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One Step of Many Closer to Reopening Schools: COVID-19 Safety Plan Approved

At their meeting on Thursday, Oct. 22, the Santa Clara Unified School District Board of Trustees got updates on requested changes to the Safety Plan and also heard a report on the planning going into reopening elementary schools.

 

COVID-19 Health and Safety Plan

The Board approved the Health and Safety Plan after hearing that all students will now be required to wear masks — a change requested after the Board and community heard masks would only be required for older students.

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Additionally, Joe Ayata, Director of ITG, said the District will provide students with two cloth masks as well as provide classroom kits to teachers that will include masks and cleaning supplies. Ayata also described the new online dashboards that will track the status of cases for the whole community to see, as well as a dashboard to help track cleaning and supplies.

Board Clerk Mark Richardson and many Board Members emphasized that this Safety Plan is a living document and will have to change as new health and safety guidelines come along. Richardson and Board Member Jim Canova stressed that approving the Safety Plan doesn’t lock in a reopening date. Dr. Kemp said that once the Board approves the Safety Plan, they will begin testing the Safety Plan and continue planning for reopening. Board Vice President Jodi Muirhead reiterated that no one, teachers or students, will be forced to come back to campus. There will always be a Distance Learning option but acknowledged that some students are struggling with distance learning and want to return to the classroom.

Board Member Vickie Fairchild shared concerns about the lack of detail regarding special education and also site-specific guidelines.

Superintendent Dr. Stella Kemp said that the answers to Fairchild’s questions are reliant on ongoing labor negotiations that may be done soon. She said that more guidelines are also coming from the County Office of Education and are expected soon. Once the Safety Plan is approved, the sites can start their planning.

Fairchild also said she has heard that safety guidelines are not currently being followed. “It makes me nervous,” said Fairchild. Board Member Andy Raterman shared these concerns.

Dr. Kemp said that once the Safety Plan is approved and rolled out, then staff can be trained. Additionally, Assistant Superintendent Kevin Keegan described the process for reporting safety protocol violations.

Board Members Albert Gonzalez and Ratermann both said they want to go above and beyond when it comes to safety. Ratermann said he wanted the Safety Plan to be even more conservative and go beyond the minimum. He said he was very concerned about previous comments regarding ventilation and air filtration in classrooms. Mark Shiel, the new Chief Business Officer, said they are being mindful and doing many things to outfit classrooms with filters and using outdoor air. Raterman said he wants to see the data and the backup on that.

The Health and Safety Plan passed with a 6-1 vote, with Raterman voting “no” saying he doesn’t think they’re quite ready.

 

Report on Reopening Planning

In the days leading up to the meeting, there was a slide in the draft plan that discussed Hybrid Learning schedules which alluded to unofficial discussions with labor unions, according to speakers at the meeting. The slide was omitted in the official presentation, but union members expressed their concerns, some calling it a breach of trust. Dr. Kemp and staff apologized. Many Board Members shared a desire to do better with communication while helping teachers feel heard.

Brad Stam, Chief Academic and Innovation Officer, introduced the new stages while moving into Phase 2 for elementary schools. With three stages within Phase 2, each stage will take an estimated 3 weeks before moving to the next stage. The first stage includes setup, Special Education assessments, and identifying Special Education classroom pilots. The second stage includes voluntary grade level hybrid pilots and identifying teacher and family preferences between Distance and Hybrid Learning. The third stage begins a week by week phased Hybrid launch by grade, starting with Grades 1-2 one week, then Grades TK-K the next week, and then Grades 3-5 a week later.

Stam also laid out the strengths and tradeoffs between Hybrid and Distance Learning for elementary school students, recognizing that there is no perfect solution.

Staff realizes that families want their students to be able to stay with their teachers and school community, and Stam said they will try everything to keep classes together as much as possible. However, some families may want may prioritize the learning choice over their teacher.

Board President Dr. Michele Ryan said she heard from the community that it would be nice to collect teacher preferences on Hybrid vs. Distance first so that way parents can have that information when making their choice.

 

Unions

The Board accepted of Receipt of United Teachers of Santa Clara (UTSC) Initial Proposal -Safe and Healthy Schools under COVID-19 MOU Bargaining for 2020-2021 with Santa Clara Unified School District. They also approved the SCUSD Initial Proposal – UTSC COVID-19 Impacts/Effects Negotiations for 2020-2021 School Year Return to In-Person Teaching and Learning. And lastly, they approved the SCUSD Initial Proposal – CSEA COVID-19 Impacts/Effects Negotiations for 2020-2021 School Year Return to In-Person Teaching and Learning.

 

Special Education Identification

Assistant Superintendent Kathie Kanavel gave a presentation regarding the Significant Disproportionality Comprehensive Coordinated Early Intervening Services Plan (CCEIS). SCSUD needed to create this plan because they were identified as having a significant disproportionality when it comes to identifying students with special needs — namely Hispanic students.

The District has identified some of the troubling root causes and will make District-wide changes as part of an improvement plan. By September 2022, there needs to be a measurable outcome.

This will come back to the next meeting for Board approval.

 

Other Business

The Board recognized their quarter’s Difference Makers: Traci Evens, Tina Vasquez, and Angela Quizon.

The Board approved a resolution naming the week of Oct. 23 -31, Red Ribbon Week.

The Board adjourned in memory of Tracy Pope. They meet next on Thursday, Nov. 12.

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