About half the teachers return to school as students resume classes in West Contra Costa Unified

Some students in the West Contra Costa Unified School District returned to classrooms on Monday: Some students will be back for just a couple of hours a day, twice a week and many of them will not see their teachers in person.

Under the district's reopening plan, returning to campus to teach in-person is voluntary.

Only 51% of teachers in the district volunteered to return - the rest will continue teaching remotely from their homes.

Students who come back to campus will be taking part in what the district is calling supervised learning hubs. 

That means students will be in class with their classmates, while their teacher teaches the class remotely.

A certified substitute is needed to supervise the hubs, and that's where the district has run into staffing problems.

"We have been tapping into our networks, we've been contacting subs, our retirees, to come help staff. It's going to be an ongoing process," said district spokesperson Bobby Jordan. "Our HR team has been working through the weekend to try and bring in as many certified staff members as possible."

But for some families in the district, that means some kids get to go back, and others -- even within the same household -- do not.

"It's really hard because we're so excited for our kindergartener to have her first real day of school, but we kind of have to not be too excited because my son is so sad he does not get to go back," said Carrie Hobbs Schulman, a parent of a kindergartener and 2nd grader at Harding Elementary in El Cerrito.

Her daughter's kindergarten class has a certified substitute supervisor for her learning hub, but her son's 2nd-grade class does not.

Hobbs Schulman said her son’s regular 2nd-grade teacher was assigned to teach in-person with a select group of high-needs students.

Her son's learning hub has no supervisor, so he has to continue with online-only school, for now.

"My son is so sad," said Hobbs Schulman. "He doesn't understand why some kids get to go back and others do not."

KTVU is not aware of any other school district in the Bay Area that has allowed all of its staff to return voluntarily, to reopen.

District representatives told KTVU they did the best they could "negotiating with the board and their labor partners" to reach this agreement with the five labor unions within the district.

"We understand the frustration," Jordan said,  "Our hope is that this at least gives us a runway for a big summer plan and fall plan, where we expect to be back fully in-person, in the fall."

There is a select group of about 1,500 West Contra Costa Unified students with high-needs who will get in-person instruction from a teacher, two hours a day, five days a week.

The reopening plan applies to all grades in the West Conta Costa district, in transitional Kindergarten through 12th grade.