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SCUSD Gives Updates on Distance Learning, Spring Break, Nutrition Program

With school now officially out until May 4, the Santa Clara Unified School District (SCUSD) Board of Trustees met for an early evening meeting on Thursday, March 26.

Due to the circumstances, the Board met with the Superintendent and cabinet via Zoom. With, at some points, 380 viewers on the District’s YouTube Live, the Board heard updates about topics such as a nutrition program and distance learning.

 

Student Meals

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The District’s nutrition program went from serving hundreds of meals last week to serving tens of thousands of meals this week. Eric Dill, Chief Business Official, confirmed that they will continue to scale the program to fit the demand. The District gives out five days of meals on Mondays at a few school sites and, on Thursdays, in partnership with the City of Santa Clara, they are handing out meals of the weekend.

Find out more about these programs and keep in touch for updates on the District’s website.

 

Distance Learning

For many students in SCUSD, distance learning started this week and the rest of the students will begin next week.

“In just nine days, we have shifted from being in our schools to a completely virtual environment,” said Assistant Superintendent Kathie Kanavel. “It has been challenging, but it has also brought about creativity, innovation, increased collaboration and the resurfacing of our humanness of helping each other through very difficult times.”

Many students have picked up Chromebooks and teachers are working on moving their lessons to the new online format. In order to help get some students access to the distance learning tools and classrooms, Dill said that they have ordered 200 more Wi-Fi hotspots that have unlimited data. These new hotspots should arrive next week.

According to Andrew Lucia, Assistant Superintendent, 29 percent of secondary students are not engaged in distance learning. However, that was just the data they had at the time of the meeting and they planned on having cleaner data next week. Lucia said that if students are sick, parents still need to call that into the attendance clerks.

The District is continuing to reach out to families to find out why students aren’t attending their online classes, said Kanavel. They want to know if it’s an access issue, a technology issue, or something else. However, they understand that they’ve just started distance learning and they acknowledged that the message that they’re doing online classes hasn’t reached all the families yet. Starting Monday, they will be communicating even more with families and informing them that their students are not engaged — especially if they miss two days in a row.

According to Kanavel, the District has suspended grading until more students can join the classroom. They are looking into alternative grading.

Board Member Albert Gonzalez asked about doing a pass no pass system like another district has done. Kanavel said they are considering different grading models but will ask District stakeholders before making a decision.

This Board meeting got an unprecedented amount of public comments — about 70. Many with concerns about distance learning. Many were concerned about equity for students who may not thrive in this learning environment. Others were concerned about student privacy and the rigid schedule which causes a lot of pressure on students and teachers. 

Superintendent Dr. Stella Kemp confirmed that things are moving quickly and deliberately, but they are still working on aspects like education for subgroups — like special education and English language learners — and the district calendar — like spring break and graduation. There were no updates on these.

 

Spring Break Poll

Though Dr. Kemp said that the District has not made a decision to alter the District calendar to move Spring Break to the end of the year to end the school year early, teachers submitted public comments in droves to make their plea to not move Spring Break.

According to Dr. Kemp, the District’s teachers’ associations sent out polls to see what their members thought about moving the break, but this may have inadvertently caused panic.

Many teachers submitted public comment to ask for a chance to breathe after a stressful couple of weeks, while a couple said they would be in favor of moving spring break if they thought that distance learning might continue through the end of the year.

“We appreciate the comments from staff,” said Dr. Kemp. “I recognize that everyone has been working hard for the past two weeks…” Kemp continued on to say that she is looking forward to the poll results from the associations.

 

Other Business

The Board updated the Director of Student Services’ job description. They also approved the 2020 Board Committee Assignments and updated the Board Committee Assignment Template.

The Board meets next for a special meeting on Tuesday, March 31 at 5 p.m. and their next regularly scheduled meeting is on Thursday, April 9.

 

Correction: A previous version of this article said that 29 percent of students were engaged in distance learning, however, 71 percent of students are engaged and 29 percent are not engaged.

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