We are settling into the rhythm of the 2020-2021 school year. As I continue to visit school sites, I am amazed with the dedication of our staff in supporting our students, their families, and each other — whether through our daily teaching and learning, meal program, material distribution, professional learning, Family Resource Center services, or Enrollment Center services.
Last week, I, along with a team that included our chief academic and innovation officer, director of elementary education, our technology director, and new STEAM coordinator, visited classrooms at Mayne Elementary School, meeting with Principal Olmos to hear about successes and challenges from her and visiting several classrooms including teachers Alicia Gonzalez and Tim Mennuti. When they could, teachers shared with us their creative solutions to managing the digital classroom.
We also visited Hughes Elementary School to check out the construction of the new playgrounds and fencing project, and visit several classrooms. We observed teacher Katie Kusa’s engaging writing lesson focused on apples with her students. We also learned about the high levels of collaboration among the teachers that have been instrumental in supporting co-planning during distance learning. Principal Young shared the physical education distance learning classroom by displaying it on a portable big screen donated to the district by our corporate partners at Huawei Technologies.
Rounding up our site visits, we visited Montague Elementary School to observe our computer science immersion school in distance learning.
Thank you to the principals and teachers at each of these schools for allowing us to stop by to observe your magic and listen to your suggestions and needs.
Update on Reopening
As we have all heard this week, on Tuesday, Santa Clara County’s COVID-19 status on the California Governor’s watchlist moved from the purple tier to the red tier. If our county remains in the red tier for 14 days, schools in the county could begin to reopen. While schools will be able to reopen after the county has been “in the red” for 14 days, the district and school board have communicated a commitment to our community that the earliest we would reopen:
- elementary schools is November 9th when the second trimester begins, and
- secondary schools is January 5th when the second semester begins after the winter holidays
Our Family Child Education department, in partnership with the YMCA, have opened learning centers to serve SCUSD students at eight locations. Our learning centers are following all county and state guidelines and orders to ensure maximum safety of our students and staff.
The centers are open to all SCUSD families who need assistance with supervision of their children during the school day. To ensure that the announcement of the centers reached every family, communications were sent in Spanish and English, including text messages with a direct link to details and registration information. We also asked our school principals and Family Resource Center to help with additional identification and outreach to families in targeted groups, such as students who are struggling with daily engagement, essential workers, and families with other hardships such as work that cannot be done from home. We have a waitlist and are currently scaling up the capacity of our learning centers to meet the overwhelming need expressed by our families.
This week, I visited the YMCA learning center at Braly Elementary School with CSEA Chapter 350 President Lynn Villareal. It was delightful to see students back on campus and I have to say that our students and the staff followed the safety protocols with fidelity. From the look in their eyes, the students and YMCA staff were delighted to be on campus.
So far, we have received interest forms for over 380 students and have begun a process of rolling offers based on our current facilities availability. The first 108 offers have gone out to families and, to date, 88 families have completed the registration process. For the district learning centers, we have five locations ready to open on Monday, September 14. The team is working on hiring staff to meet the demand and hope to open three more locations by the end of the month to register more students from the waitlist. YMCA has opened its learning centers at three additional locations and is working with our school principals to identify target families to offer registration to from our waitlist.
Additionally, I have asked our high schools to plan for opening learning centers to support students who are struggling with engagement during distance learning. We expect to have a program ready to launch shortly with targeted outreach to families.
Even here in Silicon Valley, the digital divide is a reality. Devices are deployed to all our students, however, now that we have increased our live instruction time, we are finding out that internet bandwidth is a challenge for some students, especially in homes with multiple individuals accessing video at the same time. Luckily, we have business partners stepping up to assist. We learned last week that SCUSD has been invited to apply for a Lockheed Martin grant to support digital access for students who lack reliable internet. Our Technology department is mapping the distribution of our hotspots to identify target areas where we can provide remote wireless internet access points — connected to a district vehicle — to provide more reliable connectivity for our students. I am thankful to Steve Neese, our partnerships manager, and our Santa Clara Schools Foundation for helping to make this connection.
I want to express my appreciation to our labor associations, UTSC and CSEA, for their collaboration and considerations for developing a solid reopening plan for the return to in-person teaching and learning, which was approved by the board in July after an extensive community feedback process. We are currently working on plans to bring in small groups of students for targeted services, specifically special education, as soon it is safe to do so and following all county and state guidelines and orders. This is a massive endeavor to which the safety of each student and staff member is at the heart of our decision making.
Over the past two weeks since our last Board of Trustees meeting, I have spent some time learning what other communities across the country are doing now and planning for returning to school. What I have learned is that SCUSD is on the right path for providing the necessary support for our staff and students. And, as we begin to return to school campuses, we cannot let up on the gas pedal in providing supports and resources to our students and staff. When we return to school, the social impact of the pandemic will continue to be with us for some time to come. What our students and staff are experiencing is trauma — from family members who were ill to parents/spouses/partners who have lost jobs. Our students are experiencing and absorbing the pandemic, some without the skills and emotional maturity to handle this. I am grateful for the resources we have here in Santa Clara Unified to provide social-emotional learning and health and wellness programming to our community.
Family Learning Opportunity
From staying safe in classrooms to making the most of virtual learning, the 60-minute special provides tools and information for families dealing with the unique circumstances of school in the era of coronavirus.
CNN Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta and anchor Erica Hill moderate the hour. They are joined by Sesame Street Muppets and school-aged children in a variety of learning environments, with Elmo going to preschool during the week, Big Bird in hybrid learning, and Rosita fully remote in distance learning. The trio are joined by Abby Cadabby and her brother Rudy, Super Grover, and other friends from Sesame Street.