August 24, 2021
Back to School Success!
Our school reopening was fantastic this year! The energy level on all campuses and at all grade levels from preschool to high school was off the charts. Parents were so excited to bring their students to school that we set a new record for the total number of parents dropping off on the first day of school. We literally had thousands of cars pass through our parking lots with smiling kids and proud parents. Thank you to all parents for being there for this important first day of school.
The excitement did not stop there; while every board member and I visited schools, we were amazed with the smoothness of the transition back to in-person learning for over 19,000 students and 2,500 teachers and staff across 29 school locations. Our students showed an impressive commitment to following our health and safety procedures, including excellent mask wearing skills. We thank all students for this important commitment. Our teachers and staff demonstrated, once again, their passion for creating nurturing learning environments for all students. Our Family and Community Engagement liaisons, counselors, and social workers were out in full force to support parents and to meet students where they are to provide social/emotional support during this very important transition back to in-person learning.
For our parents who chose to continue with the Vista Virtual learning model, we were excited to see students in virtual classrooms on day one across all grade levels. We continue to respond to requests from parents and are working hard to accommodate students with special needs.
It was a true pleasure to visit every campus with board members this past week and see, first hand, the excitement our students, teachers, and staff have about learning.
Learning is Taking Off
Our Vista Unified students had an amazing first week back at our elementary, middle, and high school campuses. The administration and school board were able to see first hand the excitement of students and staff as they returned to full campuses and in-person instruction. Health and safety continue to be a priority, and students spent the week actively engaged in team and culture building activities, academic instruction, and hands-on learning. Site leaders and teachers are also preparing for Back to School Nights for elementary sites the week of August 23rd, middle school sites the week of August 30th, and high school sites the week of September 6th. Each school will communicate specific information about these events.
Health And Safety
The impact of the delta variant in San Diego County continues to expand. Case rates for San Diego county are 36.5 cases per 100,000, and the overall rate of positivity for the past seven days is 5.9%. The overall county hospitalization rates are climbing as well, with a 40% increase in COVID-19 confirmed hospitalized patients over the 14 days from August 4th-17th.
After four days of school for over 19,000 students and 2,500 staff, our nurses and county health officials have worked together to identify 30 COVID-19 positive cases on school campuses as of Monday, August 23rd. That is significantly less than one percent of the total enrollment. Each case was thoroughly contact-traced, and groups of students have been quarantined who were found to be in close contact. Almost all of the teachers and staff were able to remain in school because they were vaccinated. In fact, many of the middle and high school students who would have been quarantined were able to remain in school because they were vaccinated. Based on a thorough investigation in collaboration with the county health authorities, all cases were found to be contracted outside of the school environment. Based on feedback from our community, we will shift our communication practice and only notify a family when their student is a close contact. We will, however, continue to post positive case counts by school on the COVID-19 Case Dashboard. The Dashboard is updated by 7:00 pm daily.
Our health and safety procedures have been working well, with staff acting quickly to respond to positive cases. A promising result of the new COVID-19 Decision Tree is that the quarantine timeline for most of the cases is 10 days, with a return to school on day 11. While much better than the original 14 day quarantine, this is still not optimal for student learning. We need parents to help us reduce the negative impact of COVID-19 cases on in-person learning.
The commitment of the Board of Trustees and the Superintendent is to provide high quality, safe, and healthy in-person learning for all students in our district. Our parents have been wonderful partners in making this happen. We now have new challenges with the impacts of the more contagious Delta Variant. To address these challenges, we all need to get to the next level by proactively addressing the impact of the pandemic on our schools. Please do your part in our community-wide call to action below.
Health and Safety Call to Action for Parents
Action #1: Notify your school immediately if your child or any member of your household becomes ill with COVID-19.
Action #2: Keep your child home from school if they have ANY of the symptoms listed on the decision tree guidelines (fever or chills, cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, fatigue, muscle or body aches, headache, new loss of taste or smell, sore throat, congestion or runny nose, nausea or vomiting, diarrhea).
Action #3: Keep your child home from school if they have been exposed to someone who has tested positive. They should NOT return to in-person learning until given a return date by our nursing staff. This includes exposure to someone living in the home who is positive.
Action #4: Do not send your child back to school if the child or anyone in the household is awaiting a COVID-19 test result. Only send your child back if they have a negative test result or if they have completed the entire quarantine period.
