The Silicon Valley Voice

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Santa Clara Unified Makes Plans to Endure COVID-19 Surge

With COVID-19 cases rising and scarce testing resources, the Santa Clara Unified School District community called on the District to do something to keep students safe. At the Board of Trustees meeting on Thursday, Jan. 13, they discussed COVID-19 updates as well as the growing list of complications.


COVID-19 Updates

Superintendent Dr. Stella Kemp reminded the Board that the District cannot go back to Distance Learning at this time. The waiver that allowed that has expired and there is no current State or local health order to close schools.


The biggest issue for the Board and the community was COVID-19 testing. Their Grapefruit testing program has seen long lines and huge delays in getting results back to families. Community members criticized Grapefruit, saying they waited hours in line to be turned away, testing sites were closing early, and test results were taking weeks to be released. Community members said they were “disgusted,” one saying, “Grapefruit is failing us.”

Mark Schiel, Chief Business Officer, said the COVID-19 surge is causing a huge increase in testing demand and has overwhelmed Grapefruit’s lab partners and Grapefruit is suffering from staff shortages. Grapefruit said they were also getting incorrect contact information from visitors which makes delivering results difficult.

Vice President Vickie Fairchild didn’t buy that, “We need to call Grapefruit out on their BS.”

Schiel says, as a temporary solution, they are going to shift Grapefruit testing to staff and students only. They hope to reopen the testing to the wider community once things improve. Grapefruit also said they have new lab partners, which should help with testing results turnaround times.

Dr. Kemp said that rapid antigen at-home tests were sent to students’ homes, and they continue to use them for students. They have KN95 masks that staff have access to, and they are also getting N95 makes from the government.

There was an attendance decrease when students returned from Winter Break, according to Chief Academic and Innovation Officer Brad Stam. Attendance was 86% and it’s usually 96%. By the day of the meeting, it has decreased further to 83%. Stam says 80% of them are excused (i.e., illness, quarantine).

The Long Term Independent Study program had 20 students return to in-person classes in January, reported Kathie Kanavel, Assistant Superintendent of Education Services. When students are ready to return to in-person at their previous school, that is looking promising as sites aren’t currently overloaded.

New guidance is being released constantly. District Nurse Karin Kimiecik gave an overview of how the County Health Department’s guidance is now aligning with the CDC and CDPH on isolating and quarantining. For unvaccinated people, they can leave their home with a negative PCR test on day 10 of their quarantine. If they’re vaccinated, they don’t need to quarantine but they need to be tested. You are considered fully vaccinated right after you get your 2nd COVID-19 dose.


Other Business

The Board approved appointing Lidia Vasquez as the Coordinator of EL & Supplemental Programs. They also approved a Consultant Services Agreement with Teresa Hancock for ELD Instruction Professional Development.

Dr. Kemp said the District is preparing a committee to look at short and long-term solutions for the Cabrillo Music Program. At a previous meeting, Dr. Kemp had suggested a few options, one being to reconfigure the school’s library. The community rejected that idea in their calls, asking the District to not take away their library. Dr. Kemp said they won’t and that it was just an example of what they could do as a solution. They will bring reports back with some short-term and long-term solutions to an upcoming meeting.

There were concerns about the District preparing a Classified Seniority List. Dr. Jose Gonzalez says it is now a requirement to prepare the list in case there will be layoffs. However, Dr. Kemp said there are no planned layoffs.

Board Member Dr. Michele Ryan was absent.

Their next regular meeting is on Thursday, Jan. 27 at 6:30 p.m.


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