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Santa Clara Unified May Reconsider Independent Study Option

The first day of school is quickly approaching so the Santa Clara Unified School District Board of Trustees held their first meeting of the school year to get everything in place.


Reopening Plan Updates

At the Thursday, August 13 meeting, Superintendent Dr. Stella Kemp and staff provided updates on the reopening plan. Though Independent Study was not included in the presentation, community communication since the last Board meeting brought the issue to the top of the Board’s mind.


For some Board Members — including Board President Dr. Michele Ryan who made the motion at the last meeting — they didn’t realize that when they voted to begin the school year with Distance Learning, they were removing the option of Independent Study.

Dr. Kemp explained that in approving only Distance Learning for the foreseeable future, the Board had in fact got rid of the option to do Independent Study and staff shifted all their focus to Distance Learning. Dr. Kemp said that doing a long-term Independent Study program would be a challenge because of teacher workload.

Currently, if parents were counting on doing Independent Study, they would have to home school, change their choice to Distance Learning, or find options for Independent Study outside the District.

“I’m really disappointed that [Independent Study] is not happening,” said Board Vice President Jodi Muirhead. “I’d like staff to continue to work on it and see if they can put something together because I have a feeling that some of these families who said they wanted Independent Study have now been convinced or changed their mind to go to Distance Learning, they’re still gonna have problems…there are a number of reasons of why some children may not be successful with Distance Learning and we really should be looking at an alternative for those families.”

“I don’t think the problem has gone away,” said Muirhead.

A pair of public comments were made from parents who expressed their disappointment that Independent Study wasn’t an option through Santa Clara Unified.

After a couple of rounds of Board comment, Dr. Kemp noted that the Board had a strong interest for the District staff to investigate an option for Independent Study. They will determine the numbers and costs.

Additionally, Eric Dill, Chief Business Official, said that staff are working on a District safety plan. Dr. Kemp added that they are not planning on even attempting to reopen schools until after the County of Santa Clara is off the State’s County Monitoring List, which means they wouldn’t have to apply for a waiver. The waiver would have allowed the District to reopen elementary schools sooner.

Stella said they can expect the safety plan to be presented at a September Board meeting with the hopes that they can reopen in November.

Lastly, Director of Student Services Dr. Brenda Carrillo announced that they are able to offer no cost childcare for teachers and staff. If there is room after spots are offered to staff’s children, those spots will be opened to the rest of the District community. They are also working on a partnership with the YMCA to figure out reduced rate childcare for the community, especially for the Title 1 families. Dr. Carrillo hoped that more details will be available in the coming weeks.


Other Businesses

The Board approved a resolution to establish temporary interfund borrowing. Under this, the governing board may allow money to be temporarily transferred between funds, but they are always repaid. Dill said this is a routine item of business.

The Board approved revising the District’s Safety Manager’s job description. It will incorporate a broader range of safety which is an important distinction in the times of COVID-19 and as they prepare for the eventual reopening of schools.

Michal Healy, Director of Facility Development and Planning, provided updates on the Safe Routes to Schools program. The presentation included what the cities of Sunnyvale and Santa Clara are doing to improve infrastructure and more. 

The Board decided to table the CSBA New Policy, BP 0470 COVID-19 Mitigation Plan. Board Member Vickie Fairchild brought up concerns and they decided to have it go back to the policy committee.

The Board of Trustees will meet next on Thursday, Aug. 27 at 6:30 p.m.


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