Saugus Union School District officials announced plans to rescind teacher-layoff notices and moved forward with an April 19 return to full-class, in-person instruction.
During a special board meeting on Monday, the Saugus governing board voted unanimously to approve a district plan to create new special assignment teaching positions — in addition to receiving 13 resignations or retirements — in order to avoid laying off eight teaching positions.
The teachers on special assignment, or TOSAs, will be working through the 2021-22 school year to combat any learning gaps experienced by students as a result of the pandemic.
“These TOSA’s will work with and train our new paraprofessionals to implement reading and mathematics interventions for students during the school day,” district officials said in a statement concerning the action they took. “They will support the sites in using assessments to determine student needs and progress as well as design targeted activities to address needs.”
The funds needed for the program are to be provided as part of Assembly Bill 86.
“We collaborated well with our labor partners to determine how we were going to use these dollars that are designed to be used to mitigate learning loss, and we feel comfortable in being able to rescind the position (layoffs) as a result,” said Superintendent Colleen Hawkins.
“It sounds like a huge win-win because not only are we able to save the positions,” said board member Matthew Watson, “but then, those kids that are in the deepest need of support are getting tremendous support from experienced people and those that have been trained by them.”
In addition to avoiding layoffs, the Saugus Union School District discussed its Friday announcement to join other Santa Clarita Valley elementary school districts in having students attend school with their full class.
Grades TK to sixth, both general and special education, will be on campuses for four hours and 20 minutes a day, with 240 minutes of in-person classroom instruction and 20 minutes for recess. Students are set to attend on-campus learning Monday through Friday and will follow the current start time for the AM schedule.
Students will continue to be given access to grab-n-go meals for off-campus eating, and snacks will be allowed at recess.
While classrooms will have 3 feet of distance between the students’ desks, recess will still require 6 feet of social distancing, officials said.
Some of the other districts that have already announced their plans to return have called for a full-day instruction. The Saugus school district’s minimum-day model, Hawkins said, was a question of enrollment numbers, logistics and socializing limits.
“It just seemed like a tremendous ask, both for health and safety, as well as for the practicability of the entire piece, to ask kids to go through all of this, the length of time, the wearing of the mask, the lack of play, all for four hours more face-to-face time during the week,” Hawkins said. “We felt strongly that there would be a lot of behavior problems in those later afternoon hours, and possibly during that second activity period after lunch.”
Hawkins said the difference in Saugus’s minimum-day plan and another district’s full-day plan would be the difference between 20 hours a week and 24.75 hours a week. She said district staff decided on a plan that worked best for their 15 specific school sites.
Those families participating in the Saugus Digital Learning Academy will have their instruction and schedule continue uninterrupted through the end of the school year.