BY ALEX HOEFT AND BECCA LOUX | Moonshine Ink
Update April 3 at 12:33 p.m.: The Tahoe Truckee Unified School District has decided to extend distance learning efforts through the end of the 2019/2020 school year, per the governor’s statewide recommendation to close schools to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.
In a letter to district parents, superintendent Dr. Robert Leri wrote, “In the coming weeks, we will provide more information regarding how grades, graduation, transcripts, scholarships, and summer school will be handled.”
TTUSD’s decision was made in unison with all Placer County public schools, in accordance with advice from the county’s health officials.
(Headline updated to reflect TTUSD decision, April 3, 1:21 p.m.)
The Tahoe Truckee Unified School District hasn’t announced the permanent closure of its schools for the remainder of the 2019/20 year, but we should know by midday tomorrow. That’s what Kelli Twomey, coordinator of parent and community relations for the district, told Moonshine via email earlier today.
“Last week, in conjunction with the Placer County Office of Education and all public schools in Placer County, we extended our school closure date until May 1. While our classrooms are closed, instruction continues through our new distance learning model,” Twomey wrote.
The district is keeping its most recent updates under the new reality of the COVID-19 pandemic on their website, available at ttusd.org/virus, which confirms that the most recent announcement from TTUSD superintendent Dr. Robert Leri is an extension of distance learning through May 1.
Yet California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced the closure of schools for the remainder of the school year yesterday in an attempt to further mitigate the COVID-19 outbreak.
“The right thing to do for our children, the right thing to do for the parents, for households, for the communities in which they reside,” Newsom said during a press conference, “is to make sure that we are preparing today to set our schools system up where we are increasing class time, but increasing it at home, and fulfilling our obligations to distance learning and other mechanisms to make sure that we’re educating our kids, but not doing so physically on school sites.”
According to a press release out of the governor’s office, an agreement has been reached “between teachers, classified employees, school boards, superintendents, and principals to work together to provide distance learning … the agreement means more kids will be able to get school resources, such as quality distance instruction, and empowers teachers to create lessons within clear parameters.”
The governor’s announcement does not appear to be a hard directive for immediate facility closures by districts.
“I think the worst decision we could make, as I’ve said this in the past, is you know, cutting our parachute when we’re way above the ground,” Newsom said in a press conference today. “And I don’t think there would be anything that would be more impactful, that would example, or manifest that metaphor than sending 6-plus million children back into our public schools as vectors to come back home, with their grandpa, grandma, (and other) family members potentially, when we’re so close to turning the page.”
The state’s education department will also be partnering with Google to provide 100,000 mobile hotspots and Chromebooks for students experiencing distance learning in rural areas.
Leri was unavailable for direct comment, as he was about to participate in a video conference call with other superintendents, likely to discuss the future of TTUSD’s current school year. Twomey’s comment to Moonshine is the latest information the district is able to provide at this time.
Twomey did not directly address Gov. Newsom’s announcement but made it clear that decisions are actively being made.
“As you know, the situation is changing every day. Dr. Leri and the other county superintendents are taking the Governor’s and [state superintendent of public instruction] Tony Thurmond’s recommendations made in yesterday’s news conference under serious consideration,” she said. “Discussions are continuing, and Dr. Leri will be meeting virtually with all Placer County superintendents, the county superintendent, and [Placer public health director] Dr. Aimee Sisson to determine the next course of action for all schools in Placer County. We anticipate an announcement tomorrow on the plans for all schools in Placer County.”
Though Leri had announced his plans to retire from his position with the district in February, he announced on March 20 via an email update that he will “stay as long as this crisis continues and until we find the right superintendent chief learning officer for our district.”
He specified his reasoning: “Given the COVID-19 crisis, I realize that it may be unrealistic for our board to complete the superintendent chief learning officer recruitment process in the original timeline they laid out.”