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SCUSD Secures More Accessible COVID-19 Testing, Hears About Declining Enrollment

Thanks to a new partnership, Santa Clara Unified School District staff and families can now access COVID-19 testing easier. The Board of Trustees also heard a report about their declining enrollment, and how it is affecting elementary schools.

 

COVID-19 Update

Mark Schiel, Chief Business Official, announced at the Thursday, Oct. 28 Board meeting that the District is officially partnered with Grapefruit and will offer two new programs.

Starting Monday, the first program is a COVID-19 testing pod at Wilcox Performing Arts Center. It’s open Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. and on weekends from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. You can also get rapid tests done there. No appointment is needed.

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The second program is a 24/7 hotline for the District community where they can call when they have questions. This is to help alleviate the burden on principals and staff, who usually get these calls, according to Schiel.

 

Enrollment

Like many schools, SCUSD is experiencing a decline in enrollment. They’ve noticed a steady decline over the last four years, but the largest decrease happened between last school year and the current one. Staff said that enrollment is significantly lower at the elementary level — 636 students less than expected this year.

Due to declining enrollment and staffing based on last year’s projections, schools are now overstaffed with 22 teachers at the elementary level, “based on the collective bargaining agreement.” Because of this, the staff asked for flexibility because they may need to move teachers around next year.

According to the presentation, almost all schools are meeting the smaller class size ratios the Board put in place earlier this year, apart from a handful of classes that are slightly over. Board Vice President Vickie Fairchild was also happy with the smaller class sizes and Board President Jodi Muirhead said that if they can afford to maintain the small class sizes, they should.

“While declining enrollment isn’t something we’d like to see, smaller class sizes are definitely something we’d like to see and we had that happen without even trying,” said Fairchild.

Families moving out of the District and the popularity of the Independent Study program are factors in the decline. They also took into consideration that Agnews Elementary School opened this year.

 

Nutrition Services

Conditions are constantly changing but the Districts’ Nutrition Services department is rolling with the punches. From March 2020 to August 21, they served about 5.8 million meals. Karen Luna, Director of Nutrition Services, said meal participation is way up.

However, there were and are challenges, especially at the beginning of the school year. Participation was fluctuating, there was a huge increase in vegetarian meals and special diet requests, there were and still are supply chain issues, and they suffered staffing shortages and turnover. They were running out of meals at the beginning of the school year (students still got fed) but, thankfully according to Luna, that is no longer happening.

 

Trustee Area Maps

The District is updating its Trustee Areas and Justin Rich, Demographer with Cooperative Strategies, presented three scenarios, or maps. Rich said each map is within the acceptable population variance, meaning they have almost the same number of voters in each area.

No community members showed up to the public hearing, but Board Members shared their opinions. Board Clerk Bonnie Lieberman, the only Sunnyvale Board Member, said she was drawn to Scenario 2 but wanted to make sure that it took into consideration the attendance boundary of a Santa Clara elementary school that serves Sunnyvale residents. She had a “quibble” with Scenario 3 because it had three Trustees in Sunnyvale. She’s worried about Sunnyvale getting enough attention.

Board Member Dr. Michele Ryan was more concerned about population variance, saying Scenario 2 had the largest variance of 8.2 percent.

In Scenario 1, the Rivermark neighborhood was split up and Board Member Andy Ratermann said that was not desirable. He favored Scenario 2 since it keeps that neighborhood together.

There will be more community meetings during this process.

 

Contract Changes

When Schiel joined the District, he got to work reviewing pretty much everything. When he looked at their contracting process, he found that the District hasn’t updated the $50,000 threshold in Public Contract Code 20111 — meaning contracts over $50,000 need to go to the Board for approval. This number is supposed to be reviewed annually and updated, according to Schiel it should be $96,700.

He also uncovered many out-of-date processes and other issues. Namely, that the contracts they were using were out-of-date and needed to be reviewed by legal counsel. They now have three new standard contracts.

Schiel laid out his plan to get the District up to speed but since the Board meeting was ending, Ratermann asked that the item come back to a future meeting since he has questions and concerns.

 

Dress Code

A student at Community Day named Gabriela Arreola came to the meeting to give an emotional speech about the “sexist and belittling” dress code. She says it unfairly targets women.

“Why should we have to dress to not ‘arouse male teachers and students?’ Why do I have to cover up when it’s a hot day? Why am I not allowed to walk out of my house dressed how I feel comfortable? My body shouldn’t be considered a distraction,” said Arreola.

“What I would like to see from our school district is that we revisit the dress code guidelines, remove them or make it less sexist, make it more up to date and not reflective of a patriarchal system, and reconsider the criteria for the staff that is hired and ensure they are not sexist,” said Arreola. “I would also appreciate an apology for the constant victim-blaming culture, for making young women feel like they are the problem, for slut-shaming, and for taking time away from our education.”

Superintendent Dr. Stella Kemp said she has realized that there is no standard District dress code, and the interpretation and implementation are different at the school sites. Dr. Kemp will put together a committee with student representatives to review the Administrative Regulation. The Board agreed.

 

Other Business

The Board approved appointing Patricia Guevara as the new Special Education Program Specialist.

From the last meeting, the Prospect Studio contract came back with changes. Ratermann still had concerns and voted ‘no’ but the contract passed 6-1.

The Board gave consensus for Dr. Kemp to move forward on reviewing existing policy Board Policy 5145.3 and other related policies on nondiscrimination and harassment policies related to transgender students. This was a request from Lieberman.

This was Corinne Sanfilippo’s last School Board meeting. Sanfilippo is the Executive Assistant to Superintendent and Board of Trustees and announced her retirement. The Board Members all shared kind words and well wishes as she starts her new chapter.

The Board’s next scheduled regular meeting is on Thursday, Nov. 18 at 6:30 p.m. They have a special meeting scheduled for Thursday, Nov. 4 at 6 p.m.

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