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Santa Clara Unified Considers Move to Hybrid Learning in January

Santa Clara Unified School District’s Board of Trustees discussed beginning Hybrid Learning in January 2021. At their meeting on Thursday, Nov. 12, District staff debuted a proposed timeline that would bring students to campus for Hybrid Learning in waves starting on Jan. 11, 2021, but the Board hasn’t approved any plans yet.


Phase 2 Reopening Plan

At their last meeting, the Board approved the Safety Plan. At Thursday’s meeting, the Board heard an update on Phase 2, which is the transition to Hybrid Learning, and opened up the discussion to the public. However, they couldn’t show the actual details of the plan because of ongoing labor negotiations.


Keeping in mind that Santa Clara County may move into the more restrictive Red Tier next week, Superintendent Dr. Stella Kemp reminded the Board and the community that the transition timeline and plans are dependent on the chosen model, labor negotiations, Board action and many other factors, like the County’s tier status.

The proposed transition timeline looks like this:

  • Nov 30 – Staff preference survey opens
  • Dec 3 – Staff survey closes
  • Dec 8 – Notify families of their teacher’s model, family preference survey opens, and prototypes begin
  • Dec 13 – Family survey closes, begin signage and PPE distribution, and site walkthroughs
  • Jan 11 – Grades 1 and 2 return to Hybrid
  • Jan 19 – Grades TK and K return to Hybrid
  • Jan 25 – Grades 3 – 5 return to Hybrid
  • Jan 11 – 25 – Middle schools and high schools return to Hybrid

According to a District survey, over 58 percent (or 500 responses) of elementary school staff are extremely uncomfortable and think students should stay in Distance Learning. Almost 7 percent (or 58 responses) are extremely comfortable and think students should return for Hybrid Learning. Everyone else is somewhere in the middle. The numbers lean even more into the extremely uncomfortable category when it comes to teachers — 70 percent (264 responses).

In comparison, the survey found that almost 41 percent (or 1,524 Responses) of elementary school families say they will keep their students in Distance learning, 14.5 percent (542) are undecided, 20.5 percent (764) say they are likely to send their students to school for Hybrid Learning, and 24 percent (894) say they will definitely send their students to school.

Board Member Albert Gonzalez highlighted the differences in the English survey compared to the Spanish survey.

The surveys in Spanish (291 responses) showed 28 percent of families would keep their students in Distance Learning, 10 percent who aren’t decided, 26 percent who are likely to send their students to school for Hybrid Learning, and 35 percent who will definitely send their students to school.

“Looking at the data, I think that it was striking to see the difference,” said Gonzalez. “Those responding in Spanish were more likely to send their students back. Can we get more in-depth to have options? We have to make sure that those students that have been historically under-resourced, that we find ways to address some of the opportunities that they may not be getting.”

A common theme in the survey was that staff and families wanted to know more about what Hybrid would look like, however, specifics still aren’t available. Board Member Vickie Fairchild said that they were surveying people on things that haven’t even seen yet.

Brad Stam, Chief Academic and Innovation Officer, shared that UTSC, one of two labor unions, is currently showing a preference for a Hybrid Learning model called “distance learning on campus model.” This model has students in classrooms who will be online with their classmates who are in Distance Learning through headsets and their Chromebooks. The District is also trying to identify what schedule model is preferred. The current options are an AA-BB model, also called an Alternating Day model; an AM-PM model; or an Equity focused approach model — all will include a Distance Learning option. Stam said they are working with elementary principals to prepare and they are still working with the labor unions. Once the models are identified, they will run prototypes.

Staff also updated the Board on preparation progress. For example, they have ordered plexiglass partitions for every student and teacher desk. Also, they are installing MERV-13 air filters in classrooms — there are only six portables that can’t accommodate these filters. Mark Schiel, Chief Business Official, said they can either not use those portables or find another alternative.

Additionally, Assistant Superintendent Kevin Keegan said SCUSD has signed on with Santa Clara County Office of Education and Curative to provide no-cost onsite asymptomatic testing for staff. They hope to test all essential workers monthly. The current turnaround time for results is 48 hours. Staff can also get tested through their health providers or the County.

Staff debuted the new reopening video that will be shared with families in a planned update today. Some public speakers were unhappy with the video, saying it was misleading. The required signage will go up after Winter Break and they say they will have PPE before students arrive.

The Board received a small, vague update regarding Special Ed and many were still wary of how little the plan seemed to consider some of the neediest students. This, staff said, is because of on-going labor negotiations.

Board Members and the public were also skeptical of the January reopening date for secondary students since they haven’t seen much planning happening. Dr. Kemp said planning for secondary is already in progress.

Board Member Andy Ratermann said he wants to reopen schools for in-person learning, but wants the plan to be structured so that people can make choices based on their circumstances. He said he was concerned that “the majority view forces those in the minority to compromise their sense of security and safety.” Additionally, Ratermann asked that there be a quality control program to keep safety and security measures in check.

Vice President Jodi Muirhead was concerned about the Jan. 11 reopening date since it’s not two weeks removed form New Years, when people may be gathering. Gonzalez suggested maybe pushing the reopening by a few days to allow for the recommended full two weeks.

The Board may hold a special meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 24 to go over and approve the Phase 2 reopening plan but, again, that depends on labor negotiations.


Agnews Elementary & Huerta Middle Schools

The Board heard a presentation on the progress at the new elementary school and middle school at the old Agnews site which are slated to open in August 2021. Principals Shehnaz Wadhwania and Dawnel Sonntag detailed the school design framework that aligns with SCUSD’s Vision 2035. They described their guiding principles as well as a timeline for work being done between now and opening day.

They’re sending out a letter on Nov. 16 to households in the attendance area and the enrollment window will be from Jan. 6 – Feb. 5, 2021.


Metro Ed Report

In a presentation with updates about Metro Ed by Superintendent Alyssa Lynch, she shared their work during Distance Learning.

Lynch also shared that they are applying for more grant money and thanked SCUSD for their continued support and enrollment. Additionally, she said that she has been in talks with the State to help restore funding to Metro Ed directly so the District wouldn’t have to fund it.


Recognition of Mark Richardson

Board Clerk Mark Richardson will be leaving the Board of Trustees after losing his reelection campaign. Board Members and even union leaders thanked Richardson for his independent voice and dedication to students as well as his generous volunteer work.

Dr. Kemp presented him with a photo of a mural he commissioned at Santa Clara Community Day. Richardson thanked the Board and also shared that he hopes to commission more murals for more District schools.


Other Business

The Board approved the Significant Disproportionality Comprehensive Coordinated Early Intervening Services Plan (CCEIS). Since the last meeting, the Plan had a few changes that were recommended by the California Department of Education.

The Board approved a resolution appointing a representative and alternate to South Bay Area Schools Insurance Authority. The District staff recommend appointing Schiel as the new Authority and Dr. Kemp as the Alternate.

The Board approved the election of members of the Santa Clara County Committee on School District Organizations for District 2, District 4, and At-Large Seats. They picked Baltazar Lopez, Muirhead and Gonzalez.

Board President Dr. Michele Ryan moved to adjourn the meeting in honor of Cheri Squires, who was a crossing guard for the District. The Board may have a Special Meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 24 and their next regular meeting is on Thursday, Dec. 17.


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