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Santa Clara Unified Decides to Wait Until Orange Tier to Move to Hybrid Learning

The Santa Clara Unified School District Board of Trustees moved forward on their Phase 2 Reopening Plan at a Special Meeting on Monday, Dec. 14. This was the first meeting for new Board Member Bonnie Lieberman. Board Members Dr. Michelle Ryan and Albert Gonzalez were also reelected. The trio gave the oath of office at the beginning of the meeting.


Phase 2 Reopening Plan

Staff presented an updated Phase 2 Reopening Plan that detailed the student categories the District will give In-person Learning priority to when they offer Hybrid Learning.


Notably, the plan included a decision to wait to offer In-person Learning until Santa Clara County returns to the Orange Tier of California’s Blueprint for Reopening the Economy. This agreement came to be through negotiations between the District and labor associations. Additionally, the District says that when they reopen, if Santa Clara County ever returns to the Purple Tier, schools will close and will reopen in the Orange Tier.

“We know that are some families that will be upset that we will be reopening in the Orange [Tier] instead of Red,” said Superintendent Dr. Stella Kemp. “If we reopen in Red, we’re at the risk of sliding back into the Purple Tier, disrupting students and teachers who need to shift back to Distance Learning. This kind of back and forth disruption is less likely to happen if we wait until Orange.”

Some frustrated parents called into the meeting to share their disappointment that schools were not open when Santa Clara County was in the Red or Orange Tier previously. Now that Santa Clara County is under a Stay-at-Home order, no schools can reopen.

Students will begin following the Phase Two schedules on the first Monday after reaching the Orange Tier. They will begin phasing in the prioritized student groups in each grade that Monday. Sample schedules for Hybrid Learning are on the reopening plan.

The District is holding town halls for families this week and more town halls in January. In the first week of January, the family preference survey opens and then later closes in the second week of January.

Prioritization categories include but are not limited to foster/homeless, ELS, Special Ed, poor grades, children of essential workers, etc. Some categories are weighted more than others, according to staff. The District hopes they can accommodate prioritized students with their current schedule and current teachers.

Staff also confirmed that they will be able to continue providing meals through June 2021. When schools do reopen, they will also be able to offer their normal bus routes and bus stops, but with social distancing so fewer students on each bus.

Board Member Vickie Fairchild asked about the District’s Learning Centers and the Board heard that they are not able to open more Learning Centers at this time because of staffing shortages. Board Members said they are open to hiring more and spend more on support for students.

When In-person Learning begins, spots at the Learning Centers will need to go to children of teachers and staff.

Staff also shared that when schools reopen, teachers will be offered monthly asymptomatic on-site testing. They will also have additional emergency paid sick leave if they do get COVID-19.

Dr. Kemp also requested that the Board to approve remaining in Distance Learning through the end of the 2020-2021 school year if Santa Clara County didn’t enter the Orange Tier by April 1, 2021. This request was removed from the final motion and not approved. Many Board Members expressed that they were uncomfortable closing that door so soon.

“I’d like to remove the April 1st date [from the motion], for now, I think it’s too early to make that decision,” said Vice Board President Jodi Muirhead. “I’d like to approve what we have for now but not limit us on our return or not return date.”

The Board approved the Phase 2 Reopening Plan without the April cutoff date.

The Board also approved the Tentative Agreement between UTSC and the District COVID-19 Phase 2 (Hybrid) Memorandum of Understanding.

The Board’s next meeting is on Thursday, Dec. 17 at 5 p.m.


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