1/12 FUSD Board Meeting Provides COVID Overview


Fremont Unified School District

An updated flowchart for determining when a symptomatic student can return to school.

At the Jan. 12, 2022 board meeting, the Fremont Unified School District (FUSD) Board of Education discussed the past semester of in-person learning as well as future plans. Among the topics covered was what FUSD has done to address coronavirus surges and important considerations regarding virtual instruction. The Board did not discuss whether or not the district would transition online.

Superintendent CJ Cammack began by giving a presentation on updated student and staff quarantine guidelines and safety measures, such as weekly PCR testing at the district office, additional air purification units, and 35,000 rapid test kits distributed to families. The district has also provided N95 masks for employees.

Meanwhile, speakers during open comment had mixed opinions on in-person school. Fremont Unified District Teachers Association First Vice President Victoria Chon praised the district’s response to Omicron, while students pointed out pitfalls such as teacher shortages and limited contact tracing. To address the latter, the district is moving towards a more “timely and broad” contact tracing process; currently, the whole class is notified if one student is COVID-positive, with notifications ideally sent the same day the case is reported to the district. However, this is hindered by a shortage of contact tracers, which the district has attempted to remedy by working with private healthcare services. Some speakers also expressed concerns over safety while students eat lunch unmasked and in close contact with peers. In a written statement, Board President Dianne Jones responded that the district is working towards expanding usable outdoor space.

However, the district would also face many restrictions transitioning to virtual instruction; because the J-13A waiver – which protects districts from losing funds due to emergency closures – does not cover student quarantine-related closures, FUSD needs county and state approval to move online. If schools face severe staff shortages and have exhausted all their options – including using substitute teachers, staff members on prep periods, admin, or district staff – then the district can apply for a J-13A waiver.

If FUSD moved online without meeting these conditions, it would save little compared to in-person instruction while losing around $20 million a week. A budget reduction of this size previously led to “losing electives and some APs at the secondary level, cutting support staff like custodians, eliminating all but SPED bus service, [and] cutting site discretionary funds which pay for things like paper,” according to President Jones. The instructional calendar would also be impacted, as schools must deliver one hundred eighty days of instruction every school year. 

In response to the common mantra that safety should come over money, President Jones emphasized that safety is a primary concern of the district. However, FUSD is not a corporation hoarding money to pay investors, she added; rather, funds translate into services for students. Additionally, if parents feel unsafe sending their children to school, they can consider the elementary and secondary virtual academies at Vista Alternative School. 

FUSD has also begun recruiting more proctors to alleviate long lines for weekly COVID testing at school sites.