, face shields , masks, gloves and adequate hand sanitizers all paid for by the district? These are just some of the changes that would improve working conditions for the teachers so they might safely return to the campus. These changes mean that extra help is needed now. Money was found in the budget for a new position of a public relations officer, maybe she could recruit some volunteers or real extra help. If teachers felt adequate COVID safety measures were in their workplace, their return to work would not involve more risk than they take voluntarily in their everyday life by going to shops, markets, gas stations, takeout restaurants, doctors, and other social gatherings wearing masks and distancing. The continual talk about the virus and its dire consequences has paralyzed our existence. Our safety measures and their effectiveness should get more attention. This is the first flu season our family hasn’t even had a sniffle. We are doing something right. It’s time to get our students back to the hard work of learning and the teachers back to work. Respectfully submitted Linda Thomas 41-year Ojai resident and taxpayer with children and grandchildren who have been educated in the great Ojai School district.

Angela Stevens

Teachers should be an essential worker. Firefighters, health care workers, grocery store workers are all essential and are unable to receive unemployment As long as they have an opportunity to work. Our communities depend on these workers for our well-being. Teachers are vital to the mental and emotional and educational health of our children. How could we neglect this vital need as a public school system...when private schools are already recognizing the importance of caring for their students. This is complete neglect...and this neglect can be considered abuse. Our children are suffering...and they don’t have to. Make teachers essentials workers. That’s what our tax dollars are paying you for.

Amy L. Adamson

I am worried as I have heard rumors that the OUSD is considering moving to distant learning for this year and possibly beyond. I am a very concerned parent of a 1st grader, as I do not see how this will bode well for the kids. I have kept my daughter home up to this point for other reasons ( childcare, furlough etc.) but am wanting to get her back on campus ( and have communicated this) as soon as possible. I feel the impact on ALL the kids emotionally, mentally and educationally is so severe, that the thought of extending distance learning even for this year will be extremely detrimental. I understand the concerns of COVID, but have there been conversations on what we can do in the classrooms to make the teachers more comfortable? Plexi-glass around the desks? Outside classroom? Parent help? How are the private schools in our area able to be open without issue? Can we connect with them to see their protocols and plans? Are they able to continue simply because of money? So our kids are not able to because of money? Can a parent/teacher board be created to discuss the options? I support and appreciate the teachers, and can understand their concern. So lets think outside the box, address theirs concerns ( within reason) and come up with a plan. Our kids need time with their peers, in the classroom, with their teachers.

Thank you

Amy Adamson concerned parent of a 1st grader

 

Pam Lamo

As a member of Inspire, a group aimed at increasing community volunteerism in the Ojai Valley public schools, we have always recognized the close link between thriving students and well-served teachers. That belief led us to remodel teachers' lounges at each elementary and middle school, thereby creating a place of retreat and collaboration in the midst of hectic school days. We honor the hard work, dedication and sacrifice of our teachers and see their well-being directly translating to healthy, competent students in our community.

One of the most accurate prognosticator of a child’s success in life is having access to at least one caring, concerned adult. Teachers are often that one. Now more than ever in this isolating COVID environment, we’re seeing firsthand the detriment to students' mental and emotional well-being as well as diminished academic performance due to lack of access to their teachers. I appreciate that there is risk involved in re-opening the schools. Any great effort has trade-offs. I hope to “inspire” you to consider the benefits of in class instruction far outweigh the potential risks. Together, let’s strategize creative ways to get students back in classrooms and once again see students AND teachers thrive!

Ashley Shirck

Dear Ojai Unified, I am writing in regards to notify you my concerns for sending my child back to school full time. I am hoping my letter along with other parents concerns will make an impact on allowing kids to be back to in person learning full time. If private school can be in the classroom full time safely then why can’t the public school system?

My daughter misses her friends and peers, eating lunch together, playing and participating in school activities.

There has been a pattern established and so much inconsistency that it makes it hard for myself and my daughter to take school seriously! For example the constant change in school schedule. My concern is this pattern kids are learning at a young age is creating a “ normal “ way of learning that is not ok with me or my husband. If we cannot have our daughter attend school text year full time we will pull her from Mira Monte and go a different route which will be private or homeschooling. This is the only way I can keep consistency for our family and keep our daughter thriving academically. Respectfully Ashley Shirck

Sasha Roberts

Hello, I am writing today as a mom of two elementary aged school children. I have a 1st grader and 3rd grader in the district. I first off want to thank you for having the schools open for hybrid. To have an actual teacher teaching them is a load off our shoulders and our children’s! Our son in 1st grade is so bright. He likes doing the paperwork with pencil and crayons but that is not much. He has computer work that is repetitive and he dislikes doing it. The zooms are not instructional at all and I am doing all the teaching. I understand everyone is doing their best but I am both of my children's teacher when they distance learn. It is a daily struggle to get him to do his work at home. We are both in tears at the end of each day. My daughter in 3rd needs lots of help as well. It feels like unless you have money in Ojai and can afford to send your kids to private school our children are not learning anything unless we the parents are taking hours of our day to teach them. I believe that with the precautions set in place we can remain open safely.

Cindy Sloan

4.2.1 Covid 19 compensation

I ask the board to rethink this. There are several staff members excluded in this agreement that shouldn't be. From what I am hearing this is causing a huge divide between staff and departments As well as causing hard feelings towards the District. I beg you to please make this fair across the board to all classified staff. FYI.. My staff was included in this agreement.