CONCORD (CBS SF/BCN) — Early results from a survey of families in the Mount Diablo Unified School District show nearly half of them would prefer their students to remain in distance learning for the rest of the school year rather than return to campus via a proposed hybrid model, the district’s superintendent said Wednesday night.

Superintendent Adam Clark gave an update Wednesday to the MDUSD Governing Board on negotiations with labor unions and plans to reopen schools in the district. A survey sent out to families last weekend offered two options: continue with 100% distance learning or participate in a hybrid model where they would do distance learning in the morning and then come to the school two days a week in the afternoons for “in person” support.

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The survey, available at https://survey.alchemer.com/s3/6198155/MDUSD-Final-Parent-Return-to-School-Survey, is due by Monday, and Clark said 7,484 respondents chose the hybrid option and 7,091 chose to remain in distance learning through the end of the school year in early June.

“We’re almost split down the middle between those who want to stay out and those who want to come back,” he said.

Many parents at the meeting and in emails submitted to the board said they weren’t opposed to returning to campuses but that the district’s hybrid model was inadequate, particularly for working families, and didn’t offer any additional academic instruction beyond what would take place during the morning distance learning period. They pointed to other school districts nearby that have already reopened.

“The majority of the surrounding districts have already reopened elementary schools for hybrid learning within the last 2 weeks while we are still planning with no set return date,” parent Jeff Barnett wrote to the board. “There is a narrative in the East Bay that our school district, school system and education is inferior to Walnut Creek, Lafayette, Orinda and San Ramon districts that border us. Our inability to reopen for hybrid learning right now only perpetuates this narrative.”

Any specific plans and dates for reopening are pending Contra Costa County’s move to the “red tier” in the state’s COVID-19 guidelines as well as negotiations with the district’s labor partners like the Mt. Diablo Education Association teachers’ union, according to Clark.

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He said district negotiators are “making progress” in those talks, with more discussions planned in the coming days.

Many parents criticized the teachers’ union for not coming to an agreement, while some teachers laid the blame at the feet of the district.

“It is disheartening to see and hear so many messages from parents, who seem to believe that MDEA and the teachers in our district are the reason we are not back in-person already,” Cathleen Foster, a teacher at Oak Grove Middle School, wrote in an email to the board. “The truth is, the district has not come up with a solid plan for returning to school in-person, despite having almost a year to do so.”

Clark said the district is still aiming for elementary schools to reopen for students sometime in March, and that the next school year will look different than the plans to reopen for the rest of the 2020-21 school year.

He said students will be going to school five days a week in the fall, although there might have to be a hybrid model such as some students coming for the mornings and others for the afternoons, depending on the status of the pandemic and state and county health guidelines at that point. The district will still offer a 100% distance learning option next school year too for families who prefer that, he said.

More details about the district’s COVID-19 response can be found at mdusd.org/2020-21.

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