The Group Voice:
The West Sonoma County Union High School District held another special meeting on March 30. Zoom and YouTube’s online meetup was a continued effort to keep the community informed of the opening of schools this year and the consolidation of high schools planned for 2021-2022. The meeting agenda and video taping links can be found on the website at: West Sonoma County UHSD (wscuhsd.org)
The first three items concerned the approval of the COVID-19 security plans for the Analy, El Molino and Laguna high schools. This is a required step in the reopening process as per state guidelines. Each headmaster reviewed his plan – all were similar, using a common template from the state. The main difference between the plans was the number of stations to enter or exit the campus. Analyze, the larger campus with the larger number of students has three. El Molino only has two and Laguna, the smaller secondary school, has only one entry / exit point. All plans were approved by the board of directors. They must be posted on the district’s website five days before the school reopens, which is currently scheduled for April 12.
The district will use the Parenting Station and the application that is currently part of its student information system for communication and, if necessary, for tracking contracts. Each school plans a webinar so that parents understand how to download and use the application. Check your school website for the date and time of the webinars that take place in the evening during the first and second week of April.
Superintendent Toni Beal then gave an update on the consolidation progress. The board voted for consolidation on March 10th by moving El Molino students to the Analy / Laguna campus in Sebastopol and the Laguna students and the district office to the El Molino campus as part of what Sonoma requested fiscal recovery plan District Office for Education. On March 16, the board also voted to initiate a rebranding process for the combined schools. Elements like school name, colors, mascots and uniforms are part of this process.
Beal proceeded to update the Board of Directors and the community on the ongoing unity process. The purpose of this effort is to unite the students, staff and the community as the consolidation decision was not generally well received. The El Molino community continues to oppose the decision, although recognizing that at some point in the future there will be a need for consolidation. They continue to call for more time to find alternatives, delay consolidation at least until the 2022-23 school year, and give them additional chances to find ways to avoid consolidation at all. Efforts to date to meet these wishes with a package tax and the temporary votes on the property tax in March failed when these taxes were not passed by the municipality.
Beal said the first meeting was on February 22nd. The committees also met on March 15 and 29. They will continue to meet every week on Mondays through the end of May. There are three committees. A group of students from all schools meets to determine the school’s name, colors and mascots. These will then be used in a branding process in the future. The second consists of employees from all school locations. You work on culture and curriculum issues. The final committee has alumni, parents, and West County residents for membership. Your task is to investigate how the unique story of Analy and El Molino can be preserved after being consolidated into a new high school.
Beal then established three partnerships with the district to make this consolidation as smooth as possible. The branding partner is Varsity Brands. Rebranding is what they do – for new schools, consolidations and changing controversial mascots. They only work with schools. Receiving input from the student committee working on names, colors and mascots; They will provide an initial branded product to the district at no charge. You are the current uniform supplier through Varsity Sports for uniforms in the district and will likely be the source of new uniforms purchased for the consolidated school. The second partner is funded by a grant from the Sonoma County Office of Education. They are leadership and design consultants who assist the district office in communicating and introducing and welcoming students to the new school.
The third partner worked with the district prior to the consolidation decision. They are the Career Technical Education Foundation. Initial discussions began as early as November 2020. West County applied in December 2020 and received a grant in February 2021, which also includes Elsie Allen of Santa Rosa and Casa Grande High Schools of Petaluma. 2021-22 will be a planning year for this partnership, which will revolve around the concept of the “graduate portrait”. The foundation will then work with donors to develop the approved plan for the 2022-2023 school year. In conclusion, Beal said we had “done a lot in a short period of time to move the unity process forward”.
Jeff Ogston, Chief Business Official, then gave a detailed breakdown of the expected funding to come into the district from various state and federal laws. There are four different pots of money. These are restricted funds, meaning that they can only be used for specific purposes specified by law. For example, they cannot be used to support existing programs or employees. Nor can they be used as a substitute for operating costs. They can only be used for new programs and employees related to COVID-19, face-to-face teaching, and advanced learning. The focus is primarily on special groups of students or students at risk such as the nursing or homeless youth, special education or students who are at risk of not graduating on time.
All have end dates for issues that range from late 2021 to fall 2024. Taken together, if all expected funds are spent on approved purposes, the total would be close to $ 3 million. Because of these limitations, these funds could not be used as the El Molino community had hoped to delay consolidation for another year. Nevertheless, they continue to plead for a revision of the consolidation decision and plan to hold a protest rally in the district office on Thursday, April 8th, starting at 3 p.m.