June 15, 2020
Our Community Celebrates Students
Vista Unified was filled with celebrations on the final days of the 2020 school year. Graduation and promotion ceremonies in car parades and in virtual videos were filled with pride, hope, excitement, joy, and beauty. One aspect of the ceremonies that was particularly meaningful was the love and pride that parents and families showed to the graduates and promoters through their car decorations. These displays that parents and families showed were truly inspiring. What was equally inspiring was the incredible dedication that the school teams put into making these drive through and video events so special. While we all know that the last few months have been filled with frustration and sadness, last week was a demonstration of our resiliency and passion as a community. We brought back the beauty for our students. Thank you for this gift. What a wonderful way to end the year.
State and Local Health Guidance
The California Department of Public Health has just issued their official guidance for schools effective June 12, 2020. Vista Unified will be using this guidance to finalize our safe return-to-school plan for the 2020-21 school year. Highlights from this plan include: healthy hygiene practices, intensifying cleaning, disinfecting, and ensuring adequate ventilation for all learning environments; recommendations for social distancing for inside and outside the classroom; limiting sharing of supplies and resources; the importance of training staff and educating families on health procedures; checking for signs and symptoms of COVID-19; plans for when a student, visitor, or staff member becomes sick; maintaining healthy operations; and considerations for partial or total closure in the event of another serious outbreak. The California Department of Education (CDE) has also published their official guidance for school districts as they start to make preparations for the new school year in the fall. Highlights from the new CDE guidance include: extensive and comprehensive health and safety checklists, models for instructional programs including programs for students with disabilities and English language learners, professional learning for educators, continuity of relationships, mental health and well-being, communication, community engagement, and school services such as transportation and meal services.
We are anxious to reopen schools, but we must do it in a way that is safe for our students and staff. After all, we can’t accelerate learning, promote instructional continuity, and address social-emotional and mental health without ensuring physical health. We are pleased to see that San Diego County Public Health Officer, Dr. Wilma Wooten, has modified the Health Order for San Diego County. Based on these new orders, we are permitted to hold limited classes, athletics, and other school activities as long as we follow the guidelines from the California Department of Public Health described above. We will be working closely with the San Diego County Office of Education to comply with and implement all of the required health protocols and guidelines. To support the safe reopening of schools and to protect public health, the Governor's Office of Emergency Services and the Department of General Services will assist public school districts in procuring necessary personal protective equipment (PPE) and other health-related supplies and equipment. While much is uncertain, please know that we are developing a plan that best serves our students and staff.
We also received a new Guidance Document from CIF regarding athletic programs for the fall. As of this communication, CIF-San Diego Section plans to start the fall 2020 sport calendar on time - July 30, 2020. However, the CIF State Office will hold a meeting on July 20th and will provide an update on the fall season. That meeting may impact the actual start date for athletics in our region. Vista Unified has a Sprint Team of leaders, including athletic directors from each high school, reviewing the new CIF guidance and developing a plan for a successful fall athletic season.
Putting the new health directives into practice will be challenging and will have a large impact on our daily activities on school campuses. We appreciate your patience and understanding during this unprecedented time as we make every effort to reestablish some level of normalcy on our school campuses. We will continue to communicate regularly as we learn new information. In the meantime, please visit the Health and Safety webpage if you have questions or want to speak to a staff member.
Superintendent’s Council for Innovative Learning
We have completed the community surveys and the forums. Participation in these important feedback events was impressive, with over 8,000 people involved. As we come to the end of the community engagement process and start to design the plans for a safe, successful reopening of school in the fall, our community feedback will play a critical role in guiding our plans. Please find below a detailed overview of the results of the community surveys and forums. As we mentioned in a previous update, we will be using these data to develop options for students and parents for the 2020-21 school year, including on campus (with certain hybrid elements) and fully virtual, contingent upon current County and State health orders. We anticipate publishing the Vista Unified reopening plan in the first part of July. Once the plan is published, parents and students will have the ability to register for the option that best fits their needs. The on-campus (with certain hybrid elements) option will be the district standard based on the status of the County and State health orders in August. Our first day of school will remain August 19, 2020. It is important to note that Vista Unified, similar to all 42 school districts in San Diego County, may be required to return to a fully virtual learning model for all students in the fall if the County and State health orders change due to an increase in the Covid-19 infection rate. This reality, while frustrating and disruptive, may be necessary to protect the lives of our Vista residents, students, and staff.
We had an incredible response from our community in surveys and forums over the past month regarding the experience of Vista Virtual School and feedback. All of this, as well as work done by our Sprint Teams in Instruction, Social-Emotional, Health and Safety, Nutrition, and Technology, will inform our plans for reopening in August. Key feedback included the following:
the importance of health and safety protocols, especially for procedures when students/staff are ill, hand washing, and sanitation of classroom and facilities
the need for continued social-emotional support for our students, both when they are on and off campus
the significance of collaboration time for teacher professional development and for student learning, connections between students and school staff, and relationships that students have with one another
the value of meaningful and relevant teaching and learning opportunities at all grade levels for all students
the need for training, including training for our parents and our students as they continue to navigate the virtual environment and continued opportunities for teachers in technology and lesson design
Please visit our Fall Design and Superintendent’s Council for Innovative Learning websites for more information, and click on the link below to view the specific results from the surveys and the feedback from the June 1st forum.
Vista Works for You - “You Will Be Found” by Vista Virtual Voices
Our district is strong. This spirit is best captured by our incredibly talented students across the entire district. In this time of tremendous difficulty, we can look to our students for strength and compassion.
Our Values Make Us Great and Keep Us Grounded
I am compelled to include in this update a statement about the most recent challenge we all face in our county, state, and nation. The images of the protests, both peaceful and not, in response to reprehensible violence against Black Americans are heartbreaking. I am saddened that this pain and suffering adds even more stress to our community. As I have stated many times, we are a school district guided by our values: Trust, Respect, Collaboration, and Equity. These values make us great and keep us grounded in what is right and just for all members of our community. Now, more than ever before, we need to embrace these values and put them into practice to proactively support all students and staff with particular attention to our students of color and our colleagues of color. Everyone deserves a safe, supportive, and caring environment in order to live, learn, and work together. Vista Unified will expand our efforts to provide this environment for all.
Our district has designed an award winning system of social/emotional supports that is built into the Blueprint for Educational Excellence and Innovation. This system of support has at its core a robust team of counselors, social workers, community liaisons, and psychologists who have dedicated their entire careers to building environments for our students and staff that foster acceptance, tolerance, hope, love, empathy, and respect. I have every confidence that our social/emotional teams will serve as beacons of light to our community as we navigate the coming months together. Please visit our Social and Emotional Support webpage if you would like to access tools for addressing these topics or if someone you love needs assistance during the summer months. Additionally, the San Diego County Office of Education's Equity team put together resources to help educators, staff, and parents create a safe space to talk with students about current events and racialized violence. You can access those resources at sdcoe.net/equityresources.
We have the power to make a difference in the lives of our students and our community. Please join me in making everyone feel safe, supported, and valued.
Matt Doyle, Ed.D.
Superintendent of Schools