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December 17: Updates and End-of-Year Message from Superintendent Geisick
Dear SUSD Families and Staff,
Before we break for the Winter Recess, I would like to share some updates as well as the status of school reopening for in-person learning.
At the December 11th Organizational and Regular Board meeting, I had the pleasure of administering the oath of office to new Board Trustees Melissa Stanis and Scott Adler. Cynthia Miller was voted in to continue her role as Board President for another year. The board voted to appoint Phyllis Tung as Clerk of the Board. Congratulations to all!
During the meeting, the board trustees and I held a lengthy and collaborative discussion regarding reopening schools early next year. Community comments were read aloud. The district shared that necessary PPE, health safety protocols, and facilities modifications are ready to go for reopening. However, due to COVID-19 positivity rates still trending upwards we estimate that Santa Clara County will likely remain in the Purple Tier of the California Blueprint for a Safer Economy through much of January. The good news is we all agreed that once our county stabilizes in the Red Tier we can begin the much anticipated process of welcoming our students back to campus starting with our youngest!
The estimated reopening timeline is as follows:
- STEP 1, now through January: Planning and Evaluation
The district is working with staff to determine who is able to return to the classroom for in-person instruction. Administrators and teachers are working on optimizing the Hybrid and Distance Learning models to allow for the best instruction possible for students in either model with the least amount of disruption to their teacher assignment. Live streaming pilots will take place. Recommendations and findings will be presented to the board in January.
- STEP 2, when county COVID-19 positivity rates improve and progression to the Red Tier seems imminent: TK-2 Return-to-Learn Tickets Submitted
In order to prepare for the transition back to campus, parents and guardians of children in Transitional Kindergarten, Kindergarten, 1st Grade, and 2nd Grade will receive a Return-to-Learn Ticket via ParentSquare to state their binding decision whether to return their child to Hybrid Learning (on campus) or remain in Full Distance Learning (at home). So that parents can make an informed decision, SUSD will publish detailed descriptions of both the Hybrid and Distance models based on the Step 1 outcomes. All staff returning to an in-person classroom will attend mandatory PPE training.
- STEP 3, when Santa Clara County has been in the Red Tier for two weeks: TK-2 Phased-in Return to Campus
TK-2 students will begin the phase-in to on-campus instruction one grade level at a time. As we’ve learned from Tree House and Learning Lab, the drop-off/pick-up and screening process is very different from normal years. Students, parents, and staff must adjust to new routines in order to minimize exposures and stay within their cohort. Therefore, one grade will start at a time in order to avoid a large rush all at once on campuses.
- STEP 4, after TK-2 returns to campus: grades 3-5 Return-to-Learn Ticket Submitted
Parents and guardians of grades 3-5 students will receive their Return-to-Learn tickets requesting their binding decision whether to return their child to Hybrid Learning (on campus) or remain in Full Distance Learning (at home).
- IN PARALLEL TO STEPS 1-4, now through February: Redwood Middle School Planning for Return
Redwood Middle School staff and district administrators are working on possible scenarios and learning models that will enable grades 6-8 to return for at least some of their classes on campus. The challenge at Redwood is maintaining stable cohorts even though students are enrolled in different core, science, math, PE, and elective classes. We also need to be careful that students remain distanced and not intermix cohorts. We will have recommendations at the February board meeting to address these concerns and then will move forward accordingly. Full Distance Learning will remain available through the end of this school year.
Please note that once the transition to hybrid in-person learning takes place, these cohorts are set for the remainder of the 2020-2021 school year. Even if a class or school must return to full-distance learning due to county directive, students will stay with their cohort at that time.
Reopening schools for in-person learning has always been the light at the end of this long, dark tunnel. Escalating COVID-19 numbers and the slip back to the Purple Tier have slowed progress and rattled confidence to return. But with vaccinations underway and state/national government prioritization of school reopening, we are hopeful! We will continue to communicate updates via eNews and at board meetings.
In other news, I extend a heartfelt thank-you to School Resource Officer Russell Davis for 3 years of exemplary service working with SUSD staff and families. Deputy Davis will be transferring to a new position within the Santa Clara County Office of the Sheriff in January. While we are saddened to see Deputy Davis leave us, it is customary for the sheriff's office to rotate SROs to other positions after a few years. Deputy Davis shared this message:
“I've learned that this position is so impactful to the community, especially with the climate we live in today with law enforcement. My goal in my position when I first applied for SRO was to make an impact on a student’s life. Teaching educational courses such as internet safety to high/middle schoolers to stranger-danger to Kindergartners, I wanted the youth to recognize the uniform/badge isn't something to be afraid of, but more of a positive image for the profession. I have years to go in this career, and I will never forget being an SRO in Saratoga. It will probably be the best assignment in my career where I come into work and feel like others wanted to be around me. It’s time for me to take my hat off and pass it along to another colleague.”
One last reminder before we bid goodbye to 2020, if you must travel during Winter Recess please be mindful of the SCCPHD Quarantine Guidance which was revised on December 14. Students and staff coming to campus in January must adhere to this order to maintain the safety of your cohort and staff.
Never before have we been so thrilled to say goodbye to one year, while awaiting the promise and hope of a new year. This Winter Break is truly a well earned and overdue retreat from the hardships, challenges, and isolation over the past nine months. In the final push in the last stretch of this pandemic, before we feel the effects of widespread vaccinations, please stay safe, healthy, and close to home as we look forward to better days ahead.
Ken Geisick, Ed. D