Community Update – I would like to officially welcome you to the 2020-21 school year. I hope that you are having a restful and safe summer break. Many teachers, staff, and parent representatives worked hard in June to finalize our community-wide efforts to gather feedback and ideas in order to design a clear, easy-to-understand, and achievable school opening plan for this fall. Our community participation was huge, engaging over 10,000 voices in the process, logging more than 45 different meetings, and investing over 1,000 hours of listening, note taking and design work. If you participated in the forums, surveys or meetings, we thank you for your help. All of this great work can be viewed on our website at www.vistausd.org/falldesign.VISTA UNIFIED LEARNING MODEL SURVEY
Click here to take the survey.
LEARNING MODEL PARENT/GUARDIAN SURVEY
We have created a second parent/guardian interest survey, at the direction of the School Board, to gauge the interest of parents for the learning model that best supports their needs. Click HERE to take the survey. This is a survey only and will not determine the final model for your student(s). The Board will use this survey data during the July 23, 2020 Board Meeting to make a final determination of the learning model options that will be available for the fall reopening of school.
We have provided a thorough overview of the current status of the school reopening design work below for additional context.
CHANGING PUBLIC HEALTH ORDERS
Governor Newsom, the California Department of Public Health, and the San Diego County Health and Human Services Department have all recently issued guidance that schools may reopen starting in mid June, provided key health and safety orders are in place. Unfortunately, the current trend with regard to the COVID-19 pandemic is that infection rates across the country, in California, and in San Diego County are rising sharply. Governor Newsom just last week issued a new health order for 19 counties, including San Diego County, to close all indoor operations for businesses (restaurants, movie theaters, bowling alleys, batting cages, wineries, museums, zoos, etc.). This order did not, however, include schools. The San Diego County Health and Human Services followed-up the Governor’s guidance with a new health order on July 7, 2020 that reinforces the new, more stringent expectations. I wanted to point this out to underscore the importance for us all to stay flexible in our thinking about our current school reopening plan. We will continue to monitor the public health orders and remain willing to adjust our fall reopening design in order to keep our focus on the safety of our students and staff. We have already started to make initial preparations for the start of the school year. One example is the ordering and distribution of personal protective equipment (PPE). We have been proactive about getting the necessary supplies for students and staff, as well as, back up supplies in the event the demand increases. Our shipment to cover the first two months of the school year has already arrived in our warehouse.
STATE BUDGET AND SENATE BILL 98
It is important to note that Governor Newsom and the legislature just recently approved the budget for 2020-21. Along with the 2020 budget approval, Senate Bill 98 was designed to provide details, guidance, and requirements for the implementation of educational programs for the year. It is the intent of the state legislature to require that all school districts offer in-person instruction in 2020-21 “to the greatest extent possible.” The bill does include language for school districts to offer distance learning under two circumstances: A) on a local educational agency or school wide level as a result of an order or guidance from a state public health officer or a local public health officer; B) for pupils who are medically fragile or would be put at risk by in-person instruction, or who are self-quarantining because of exposure to COVID -19. Senator Holly Mitchell published a follow-up letter to the Secretary of State, Erika Contreras, outlining the legislative intent of this language. Based on the Senate Bill 98 language, we have developed two models for learning during the COVID-19 pandemic.
WE NEED YOUR HELP TO ADVOCATE FOR OUR DISTRICT
The scope and complexity of the health orders and the new Senate Bill 98 language have increased the demand and pressure on our school district, teachers, and staff. Sadly, this increased demand and pressure does not come with the appropriate level of funding and support. We need your help to advocate for a greater level of funding and support so that we may respond as a unified community to this crisis. Click HERE to access a form letter that you may use to send your government representatives a message to fully fund our emergency response efforts.
We presented the recommendations from the Superintendent’s Council for Innovative Learning and the initial design ideas for the school reopening plan to the school board at the Special Board meeting held on July 9, 2020. During this meeting, the school board members provided their final feedback and then approved the school reopening plan recommendations and ideas. Click HERE to view the presentation slide deck and the school board feedback. We then used the recommendations and initial design ideas to develop the official Vista Unified School Reopening Plan for the 2020-21 school year that is now posted live on the website: www.vistausd.org/schoolreopening. We have designed the school reopening plan as a webpage in an effort to continue to build out the resources and information. Additionally, the webpage format will better position us to make strategic updates and revisions to the plan in the event that the state and county health orders change. We continue to work closely with the Vista Teachers Association and the California School Employees Association to ensure all teachers and staff have the necessary support and resources to successfully implement this plan, including agreements related to the impacts and effects of the reopening plan.
