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No Cost Monthly COVID-19 Testing for Staff, Math Acceleration Assessments Discussed

Santa Clara Unified School District staff presented updates on the District’s reopening plan at the Board of Trustees Meeting on Thursday, Feb. 11. After parents pleaded with the District, the Board brought a report about the 6th grade math acceleration assessments to the agenda.

 

Reopening Update

Superintendent Dr. Stella Kemp and Assistant Superintendent Kevin Keegan announced that they are officially partnered with Valencia Labs to do monthly asymptomatic testing. These no-cost tests will be offered at 25 sites for all staff to get tested.

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Dr. Kemp also shared that once educators can get vaccinated, she has thrown SCUSD’s name into the hat to become a vaccination site. Nothing solid about this yet, but it is a possibility.

Additionally, Dr. Kemp announced that the Hybrid Learning family preference survey has closed. The survey asked families if they wanted to send their students back to campus through Hybrid Learning or preferred to stick to Distance Learning.

Schools are reaching out to the families of targeted students — students who have may have a higher need to return to campus — and trying to get 100 percent survey completion from these families. The schools are using survey results to form Hybrid Learning rosters and will send return status letters to families who want to be in-person. Letters will be sent March 10 – March 12, according to Dr. Kemp.

So far, 68 percent of families completed the survey. Overall, 40 percent want to return to in-person learning and 60 percent wish to continue to learn from home. Dr. Kemp highlighted that preferences correlated with grade levels. At the preschools 52 percent wanted to return in person, 42 percent for TK-5th grade, 39 percent for middle school, 35 percent for high school, and 43 percent for post-secondary.

Acceleration plans to help with learning loss are in the works and staff are continuing to look for ways to help struggling students. Dr. Kemp said they are working on a plan to offer more funding for expanded summer school offerings — more information on that will come.

Staff also provided updates on recruiting subs, PPE and signage supplies, and transportation readiness.

 

Middle School Math Acceleration Plan

Assistant Superintendent Kathie Kanavel gave a report with their rationale to place all rising 6th grade students in Common Core 6th Grade Math for 2021-22 school year rather than assessing 5th graders to see if they should be accelerated.

Kanavel listed the reasons, providing research-based best practices for mathematics instruction under Common Core saying that studies show that accelerating and skipping 6th grade math isn’t recommended and that is preferred to accelerate in higher grades.

Additionally, she pointed to the loss of instructional minutes due to the COVID-19 pandemic. They say that over 15,000 instructional minutes have been lost, of that they estimate 7,000 of those minutes are math. Kanavel said teachers simply didn’t have enough time with students. Additionally, she pointed to the already challenging transition to middle school and how accelerating at that time, in light of the pandemic, could be very tough on students. Kanavel says they want to prioritize the social emotional well-being of the students.

Kanavel also pointed out that even without the chance to skip Common Core 6, students would still be able to reach the highest level of math by their senior year of high school.

Some parents were not happy. During public comment, they mentioned that a petition from parents had over 170 signatures and a petition from students also had 20 signatures. Parents said they would like their students to at least be assessed to see if they are ready for accelerating.

Dr. Kemp directed Education Services and their Chief Academic Officer to go back to see if they could offer the assessment and what it would look like. She added that she wants to further educate the parents on math acceleration and what the research says.

Board Member Andy Ratermann said he was worried about the kids who are excelling at math and are not getting the opportunity to accelerate.

“To me, this is an equity issue, you know, we have students that struggle and for those students we put extra resources there… when we get kids that excel, sometimes we don’t do that,” said Ratermann. “We need to make sure they get those same resources to support them… We want all our kids to reach their full potential. It’s going to be different needs for different kids.”

 

Nutrition Services

Nutrition Services Director Karen Luna provided an inspiring report on their efforts since the schools closed down last March.

Their efforts to feed not just students, but their families went beyond lunches. They also provided breakfasts, meal kits and full meals, including fresh produce, protein and more.

Additionally, the Taste of the Farm Dinners have become very popular and provided $35,000 in revenue. They are even doing fundraisers.

Luna says they’re already prepared to welcome students back to campus and to continue providing meals to families that will stay in Distance Learning.

“To me, you are leadership in a way that I profoundly respect,” said Board Member Jim Canova to Luna. Saying the way they converted the Nutrition Services Department so quickly and effectively for Distance Learning was instrumental to keeping SCUSD families fed.

“I just have so much admiration for you and thank you for the hard work and everyone in your department. You really are angels.”

 

Bonds

Board of Trustees voted unanimously to refund Measure J General Obligation Bonds previously issued in August 2012. At a previous meeting, Mark Schiel, the District’s Chief Business Official, and Lori Raineri with Government Financial Strategies discussed the market conditions that currently exist which allow for the advance refunding of Measure J.

 

February 2021 Difference Makers

This quarter’s Difference Makers are Patricia Guevara, School Support Teacher on Special Assignment at Hughes Elementary School; Annette Vizcarra, School Secretary at Buchser Middle School; and Mandi Ching, a parent at Hughes Elementary School and Chairperson of the School Site Council.

 

Other Business

Dr. Kemp said that she signed a joint letter to the State Board to formally request the suspension of the 2021 SBAC assessments, citing the issues with testing remotely. These tests were suspended last year.

The Board approved a revised 2021-2022 calendar. When the 2021-2022 calendar was originally approved, it had the last day of school as June 3, 2022. To meet the 180 student instructional days and balance the semesters as close as possible, the last day of school should be June 1, 2022.

The Board affirmed February as Black History Month and also American Heart Month.

The Board meets next on Thursday, Feb. 25 for a Work Study Session and then a Regular Board Meeting.

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