Mt. Diablo Unified Schools welcome students back to classrooms

Local public school campuses reopen but teens slower to return to their classroom

CONTRA COSTA COUNTY — Late last month students in local public schools got the greenlight to return to campus in hybrid schedules that combine continued distance learning with limited on-campus instruction that is slated to continue through the end of the school year in less than seven weeks.

Initial reports show that Mt. Diablo Unified School District elementary school students have returned to their campuses in substantially larger numbers than teens in middle and high schools.

Officials note that classroom attendance increased day by day and they anticipate larger numbers this week after Spring Break on MDUSD campuses and at Clayton Valley Charter High School.

MDUSD spokesman Austin Breidenthal said, “Attendance trended slightly upwards during the [first] week, seeming to match a comfort level with safety assurances.”

He supplied The Pioneer with figures from the first few days of hybrid learning:

  • Elementary sites: 7,887 students enrolled in hybrid out of 14,729 total (54% coming to campus)
  • Secondary sites: 5,055 students enrolled in hybrid out of 17,706 total (34% coming to campus)

Breidenthal said that “roughly 60% of teachers are working in-person at our school sites.”

The MDUSD numbers for middle and high schools were almost identical to CVCHS where executive director Jim Scheible says about 800 students out of the 2,250-member student body (35.5%) were back on campus during the week of Mar 29.

The charter school has had about 300 students in cohorts on campus for the majority of the school year and 500 more were in classrooms when the campus started full hybrid learning. Scheible anticipated that number increasing this week after Spring Break.

He added that 77% of CVCHS teachers were conducting instruction from their classrooms.

Recall of MDUSD Trustees effort started

Local public school campuses reopen but teens slower to return to their classroom
MDUSD Board meeting on March 16, 2021.

A group of disgruntled MDUSD parents started an effort in the past two months to recall the five district trustees over their delay in getting children back to on-campus learning. Organizer Walter Eckalbar said, “There is an element of trust that has eroded. I hope nobody sees this as punishment (of the trustees) — this is another means of pressure so the board members hear our voices and react to them.”

There are two Facebook pages for the organizers, Contra Costa Parents for In-Person Learning, that have a combined 770 members or likes.

Those numbers have not increased appreciably in recent weeks, possibly due to the reopening of campuses.

To get a recall election on the ballot organizers need to collect signatures from 10% of the registered voters for the three trustees still considered at-large (Linda Mayo, Debra Mason and Cherise Khaund) and 20% of the registered voters in a district for the  two newest trustees, Erin McFerrin and Keisha Nzewi, who were the first to be elected in 2020 through district voting.

Breidenthal said that board president Khaund was served with notice of intent paperwork last week for her recall.

Cherise Khaund

Khaund said, “The Board takes our responsibility to MDUSD families very seriously. In a community where 50% wanted in-person instruction and 50% wanted to stay completely in distance learning, we reopened with a hybrid model only 13 days after Contra Costa entered the red tier. This pandemic has been devastating, and our district is focused on supporting all children and families through this difficult time.

“To return to in person learning, we ensured safe learning environments for children and staff. The Board approved MDUSD’s COVID safety plan, advocated for vaccines for all school staff, and personally visited schools to see that protocols were enacted. Returning before these systems were in place would have irresponsibly put lives at risk.”

She concluded, “We all want safe learning environments for our children, and we can never rush that or cut corners. Today we have over 13,000 students learning on our campuses and we are on track for fully reopening this fall.”

District spokesman Breidenthal added, “We are not here to tell you that any parents are wrong for having feelings, but I can tell you that since February [when the recall group started], our landscape has changed dramatically for the better, with our county health improving, schools reopening, students safely on campus and a joint statement with our teachers union about a full reopening in the fall.”

Jay Bedecarré
Jay Bedecarré
Sports and Schools Editor at The Concord Clayton Pioneer | | Website

Jay Bedecarré is a long-time resident and writer in Concord and Clayton. He began his newspaper writing career while still a senior at Mt. Diablo High School and he has been part of The Pioneer since its inception in 2003. Jay also operates Bay Area Festivals, presenting events around the San Francisco Bay Area including Bay Area KidFest annually in Downtown Concord.