The Superintendent’s Council for Innovative Learning recommended to the school board two options for learning models in the fall, Vista Classic and Vista Virtual. Offering two models will give the district a strategic advantage in the event the state and county health departments order school closures and we are compelled to pivot to all students learning through Vista Virtual School. This also creates the opportunity to pivot to Vista Classic when the infection rates subside. The decision to focus on two options was based on feedback from parents, teachers, and staff. Specifically, feedback from the survey given three weeks ago indicated that 62% favored a fully in person model and 38% favored a fully virtual or a hybrid model. The survey represented 3,351 individual responses, which is 17% of all students in the district. The board has not yet finalized the decision to fully implement two models. At this point, there is concern among board members for the safety of students, teachers, and staff to return to the school environment due to the recent increase in COVID-19 infection rates in the county and in our own city. To address these concerns, we have created another parent survey to gauge the current feeling among parents about which model of learning they feel is best for their children. The survey link is included in this letter after the summary of the two learning models below.
OPTION 1 – VISTA CLASSIC LEARNING MODEL
The first, called Vista Classic, is a return to our classic, high quality, in-person, on-campus learning environment five days a week. This is the most closely aligned to the Senate Bill 98 legislative intent. This in-person option will include a robust set of health and safety measures, including daily sanitation of all learning spaces using new electrostatic technology, hand washing protocols, use of face coverings for all adults, face coverings for students that adheres to county health guidelines, social distancing routines, classroom set-ups that encourage social distancing as practicable, temperature checks, and staggered school entrance and exit routines for students. It is important to note that there may be instances when students and staff may not be able to distance six feet apart. Embedded into the classic learning environment will be social and emotional lessons, grade level or course level assignments, and collaboration activities that are designed to set high expectations for learning and keep students growing academically. We will be purchasing a new diagnostic assessment platform that will allow us to inventory student’s academic strengths and identify any areas for improvement (learning loss) so that we may quickly provide prescriptive intervention. All students who participate in the Vista Classic model will remain at their current school assignment. In order to accommodate for professional development and preparation, we will have a modified schedule at the beginning of the school year, either shortened days or moving the start date. More information will be shared with families after the plan is finalized.
OPTION 2 – VISTA VIRTUAL SCHOOL LEARNING MODEL
The second option is a greatly enhanced Vista Virtual School learning environment with some hybrid, on-campus, learning opportunities. Students will have access to their teachers every day with tailored lessons and live virtual activities and meetings. We will be using a new learning management system (called Canvas) to design a much more robust student engagement experience with school curriculum, lessons, materials, quizzes, and activities facilitated by their teachers. Parents will have access to an app that is accessible right from their cell phone to check in on student work, monitor their progress on tests and quizzes, and send and receive messages from the teacher – no need to log into a computer. Students will have clearly defined learning objectives and a scope and sequence for the semester so that there is no ambiguity about the expectations for achievement. Embedded into the virtual learning environment will be social and emotional lessons and grade level or course level assignments that are designed to set high expectations for learning and keep students growing academically. We will be purchasing a new diagnostic assessment platform that will allow us to inventory student’s academic strengths and identify any areas for improvement (learning loss) so that we may quickly provide prescriptive intervention. Students using the virtual option will have periodic opportunities to visit the campus to access supplies, check in with their teacher, and complete assessments as needed. All students who participate in the Vista Virtual model will remain at their current school assignment. In order to accommodate for professional development and preparation, we will have a modified schedule at the beginning of the school year, either shortened days or moving the start date. More information will be shared with families after the plan is finalized.
LEARNING MODEL PARENT/GUARDIAN SURVEY
As stated earlier in this communication, we have created a second parent/guardian interest survey, at the direction of the School Board, to gauge the interest of parents for the learning model that best supports their needs. Click HERE to take the survey. This is a survey only and will not determine the final model for your student(s). The Board will use this survey data during the July 23, 2020 Board Meeting to make a final determination of the learning model options that will be available for the fall reopening of school. If a parent does not submit a survey response, their student(s) will be defaulted to the Vista Virtual School model, as per Board directive due to the current health conditions in the county and city.
We will be training all staff in the implementation of both models so that any movement into a fully virtual environment or a fully in-person environment will be less disruptive to students and staff. In fact, both models were designed to work together so that the district may pivot from one to the other or use both in response to the constantly changing status of the COVID-19 pandemic in our community.
MEASURE LL FACILITIES BOND UPDATE
On September 12, 2019, the School Board approved plans to enter into a Project Labor Agreement (PLA) with the San Diego Building and Construction Trades Council. One key component of this agreement is to develop a memorandum of understanding that outlines the scope of the PLA with regard to the Measure LL Facility bond projects. This process is now complete. The PLA memorandum of understanding will be reviewed and approved during the regular School Board meeting held on July 23, 2020. We will post the details of the PLA memorandum of understanding to the website on Monday, July 20, 2020.
Sincerely, Matt Doyle, Ed.D. Superintendent of Schools