Santa Clara Unified School District Superintendent Dr. Stella Kemp said they are sticking with their plan and holding off on reopening schools for in-person instruction until Nov. 9 for the elementary schools and Jan. 5 for the secondary schools, at the earliest.
Questions were raised when Santa Clara County moved into the Red Tier just this week — meaning districts could reopen in 14 days — but at the Board of Trustees meeting on Thursday, Sept. 10, Dr. Kemp said they want to hold to their timeline commitment.
During staff’s Reopening Plan updates, Assistant Superintendent Kathie Kanavel detailed the work being done to welcome students to their free Learning Centers. The centers will open on Monday, Sept. 14 at Mayne, Callejon, Central Park, Millikin and Laurelwood.
As of the meeting, they had 108 spots for children. Over 300 families initially showed interest in the program and staff are sending out offers in batches. At the time of the meeting, they enrolled 83 children and they continue to send offers until the centers are fully enrolled. Over 300 children are still on the waitlist.
When choosing the initial batches of children to offer spots to, they considered many factors such as family hardships, location, and student engagement, according to Kanavel. They also got referrals from the sites. Kanavel says they are working on opening up more sites and looking for more staff to work at the sites.
There are also YMCA Learning Centers at Pomeroy, Scott Lane, and Bracher that are serving families.
Many Board Members were concerned that the neediest families may not be getting access to this resource.
Both Board Clerk Mark Richardson and Board Member Albert Gonzalez said they want staff to proactively reach out to the families they already know need help and make sure this opportunity is available to them. Both Board Members pointed about the families don’t always have the resources to even know about or apply to these programs.
Also in the presentation, Debbie Jones, Director of Fiscal Services, said that they were told by the USDA to pause handing out weekend meals at their nutrition distributions. So, until they receive further guidance from USDA, they will only be handing out five meals instead of seven. The District was also told that the meal distribution program will continue through the end of 2020.
Jones also said that they are finalizing the safety plan that the Board will approve before students return to campus.
The Board approved the 2019-20 Unaudited Actuals Financial Report and Updated 2020-21 Budget. The Unaudited Actuals report summarizes the actual financial activity for the most recent school year after the accounting books are closed
“The plans that were developed in the spring of 2019 for the 2019/20 school year could not have predicted the events of the spring of 2020 and continuing global pandemic crisis,” the report said. “As such, the 2019/20 Unaudited Actuals report tells a different story than anyone could have anticipated.”
Chief Business Official Eric Dill detailed that they were able to apply about $7 million of the $10 million in relief funds they got to cover COVID-19-related expenditures from the 2019-20 school year, which helped. The rest is available for 2020-21.
Dill also highlighted that Dr. Kemp made a new assignment of about $4.5 million that will be used for the ripple effects of COVID-19 like learning loss intervention and equity issues.
General Obligation Bond Financial Status
Government Financial Strategies, Inc. gave its presentation to the Board and had a lot of good news. The highlights included that through cost mitigation strategies and active bond stewardship, they delivered $789.9 million less in taxpayer payments. Also, they showed that the actual tax levies are much lower than the maximum that they projected.
In terms of the economy, they stated that interest rates are low right now and assessed value is up.
“You’ve made Santa Clara Unified proud,” Board Vice President Jodi Muirhead said to Lori Raineri with Government Financial Strategies, a SCUSD alum. “We’re managing our money well.”
Learning Continuity and Attendance Plan
Kanavel presented another draft of the District’s Learning Continuity and Attendance Plan which will be turned into the County Office of Education by Sept. 30. The plan is similar to the District’s reopening plan and memorializes staff’s planning process.
The plan focuses on seven components: stakeholder feedback, continuity of learning (including in-person instructional offerings and distance learning program), pupil learning loss, mental health and social emotional well-being, pupil and family engagement and outreach, and school nutrition.
At the next Board meeting, they will hold a public hearing on this topic and approve the plan to be submitted. After the plan is submitted to the Office of Education, they can respond within 30 days with feedback and recommendations.
SCUSD bid farewell to Eric Dill who has served as the District’s Chief Business Official. They welcomed Mark Shiel as the new CBO. Dill will still be around as he was also appointed to the Santa Clara Teacher Housing Foundation Board of Directors.
The Board also approved the Amendment to the 2020-2021 Classified Management Salary Schedule and approved granting a Water Utility Easement to the City of Santa Clara at 2550 Cabrillo Ave.
They adjourned in the memory of those who were lost in 9/11. The Board meets next on Thursday, Sept. 24 at 6:30 p.m.
I don’t think that the reporter (or a couple board members) understood the discussion about the Learning Centers. High need students were identified by schools. Staff did help these parents apply. Placement in the program was done on a first come basis. This is the issue.
I have 3 children that attend schools in the Santa Clara district. My 2 oldest are in junior high, one of which has autism and is in a special education placement. My youngest is a first grader and was determined to need speech therapy last year this was approved by the school but still he is yet to receive therapy. I am working full time from home and there is no possible way for me to work and support him each day to the level he needs. I received the email to enroll for the learning center. When I saw it it had been 3 hours since it had been sent I filled it out immediately and I felt so hopeful that he would have a spot. His principal, teacher and I had been communicating about the need for support. Long story short, even with referrals (per the statement in an email to me from the principal) of recommendation and my communications of expressing extreme hardship he was placed on the waiting list! I was told first come – first served. I worry every day that he will be so behind this will change his life forever and the school secretary reminded me of truancy laws while I was at the office picking up books and explaining how distressing this has been to try to manage. All in all, my children and the school situation has by far been the most difficult part of the last 7 months 🙁
I am curious to understand how families were prioritized for enrollment in the district learning centers, not those provided by YMCA. I have heard of instances where families were identified by teachers as being high need for a safe, secure place to distance learn and were helped by counselors to complete the paperwork to apply but then did not get placed in a center. It would probably be good to find out the demographics of the families who were admitted to make sure enough of the neediest families were given priority given that as a community member I am aware of instances where the most needy were not offered a spot.
Great questions and comments please send the to the district superintendent and the school board. Make your voice heard you raise important issues.