Return to In-Person School

SVUSD: Next Steps During the Pandemic

At the regularly scheduled board meeting on Tuesday, October 20, the Board of Trustees approved the District's recommended plan for reentry. The recommendation extends distance learning P-12 through the first semester. It also begins an intentionally gradual four-phased reentry plan that prioritizes safety and student need, beginning with cohorts of identified students P-12 potentially as soon as November.

As a district, we acknowledge that every student has unmet needs during the pandemic across all grade levels. From academic success to mental health, the repeated traumas are causing strain on our entire community, including students. We realize the stressors on all families. Our plan moves us forward as we prioritize moving students incrementally to in-person learning, based on student need. We are continuing conversations with our labor partners to reach agreements on safety precautions, and staff concerns. We all look forward to the safe return of students to our schools.

The Board asked that the plan moving forward include clear collaboration, consistent communication, that clarify efforts and actions for all student P-12.

  • The following slides are from the Superintendent's presentation to the Board of Trustees on October 20, 2020.
  • To view the entire Board Packet from October 20, 2020, click here.
  • To view the Board meeting from October 20, 2020, click here.

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Why must we follow public guidance?

Physical safety and addressing pandemic issues are the highest priority. In planning for in-person instruction, our District must follow county and state public health orders. As we continue to plan for reentry, it is the guidance of these agencies that carry the weight of law for us. Public Health directives are mandates because the District is a public governmental entity. Sonoma County is currently in the most restrictive tier for state reopening criteria, designated by the color purple, or the purple tier. This designation prevents schools from opening. We are preparing now for in-person instruction and excited to see our students.

Who determines what COVID color Sonoma County is? Is it possible for Sonoma or the Valley to break off and get their own tier?

Sonoma County Public Health and state criteria determine into which tier a county falls. Please see their website for details. No part of a county may stand-alone. Whatever color Sonoma County is, Sonoma Valley falls in that category and must follow county health orders. The district, as a government agency must uphold state and county laws. We do look forward to moving to the red tier and then the orange tier as we practice COVID safety together.

Why are Napa and Marin schools already returning back to in-person instruction?

Different California counties currently meet state criteria for a less restrictive color tier and have more options for reopening schools and businesses. Both Napa and Marin counties have been in the red tier for at least a month and adhere to their public health office guidelines. They are now beginning to announce hybrid school options. We will follow suit when we change color.

For more information on when schools can reopen, please view this short video that explains California's system for safely reopening schools during COVID-19, and what it means for Sonoma County schools: click here

How will the district bring students back?

We will start as soon as feasible with:

  1. Special Education Students with one on one service and assessment options.
  2. Second, cohorts of prioritized students in need, including Special Education and English Learners, P-12, hopefully in November.
  3. Third, Hybrid for all students who want to return to in-person instruction phased-in to ensure safe logistics. This will begin in January as we enter the red tier.
  4. Fourth, all students when safe and we have moved to the least restrictive tier of yellow.

What is a cohort, and what is hybrid?

Both Cohort and Hybrid groupings have approximately 14 students and no more than a couple of adults to limit the number of people mixing and allowing for space in-between people when they are safely together.

While we are still working on the details, a cohort would be only a small group of our most vulnerable students, such as special education, English Learners, or other students who have barriers to learning in a distance learning environment. This may happen during or after the instructional school day.

Hybrid models are a plan for all students to have the opportunity to return in small classes, during the school day, observing all the hybrid safety protocols. For example, some districts are bringing back half a class in person for two days a week, and the other three days are a combination of synchronous and asynchronous instruction at home. Other districts are bringing back half a class for a week and trading off between two groups. We are currently building our model with labor partners. We will be sharing our ideas as developed with the entire community so the progress, innovation, and effort being demonstrated by all district staff are visible.

I would like more details about what this looks like for my student. Where is that information?

The Board approved our reentry plan on October 20, 2020. We are working now on a parent handbook. More details will be provided as they are confirmed with our labor partners. The plans' specifics are now being ironed out. You will be kept in the loop of ideas and decisions. Each month, the pandemic medical update and guidance that either allows us to open or changes our thinking will be shared with the board and the community as plans are finalized and/or as changes occur.

I still don't think this is a safe time for my student to return. What are my options?

We understand that some families will choose for their child to remain at home even as county restrictions are lifted. We also understand some staff will make the same choice. We will have choices for people to remain in a virtual learning setting. We will formally collect data to inform us of family preferences. Survey results will help us design the best learning options for all our families.

Where do I find the latest Sonoma County information?

The following websites have information about our county and COVID tier:

Sonoma County COVID


Where do I find the latest District information?

What’s Next?

Please be watching for dates and times for parent meetings to provide input and to share your perspective. A parent and student handbook is in development to outline the expectations for COVID-related in-person instruction.