School board’s 4A decision raises questions May 13, 2021 — by Atrey Desai and Michael Fok A lack of transparency, especially during the phase 4A reopening process, has compounded mistrust in the board. On April 14, the Los Gatos-Saratoga Union High School District (LGSUHSD) School Board sprung a surprise on students, teachers and parents — the district would be moving into Phase 4A for the final month of school beginning on May 3. This change eliminated the asynchronous Wednesdays both students and teachers have grown reliant on during online and hybrid learning, and reestablished a five-day week with Wednesday alternating between a red and blue day. A huge question is on many students, parents and teachers’ minds was: Where did this decision come from and why? The return to a five-day week schedule came as a huge change — something most students didn’t expect until next year. According to a 480-person survey by the Leadership class, 91 percent of LGSUHSD students and faculty disagreed with the five-member board’s decision. The school board’s choice to revise an already effective Phase 3B schedule without sufficient input from teachers and students not only sets a dangerous precedent but also erodes trust. What makes the situation especially odd is its timing. Just before the decision was announced, word was spreading about COVID-19 cases on the football and water polo teams, as well as close contact with a suspected case on the soccer team. Originally, the only communication on the part of the school board was a PR video about the return by superintendent Michael Grove. But after widespread pushback through emails, videos and board meetings, the school board responded with the message that the choice was made because the school board thought online learning was taxing to students and they wanted to return to “normal” as soon as possible — paying no attention to the fact that Wednesday have been the one day a week where students could escape Zoom fatigue and feel some degree of normalcy. The board appeared to cave into a group of vocal Los Gatos parents who had petitioned for reopening the schools as early as possible. In fact, one of the lead advocates, LGHS parent Suzanna Nestor, gave her reactions to the national TV show “Fox and Friends” to voice her displeasure with the 3A plan and the district’s decision making. This media attention, along with multiple articles in local newspapers, seems to have played an outsized role in the board’s decision, pushing an approach opposed by so many others. In the end, it seems the voices of these Los Gatos parents gained more favor than those of students or teachers. At the April 20 board meeting, students and teachers alike once again voiced their opinions. But the board largely stuck with its plans to remove asynchronous Wednesdays, though they did agree to make periods shorter on those days. This showed the board's obvious disregard for the voices of the people most affected by their decision. In the meantime, board members haven’t provided a satisfactory accounting of their thinking. The school board’s silence on the topic is at best a poor move, but in reality, it is a move to ignore key constituents, those being the teachers and students at the very schools that they preside over — an absolute blunder. It is the responsibility of all elected officials to listen to all of their constituents — that much should be obvious. Despite this, the school board decided to prioritize the vocal minority of both Los Gatos and Saratoga parents who are demanding a full return to in-person schooling over the vast majority that wanted a slower, saner approach. The new schedule made to appease this small but loud crowd is exhausting to students and teachers alike and is a generally unwelcome change. The adjusted schedule this late in the year not only further increases the end-of-year burnout felt by many students and teachers, but is yet one more day of in a difficult hybrid learning environment, with online students often being either ignored or too highly prioritized as the burned-out, distracted teachers play a wild game of balancing teaching what is essentially two classes at once. Yes, students are back in classes five days a week now, but the board blundered in thinking that this version of education is an improvement.