Action #5: Have your child vaccinated if they are 12 to 17 years old. Remember, your child will not need to be quarantined if they come in close contact at school if they are fully vaccinated and asymptomatic. The vaccination will keep them in school and able to participate in all of the extracurricular activities like athletics, band, dance, ASB, etc.
If we can proactively respond to these five calls to action, then we can dramatically reduce the impact of quarantine on all students.
Expanding Testing for Students and Staff
In partnership with Inspire Diagnostics, Vista Unified is excited to announce the opening of a COVID-19 Testing Clinic at the Vista Innovation Center. Starting Monday, August 23rd, all students and staff may be screened for COVID-19. Clinic hours are from 8:00 am - 3:30 pm. On the first day, we had over 100 students and staff get tested.
In order to best protect students and staff as the school year begins, the California Department of Public Health issued a new public health order requiring all school staff to either show proof of full vaccination or be tested at least once per week. Starting October 4th, all unvaccinated employees of Vista Unified will be required to participate in weekly COVID-19 testing. Three testing teams will be disbursed to every school site each week, so our teaching and support staff can participate without leaving campus. For September, all unvaccianted staff will follow our current monthly testing cadence.
Get Vista Vaccinated
Vista Unified remains committed that vaccinations are the best way to combat COVID-19 and the delta variant. COVID-19 vaccines remain safe and effective. They prevent severe illness, hospitalization, and death. Additionally, those who are fully vaccinated are more likely to have a milder and shorter illness compared to those who are unvaccinated if they contract COVID-19. Just this week, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the first COVID-19 vaccine. The vaccine has been known as the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine.
Vaccination opportunities remain available to our Vista community through the following city partners:
Linda Rhoades Recreation Center
600 N. Santa Fe Avenue, Vista, CA 92084
Open Tuesday - Saturday
Vista Community Clinic
Call or text for an appointment
Canvas, Our Learning Management System
We understand that classroom pivots and individual student quarantines may happen, and we will be utilizing the same learning management system that we had in place last year for Vista Virtual. All teachers will be using Canvas when students are virtual due to pivots or quarantining. For more information about Canvas, please visit our Vista Institute for Parents (VIP) “Welcome to Canvas Support” page. VIP has information in English and Spanish to support parents with:
Navigating Canvas, the district’s online system for learning delivery
Knowing how to utilize Canvas in various ways as students engage in distance learning
Understanding how to upload assignments, communicate with teachers, and more
Athletics Are Up and Running
We have started the year off strong with athletes from VHS, RBVHS, and MVHS participating in the fall sports season. The fall season includes Boys and Girls Cross Country, Field Hockey, Football, Girls Golf, Girls Volleyball, Girls Tennis, and Boys Water Polo. We are excited to see so many of our student athletes getting back on the field, on the courses, on the courts, and in the pools. The health and safety of our athletes continue to be a priority. We will be providing COVID-19 testing twice a week at each high school for unvaccinated athletes.
With all students being offered a free breakfast and lunch, WaveCrest Café is experiencing higher than usual wait times. We are working to increase staff to address the additional demand. We appreciate your patience and support as we ramp up our services for all students. We are honored to serve Vista Unified.
Alternative Income Verification Form
All school districts in California are required to submit an annual notification of students who need additional support. This year, more than ever before, we want to make sure that all families are able to provide information so that we may continue to expand support for students during this challenging time. The alternative income verification form that we include as part of the registration process is strictly confidential and will only be used to submit the annual application for school funding. While it is not our intent to ask personal income questions, our districtwide funding depends largely on parents responding to this request. In the recent months, many people have lost their jobs or dramatically reduced their work hours, and that has resulted in a dramatic reduction in their annual income. Our school district is ready and prepared to support students from these families in a variety of ways, including breakfast and lunch, counseling, family engagement support, technology and internet access, nursing support, and many, many other areas. Please assist us by providing this valuable information so that we may maximize the state and federal funding for students.
Measure LL Facility Bond Progress
We continue to make great progress on the bond project throughout the school district. The most exciting project at the moment is the completion of the Vista High Sports Complex and the kickoff of the Vista High classroom construction. While we have had some delays in the completion of the Sports Complex, it looks absolutely beautiful and is almost ready for students to get on to the tennis courts and softball field. We have the Vista High Ground Breaking Ceremony set for September 15th.
Matt Doyle, Ed.D.
Superintendent of Schools
Vista Unified School District