Students are about six weeks into the school year. The Santa Clara Unified School District Board of Trustees and staff are still trying to keep up with the curve balls pandemic education throws their way.
Independent Study Open Enrollment & Update
At the Thursday, Sept. 23 Board meeting, they heard an Independent Study presentation from Director of Student Services Dr. Brenda Carrillo and Enrollment Center Manager Johanna Gonzalez. The Board gave direction to give Independent Study families the guarantee that their students will be able to return to their school of attendance in 2022-2023, if not sooner.
Vice President Vickie Fairchild said she feels for the parents who are dealing with open enrollment challenges, especially if they have health concerns at home.
“This an emotional issue, it’s a healthy and safety issue,” said Fairchild. “And embedded in that, it’s our kids and that makes it even harder for all of us.”
So, if an Independent Study student wished to return to in-person instruction, they would be able to reclaim their spot at their school, if space allows. If their school cannot accommodate them, they can come back in 2022-2023, but they might be overloaded to a different school for the remainder of this school year.
This was called “Option 3” in the presentation. Picking this option also means that they would be changing their current open enrollment process, so no more open enrollment waitlist for this school year. Staff said this option also reduces their chances of having to overload students.
Staff expects that the Independent Study program may see an increase in students now that families have secured a spot at their school.
“I know this is gonna create some challenges for our administration,” said Board Member Andy Ratermann. “I think primarily Option 3 gives the most flexibility, solves the most problems, gives the most opportunity.”
Kathie Kanavel, Assistant Superintendent of Education Services, also gave an update on the Independent Study program. There is a survey out for Independent Study families to share their thoughts. So far, 35 percent said they would consider in-person school once students are vaccinated, while 38 percent are not planning on returning. Kanavel said this is good information for future planning.
She said they have continued hiring and working on Special Education programming. They are also working on some in-person activities and services.
COVID-19 Safety Plan Update
The company doing the District’s weekly COVID-19 testing is still experiencing staffing issues. The District is exploring solutions like volunteers through the PTA council. They’re still trying to contact families who have not responded to whether they want their students to get tested.
Wilcox Tennis Courts
Larry Adams, Director of School Bond Projects, was asked to present information on the Wilcox Tennis Courts, which are closed due to their unusable condition. Back in April, Adams said the tennis courts were in bad shape and needed to be replaced along with the concession building and restrooms. However, the Board hesitated to take on the project when they already had projects, like the new Laurelwood/Patrick Henry school, that needed Measure BB funds.
At Thursday’s meeting, Adams suggested, to get the ball rolling and save some time, that they start the design and permitting processes using available savings — so not touching money Measure BB money. And then in Spring, when the District has reliable cost estimates for other projects, the Board can decide if they want to proceed with the tennis court replacements.
This will come back to a future meeting for Board approval.
Additionally, Fairchild shared concerns about Wilcox being charged for buses to get to other courts. Superintendent Dr. Stella Kemp said they will rectify this.
In-Person Board Meetings
After a long discussion, the Board didn’t take action on a resolution to keep meetings online only.
Some Board Members attempted to pass a resolution describing imminent threat that would keep them from meeting in-person but they failed to describe the threat and the motion failed 3-4 with Board Members Albert Gonzalez, Ratermann, and Dr. Michele Ryan voting yes.
So, the next Board Meeting will be in person. However, the Board made it clear that they want to keep a virtual option to keep the meetings accessible.
Later in the meeting, they discussed technology upgrades to the board room. Out of the presented options that ranged in cost and time, the Board favored Option 2 where they would purchase and place webcams or iPads in front of every Board Member and one that points at the public speaker. They would connect board room audio into an audio mixer and dedicate a computer for board meetings. The District would contract with an audio engineer to program audio for live-streaming. And lastly, they would remove and update the District’s Vision and Mission Statements that appear on the wall in the board room. The cost is estimated at $10,000, according to Mark Schiel, Chief Business Official. He said this could take about 2 months or less, depending on availability of audio engineer and availability of the items they need.
Fairchild also suggested, in the meantime, they seek out an already outfitted venue they could use.
A motion to implement Option 2 but also give authority to the Board President and Superintendent to seek out another facility passed 6-1, with Ryan voting no.
An agenda item on “Streaming and Long Term Public Access to Board Meeting” was continued to the next meeting as this meeting was nearing Midnight.
Public Hearing Elections
They held a second pre-map public hearing for the new Trustee areas. Justin Rich, Demographer with Cooperative Strategies, said they collected the following feedback so far:
- Keep Sunnyvale together
- Keep San Jose/Alviso together
- Attempt to track areas with current 3 areas based on former/merged school districts
- Follow Elementary School attendance boundaries to the extent possible, but be wary of balkanization
- North of 101 should comprise 1-2 districts
- Including Rivermark and Montague areas with the current Area 2 on the other side of 101 does not make sense
The demographer will now use 2020 Census Data to create some draft maps to bring to the next meeting on Oct. 28.
During public comment, students shared concerns about access to gender-neutral bathrooms.
Additionally, families were concerned about hot meal shortages at schools. Dr. Kemp said they will investigate these concerns about bring information back to the Board.
The Board welcomed new Student Board Reps Crystal Escalera from New Valley High School, Palak Parikh from Wilcox High School, Faith Manansala from Santa Clara High School, and Marcus Anchondo from Mission Early College High School.
The next Board Meeting is scheduled for Thursday, Oct. 14 at 6:30 p.m.