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District Update - November 20, 2020

SCUSD Superintendent’s Message

Greetings Santa Clara Unified staff and families, 

During this month of gratitude, I would like to express my appreciation to all of you. I thank you for your support, patience, and grace while navigating our shared experiences of 2020.

In preparation for the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday, I encourage you all to be diligent in the proper wearing of your face covering, frequent hand washing, physical distancing, and limiting social gatherings to those in your own household. Due to the increase in case numbers and the pending holidays, ten Bay Area Public Health Officers have issued the following recommendations for safer holidays and travel. Staying healthy means being mindful of risk reduction strategies, getting routinely tested for COVID-19, and getting a flu shot

Experts suggest the following tips for enjoying a relaxing time during the holidays which can sometimes increase our stress. Take inventory of how you feel and reach out to your support system if you need help. We have excellent resources for staff and students offered through our district’s Health and Wellness department. Another suggestion is to take time to reflect on what you value and enjoy about the holidays, for example, cooking a favorite recipe, reading, or spending time with family and friends. This year, the holidays will look different but consider new ways to incorporate your traditions — and maybe start new ones — to help reduce your stress. Also, don’t forget that it can be easy to abandon a healthy lifestyle during the holidays. Part of keeping stress at bay is to incorporate healthy habits such as getting plenty of sleep, staying physically active, and eating nutritious, wholesome foods. For me, the holidays are a time for me to reconnect with family and friends, catch up on hobbies and reading, and get outdoors to enjoy nature. And, if I’m lucky, maybe I get to dogsit my granddog, #bighearted_benji. :-)

There is no doubt that restricted physical interaction is a sacrifice we are currently making to ensure everyone’s health and safety. Leading up to the holiday season, we are especially grateful for virtual conversations, familiar voices, and the various innovations that still allow us to stay connected, enjoy the warmth of relationships, and focus on the true meaning of the holidays.

Be well,

Stella M. Kemp, Ed.D.


Santa Clara County Public Health Department Guidance for Purple Tier

The table and “Frequently Asked Questions” sections below are an exact copy and paste from a presentation from the Santa Clara County Public Health Department to all superintendents on Tuesday, November 17. Additionally, the county released its updated mandate for schools on Thursday, November 19.


School Site Reopening Status

Impact of Returning to Purple Tier

School site did not reopen for in-person instruction

School site cannot open for in-person instruction until county is in the Red Tier for 14 days

School site opened for in-person instruction

School site can remain open unless ordered otherwise

State guidance: begin or increase routine testing of staff

School site implementing a phased reopening (e.g., grades 9-10 with a set plan for grades 11 and 12 to reopen for in-person instruction)

School site may continue with its phased reopening unless ordered otherwise 

State guidance: begin or increase routine testing of staff


Frequently Asked Questions

What does it mean for a school to be “open” under the school reopening framework?

  • The school reopening framework set the rules for when “Schools and school districts may reopen for in-person instruction.”
  • The term “open” or “reopen,” as used in the framework, refers to operations that are permitted only if the county satisfies the eligibility requirements for schools to “open” or “reopen” (i.e., red tier for 14+ days).
  • This is in contrast to activities permitted under the Cohorting Guidance even for schools that are not permitted to reopen under the July 17 school reopening framework. Schools that were operating only in the manner permitted under the Cohorting Guidance are therefore not “open” under the July 17 framework.
  • For example, a school serving 10 students for in-person instruction under the cohorting guidance is not “open” for in-person instruction, since such operations are permitted regardless of the school reopening framework.

When will school sites that have not reopened be eligible to reopen for in-person instruction?

  • Under the State’s K-12 Reopening Framework and the State’s Blueprint, a county must be in the Red Tier (equivalent of being off the County Monitoring List) for 14 days for schools in that county to be eligible to reopen for in-person instruction.

If my county is in purple tier, what can my school do to serve students in person?

  • Small Cohorts: Under State’s small cohort guidance, schools can offer “limited instruction, targeted support services, and facilitation of distance learning in small group environments for a specified subset of children and youth.”
  • Waiver: Schools may apply for a waiver from the Local Health Officer to open for in-person instruction to students in grades K-6.

Implications for SCUSD

All Schools

Our schools were not open prior to our county’s move to the Purple Tier. As a result, our schools are currently prohibited from reopening until our county moves into the Red Tier and has stayed in that tier for 14 consecutive days. When we were previously in the Purple Tier, the district did not apply for a waiver. The district and our labor partners are focusing our efforts on reopening planning and agreed early on that we would not apply for a waiver while the county is in the Purple Tier.

Reopening planning is continuing in close partnership with our employee labor associations so that we can be ready to return students to campuses when public health conditions permit.

Middle and High Schools

The move to the Purple Tier was unexpected by the Santa Clara County Public Health Department and the Santa Clara County Office of Education. We have 29 days from today before our December Break and our Thanksgiving Break is only a few days away. Before schools can open, the county must be in the Red Tier for 14 consecutive days. This is all to say, despite our relatively low local transmission rates, it is highly unlikely we can navigate a return for our middle and high school students in January. Due to the enormous hurdle of secondary school scheduling that existed prior to our county’s move to the Purple Tier, it is possible that most of our middle and high school students will be heading towards a second semester in distance learning. As such, we are actively exploring options to return some portion of our middle and high school students at a later date during the second semester. 

Principals are also considering ways to increase on-campus access for those who had hoped to return to hybrid, following the public health guidelines for small group cohorts. Given the quick pivot at the state level on our public health status, we are requesting a little space to evaluate our current conditions, work with our associations, and regroup. More information will follow our Thanksgiving Break.

Future Focus

We have an eye on the future and believe we have an opportunity to reimagine summer school and the fall. While reopening planning continues, we are also working on a learning acceleration plan to provide services to address student learning loss through summer programming and extended learning opportunities until academic performance is recovered. We have time to prepare and gather input from students, families, and staff.