Community Update

January 16, 2022

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Shifting Our Protocols for Quarantining

On January 12, 2022, the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) made a significant revision to their guidance and recommendations for students who are exposed to someone with COVID-19 in school settings. The CDPH now recommends a Group-Tracing Approach to students exposed to COVID-19. The San Diego County COVID-19 Decision Trees for K-12 Schools have been updated to reflect these new recommendations.

The CDPH has outlined in their guidance that the rationale for this significant change is due to careful review over the past year of how best to respond to the pandemic while maximizing student access to in-person learning. This approach aligns to our district belief that we have a dual obligation to keep students and staff safe while, at the same time, provide access to high quality, in-person learning experiences for all students.

Vista Unified School District will be modifying all protocols and procedures related to student exposure to COVID-19 to align to the new CDPH guidance and recommendations, starting on Tuesday, January 18, 2022. Specifically, all Vista Unified schools will be implementing the Group-Tracing Approach for students. This means that when students are exposed to a COVID-19 positive person in a school setting, Vista Unified will notify parents in writing of the exposure; however, all students may remain in school unless they are experiencing symptoms or have tested positive. Only students who have symptoms or test positive must be isolated at home. In keeping with the revised San Diego County COVID-19 Decision Trees for K-12 Schools and as a condition to remain in school, parents are required to have their student tested with at least one diagnostic test obtained within three to five days of exposure and inform the school of a positive result. Students who are currently in quarantine (individual or a classroom that has pivoted) but have not tested positive and do not have symptoms may return to school on Tuesday, January 18, 2022.

Vista Unified has built a multi-layered system of COVID-19 mitigation procedures that makes the transition to a group-tracing approach possible:

  • Vaccination - The district has implemented a very successful vaccination program that has resulted in an over 80% vaccination rate for staff and approaching 90% for educators. Our community has also been successful with vaccinations for students twelve to seventeen years old, with a countywide average of just under 80%. While the county vaccination average for students five to eleven years old is still below 20%, Vista Unified is seeing a dramatic increase in students in this age group taking advantage of our vaccination centers. Vaccination is the most effective mitigation measure to keep students and staff safe.

  • Testing - The district has established twelve COVID-19 testing locations, regionally placed throughout the district on school campuses. We conduct literally hundreds of tests daily at these centers. We are also working on creating testing response teams that will be able to deploy to a school to make testing more accessible and efficient for students who have been exposed.

  • Face Coverings - The district has a mandatory face covering (mask) policy in place for all students and staff while inside classrooms and other indoor facilities. We highly recommend that all students and staff wear high quality, three-ply surgical masks to ensure a greater level of protection. These masks are available for free at all school locations.

  • Cleaning - The district has implemented a comprehensive handwashing campaign and classroom disinfecting protocol to keep our environments safe.

  • In-Door Air Filtration - The district has dramatically improved the air filtration systems on campuses across the district, shifting to MERV 13 filters in many buildings, ensuring cross ventilation, and deploying HEPA filters in rooms without opening windows.

Any student who spent more than a cumulative total of 15 minutes (within a 24-hour time period) in a shared indoor airspace (e.g., classroom) with someone with COVID-19 during their period of infectiousness will receive a group notification rather than contact tracing to identify individual contacts. Click HERE to view the official group-tracing notification that the parent will receive.

Vista Unified, similar to every other school district in the county, state, and nation, is experiencing significant impacts on staffing as a result of the current spike in infections. We are working hard to fill teaching and support staff positions as staff are compelled to isolate if they are experiencing symptoms or are COVID-19 positive. The District is utilizing the COVID Decision Tree guidelines to isolate or quarantine staff as well as returning staff safely back to their position as outlined in the guidelines. There may be interruptions in services in transportation, special education, nutrition, and instruction. It is important to know that while students and parents may experience some interruptions, these will be temporary. We ask for your patience, grace, and flexibility as we work through the current challenges and look forward to a slowing of the current surge. There is preliminary data that points to a slowing of the Omicron wave of infections.

With the new changes to contact tracing, testing for COVID-19 is more important than ever. Vista continues to be a leader in offering robust testing opportunities to our school families and the community. Our testing sites are ready to provide PCR testing to those who are symptomatic or wanting to test as a precautionary measure. We are developing plans to bring testing to our middle schools and elementary schools to help families meet the requirement to have their student tested due to a COVID-19 exposure. Currently, all of our high school students have access to testing when on campus.

Inspire Diagnostics, our COVID-19 testing partner, has shared that due to the uptick in testing volume from the recent Omicron variant test results are taking up to 72 hours. If someone’s testing results are taking longer than expected, please contact Inspire Diagnostics for assistance.
Student athletes and coaches will still be required to participate in weekly testing. This includes students who participate in extracurricular activities, such as band and cheer. Each of our high schools provides after-school testing opportunities in addition to testing on campus during the school day. The CDPH has determined that exposed students who participate in testing may continue to take part in extracurricular activities, unless they develop symptoms or test positive for COVID-19.
We are proud to announce that starting this Monday, January 17th, our vaccination clinic has expanded to offer vaccinations to students five years of age and older. Boosters are also now available to eligible students 12 years and older. Vaccinations against COVID-19 remain the best way to protect you and your family against the spread of this virus. The vaccination clinic is located at the Vista Innovation Center, 836 Olive Avenue.

We're all in this together,

Matt Doyle, Ed.D.

Superintendent of Schools

Vista Unified School District