The Santa Clara Unified School District Board of Trustees’ first meeting of the school year was a long one. They had to continue and rush through much of their agenda because requiring wearing masks outdoors dominated the discussion.
Due to ongoing updates from health and state officials, the District’s safety plan needed changes. The modification that caught everyone’s attention was that wearing masks outside is no longer required but now optional and strongly encouraged. Board Members said they were contacted by concerned families.
The conversation spanned hours. They had Nurse Karin Kimiecik weigh in. She stated that she was happy with the District’s stance on strongly encouraging masking outside but not requiring it.
However, parents and Board Members wanted to take the extra step to protect students, especially with the Delta variant in the community. Board Member Andy Ratermann said he wanted the staff to present recommendations at a future meeting, but was told there was some urgency to make changes.
Ratermann made a motion that would require outdoor masks, and after some contributions from other Board Members and staff, they landed on the final motion: All Pre-K – 12 students must wear a mask within 6 feet of another student or adult. Also, principals have the discretion to put in place more restrictive outside masking requirements if necessary. The motion passed 7-0.
Additionally, they made a motion for adults: All adults must wear masks outdoors if within 6 feet of students. This also passed 7-0.
After hearing the public’s concerns about athletics, they further added to the motion: Exemptions for high school and middle school athletics should already follow guidelines of League Authority or CIF. For Pre-K through high school, masking in outdoor PE classes would be determined by the teacher.
It’s worth noting that there is health and safety guidance for athletics but not for art activities like band and choir. The District is still waiting on guidance, according to Chief Business Official Mark Schiel.
When asked her thoughts, Nurse Kimiecik restated that she agreed with the District’s current stance. “The more you restrict, the more you’re not going to encompass the outliers,” said Kimiecik. Going on to say she likes the way it’s stated in the presented safety plan with the restriction of 3 to 6 feet.
This passed 6-1, with Board Member Jim Canova voting no, saying he agreed with Kimiecik’s wishes. Board Vice President Vickie Fairchild seemed to have instant regret about their work, saying she should have listened to Kimiecik. However, the Board said they would see how these restrictions play out and can revisit it.
Staff said the Board’s wishes would go into effect as soon as possible.
Staff also announced that they will be offering weekly COVID-19 testing to all students across the district. All staff will participate in weekly screening testing, regardless of vaccination status. Weekly screening testing at every site across the district will begin the week of Aug. 23. To get tested weekly students’ families must consent — families will receive a consent request for the program from your school administrator.
Though not exactly tied to the safety plan, families and Board Members shared concerns about those in Independent Study losing spot at their schools. They made it very clear they want to revisit this issue.
Pushed to the last 10 minutes of the meeting, Rolando Bonilla with Voler Strategic Advisors very quickly went over the communication plan for the District’s changes to their School Board voting districts as required by the California Voting Rights Act.
Bonilla suggested that the Board form an Ad Hoc Committee to keep the conversation going, but said he was also happy with special meetings, even with a looming deadline when Board Members Dr. Michele Ryan and Canova said they were uncomfortable with forming an Ad Hoc Committee. They said they want all Board Members’ voices to be heard.
The conversation had to stop, though, as they had to rush to adjourn as the clock struck midnight.
Additionally, the Board held a special meeting on July 29 where Dr. Ryan was absent. At this meeting, they did finalize their contract with Voler, but there isn’t a meeting on the School District’s website calendar and no meeting video is available, though a live stream link was on the agenda.
For Human Resources items, they approved the revised job description for Pool Maintenance Worker/Custodian, the proposed job description for Lead Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA), and the revised job description for Student Services Senior Staff Secretary. They also approved the recommendation of the Reclassification Committee for November 2020 and March 2021.
For Business items, the “Consultant Agreement with Prospect Studio SF” was pulled from the consent calendar by Fairchild. She aired concerns and asked questions which were answered by staff, but had no further questions or comments before voting no along with Ratermann on the consultant agreement. It passed 5-2.
Additionally, the Board asked for an update on the Patrick Henry site so they can discuss funds for upgrades at other schools, like Wilcox’s tennis courts.
The Board will meet next for a regular meeting on Thursday, Aug. 26, 6:30 p.m.
Never in my long teaching career have I seen children so happy to return to school. Most wearing a mask all day with teachers not even having to say anything both indoors and out.
In the county with one of the highest vax rates here is reality. Testing will help. All of the other mitigations will help if taken seriously. However, we must do all we can.
All staff must be mandated to be vaccinated just like LAUSD did yesterday including those who work with the district.
The reason the district has not told you vax numbers is because there are a lot of people working in schools in Santa Clara that not only are not vaxxed but had to be told to wear a mask. Anyone working with children should be totally vaccinated. If you don’t believe in science why are you working with children?
Many, the majority are doing everything they can to keep schools open. Make the minority get vaccinated and wear a proper mask at all times. If not the consequences will be dire.