August 10, 2022
Welcome Back to School!
Welcoming students, staff, and families back to school is always one of the most exciting times of the year. Students are anxious to meet their teachers, make new friends, and learn new skills. Families are excited to see their children grow, mature, and continue to make progress along their learning pathway. Teachers and staff are refreshed, recharged, and ready to make learning fun and memorable.
On behalf of the Vista Unified School Board of Trustees and the entire Vista team, I would like to officially announce the adoption of our new Framework for the Future. We will retain our motto as a district that strives for excellence and innovation in all that we do. The framework contains three new components: our vision, a set of portraits, and our values. We will be focusing our efforts throughout the year operationalizing our new Framework for the Future so that all students have the opportunity to learn and grow in the most dynamic, relevant, and supportive educational environment possible.
Vista Unified Vision
Every student graduates from Vista Unified as a resilient, agile learner and creative problem solver who navigates the world with confidence and kindness and eagerly embraces local and global challenges.
A “vision” is a bold leap into the future, painting a vivid picture of a destination - a “north star” that guides collective action and shapes the strategies to make it a reality. A vision is long range (10-15 years), helping us step outside the present and reimagine the possibilities of the future. Organizational changes take time, and longer timeframes encourage us to be proactive and to anticipate and plan for changes. Click HERE to read more about our new Learner, Adult, and Systems Portrait.
Back to School At-Home COVID-19 Test Kits
Good news! Cases of COVID-19 in the San Diego community have slowly begun to decline. Although the county risk level is still high, we are hopeful that the knowledge learned about the spread of COVID-19 and the application of effective mitigating measures continue to protect our schools and the community.
Once again, Vista Unified has secured over 20,000 COVID-19 antigen at-home kits for students and staff. Next week, school sites will contact families with information about how to pick up a test kit. Families are highly encouraged to test their students within 24 hours prior to entering campus for the first day of school. Any positive test results should be reported to your school. And, if your student is experiencing any COVID-like symptoms, we ask that you keep them home. The most common COVID-19 symptoms include fever, cough, congestion, sore throat, vomiting, and diarrhea.
Each COVID-19 at-home test kit comes with two testing cartridges. Families are asked to use the second at-home antigen test on Sunday, August 21st to ensure that students who may have been exposed to someone during the first days of school remain home. Again, we ask that all positive COVID-19 results be reported to your school.
Partnering to Combat COVID-19 in Our Schools
Vista Unified will continue to follow the guidance from the SDCOE COVID-19 Decision Trees for K-12 Schools.
Individuals who test positive must isolate at home and may be released from isolation on day six, provided that symptoms are improving, they are fever-free for the past 24 hours without fever-reducing medication, and they have a negative test result from a rapid antigen test taken on or after day five.
If the individual is asymptomatic, day zero of isolation is the day the individual was tested. Day one is the first full day following the day the individual was tested.
If the individual is symptomatic, day zero of isolation is the day of symptom onset, regardless of when the individual tested positive. Day one is the first full day following the day that symptoms started.
Employees eligible for shortened isolation must continue to wear a highly protective mask at all times in the workplace around others, except when eating or drinking, for 10 days after the date of the positive test.
Students ending isolation early are strongly recommended to wear a highly protective mask when around others, except when eating or drinking, for 10 days after the date of the positive test.
COVID-19 Close Contact Changes
The definition of close contact had a slight change for adults and now aligns with the definition for students. A close contact is defined as a person who shared a common indoor airspace with a person who was contagious with COVID-19 for 15 minutes or more in a 24-hour period.
When a student is exposed to a COVID-19 positive individual, a “share the air” letter will be sent from the school. Exposed students are strongly encouraged to test for COVID-19 on days three, four, or five from the last day of exposure to the positive person. It is also strongly recommended that exposed students wear a well-fitting mask indoors around others for at least 10 days following the date of last exposure. Adult close contacts are required to test on days three, four, or five and must wear a mask when indoors through day 10 from the last day of exposure.
As changes to COVID-19 protocols or other health and safety concerns arise, Vista Unified will remain committed to providing up-to-date information to our school community. Please see the attached slide deck for the latest update from the Health and Safety Department.
Monkeypox Now a State Emergency
On August 1st, Governor Newsom declared a state of emergency over the monkeypox outbreak happening in California. In the past two weeks, cases across the country have risen from 3,000 to 6,300, with 826 confirmed cases being reported in California.
Monkeypox spreads between people primarily through direct contact with infectious sores, scabs, or bodily fluids. Symptoms of monkeypox might start with symptoms like the flu, such as fever, low energy, swollen lymph nodes, and general body aches. Within one to three days after the appearance of fever, a person can develop a rash or sores. They can look like pimples or blisters and may be painful and itchy.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), preventing the spread of monkeypox is similar to the mitigating practices of COVID-19 and include:
Practicing good hand hygiene
Avoiding close contact with people with symptoms of sores and rashes
Isolating people who become infected until their symptoms are improving or have gone away completely
Covering any rash covered until completely healed
Using appropriate PPE when caring for someone with symptoms
Avoiding contact with infected materials contaminated with the virus
Avoiding contact with infected animals
Summer Learning Success
Our elementary summer session kicked off on June 13th with our theme “Splash Into Summer, "The Wonders of Water." 400 students from across the district elementary schools took part in a three-week session with reading and writing activities aligned to water themes. Our community partners included the San Diego County Office of Education (Splash Lab), Vista Irrigation District, and San Diego Water Authority. Each of our partners presented hands-on learning experiences for students focused on water and water conservation. Kids College taught art lessons and exposed students to various art mediums, resulting in culminating art projects based on the theme of water.
Secondary summer programs were a phenomenal success across the district with programs offered at nine campuses for our middle and high school students. Approximately 650 middle school students participated in programs to support academic readiness and math and English preparation, coding, physical education and sports, visual and performing arts, STEM, design labs, and creative writing.
At the high school level, over 1,500 students participated in summer programs for remediation, bridge, and enrichment opportunities. At Alta Vista, Major General Murray, Mission Vista, Rancho Buena Vista, and Vista High Schools, students completed 8,242 credits, completing 1,648 semester-long courses, which is 300 more courses than last year. In addition, students had the opportunity to participate in math and academic readiness support and in enrichment programs for strength and fitness, Project Lead the Way, AP Bootcamp/International Baccalaureate/Honors preparation, performing arts, and Career Technical Education.
Extended School Year (ESY) Update
ESY was a successful four weeks of learning and discovery that were all aligned to students' IEP services and goals. ESY had an average of 350 students that were provided an opportunity to engage in a variety of activities at each of the three ESY school sites (Cal Ave, THE Leadership Academy, and VATC) from June 21st to July 15th. Staff worked collaboratively to support students’ social/emotional and academic goals. Additionally a learning recovery and assessment team was available during ESY that consisted of an Education Specialist, Speech Language Pathologists, Psychologists, and outside resources. The team was able to provide services and work on specific assessments related to Learning Recovery.
The district remains fully committed to providing transportation to our general education students. However, due to a local and national shortage of licensed school bus drivers, the district is not able to provide full general education transportation services for the fall semester. On July 26th and August 5th, the district reached out to general education families that had a student ride the bus during the 2021-2022 school year to advise them that, based upon labor shortages, we will need to pause some transportations services for students in the upcoming semester. With the current labor shortage of bus drivers being at around 40%, general education transportation options will be discussed at the August 11th VUSD Board Meeting. Based on the outcomes of that meeting, we will be providing families notice of the finalized plan for the upcoming school year.
To continue to support families, the transportation department anticipates releasing the 2022 general education transportation application in the upcoming days. The purpose of this application is to develop an initial student ridership and waiting list for all general education transportation requests for the upcoming school year. The transportation department will convene a workgroup in November to examine future transportation application timelines that will better support families for the 2023-2024 school year. Additional communications with our schools and families will occur after the strategic direction has been set by the Board of Trustees on August 11th. We regret that this national and regional situation is impacting our families, and we thank you for your cooperation and support as we seek to resolve this unfortunate staffing shortage.
Child Nutrition Services
As a result of the Universal Meal Funding approved by the State, we will be able to provide free meals to all students for the 2022-23 school year. Studies have shown that access to nutritious meals in school increase health and educational outcomes for our students. We are excited for this opportunity that all of our students will have access to breakfast and lunch each day. As a result of COVID, we continue to experience staffing shortages. In the past year, we have combined 26 part time positions into 13 full time positions to help with recruitment efforts. After these efforts, we still have 28 vacant positions in our department. There may be instances where meal lines may not run as quickly as in prior years. To help minimize impacts of staffing shortages, we have created a consolidated menu to utilize when we do not have ideal levels of staff to offer multiple menu options. Our goal is to provide as many fresh options to support our farm to table goals, but there may be times where we may need to utilize food that require less manual labor to package. We appreciate your support during this time as we continue to look at all options to improve serving times during low staffing periods.
Matt Doyle, Ed.D.
Superintendent of Schools
Vista Unified School District