ALVORD UNIFIED SCHOOL DISTRICT

FEBRUARY 21, 2021

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A Message from the Superintendent

Dear Members of the AUSD Community,


I hope this week's greeting finds everyone healthy and well. With Riverside's COVID-19 rates continuing to improve, we are fast approaching the target rates to transition from the purple tier to the red tier and be eligible to reopen. The target rates consist of a positivity rate of less than 8.0% (currently 11.0%), an adjusted case rate of less than 7.0 cases per 100,000 (currently 28.8), and a health equity metric of less than 8.0% (currently 11.8%).


Given the improvement and the expectation that the trend will continue, the most frequently asked questions I've received this past week revolve around reopening schools.


When will we be eligible to reopen? We remain on track to reopen for students and staff in the hybrid program during the first or second week of April, as I have reported in my weekly messages, assuming the positive trends continue and the Governor and legislature can agree on the reopening plan, which remains in limbo. The reopening plan is part of Senate Bill 86 (SB 86) and Assembly Bill 86 (AB 86), identical bills.


Why are other school districts open for in-person instruction? No districts in Riverside County are open for in-person instruction, except for small cohorts of students with exceptional needs. Schools in Orange County, for example, opened on schedule this school year because unlike Riverside, Los Angeles, and San Bernardino, their COVID rates didn't escalate into the purple tier until well after their school year started. Schools already opened were not forced to close, although many did close for weeks or months at a time during the COVID winter surge.


What's the current status on California's reopening plan? After weeks of negotiations, the expectation that an agreement would have been struck between the Governor and the legislature on reopening schools in counties that have been in the purple tier all year seemed likely. But that still hasn't happened. As of this past Friday, the agreement has been put off until this coming Monday, at the earliest, when a legislative hearing is scheduled. No school districts in Riverside County are eligible to reopen yet.


When will we know definitively when schools will reopen? I expect to have more information in next week's message. In the meantime we continue to prepare our schools for in-person instruction for students and staff in the hybrid program. We submitted our Safety Plan to the County on February 1 and continue to make modifications to meet current requirements. Moving targets are hard to hit. But we are ready. On March 4, the Board of Education meets to discuss next steps and I expect the state's plan will have been approved by then.


Why can't we just reopen now? While SB 86 and AB 86 are still being debated, there is currently no mechanism or funding stream to support opening schools in the purple tier given the testing requirements. Once the case rate falls between 14 and 25 (it's currently 28.8 and is updated every Tuesday) - and remains no higher than 25 for 5 consecutive days - elementary schools are eligible to reopen with an approved safety plan including the protocol for testing all students and all staff no less than once a week. Once the case rate falls below 14, or when a county transitions into the red tier, the requirement for testing becomes every other week. I will provide details on testing procedures for students as we approach reopening.


Is reopening tied to vaccinations for school staff? Not directly. But since Riverside County opened Phase 1B last month, which includes teachers, school staff & childcare providers, we have been working closely with county officials and vaccination providers to vaccinate all staff who want it. The national push to vaccinate and reopen schools is expected to prioritize vaccinations for school employees. SB 86/AB 86 language on vaccinations is vague but refers to vaccinations being available to school employees who are working at a school site where pupils are attending in-person. However, vaccinations are currently not a requirement or a condition for reopening.


Will students be required to get a COVID-19 vaccination to attend school? (this question was asked after I published the Round-Up earlier tonight so it was not in the original version). The answer is no. The current vaccines are authorized for use in adults and teens who are at least 16 years old. Once a vaccine is shown to be safe and effective in children, the state government decides if it's required for school entry. There will be no COVID-19 vaccination requirement this year or until such time there is a vaccine and the state of California determines it's required.


What does SB 86 and AB 86 provide? Related to schools, the identical senate and assembly bills provide clear guidelines, and funding, but on the condition that schools serve cohorts of students in all grades with the highest needs, while counties remain in the purple tier. The bill defines those as homeless and foster youths, students lacking internet access, those who are chronically absent or formally identified as at risk of abuse and neglect. The bill would require bringing back these students by April 15. We have been serving many of our students with special needs since October, until we suspended the program in December due to the holiday surge. We reopen the program tomorrow. Depending on the outcome of SB86/AB86, elementary schools may also be reopened in the purple tier if the case rate is under 25, following the testing protocol below.

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What does all of this mean? It means that our current estimate remains on track. Reopening for in-person instruction for students and staff in the hybrid program the first or second week of April remains a realistic target date. Again, I can't predict how tomorrow's SB 86/AB 86 debate in the state legislature will turn out. I expect I will know more this coming week as we prepare for the March 4 board meeting.


On behalf of the Board of Education, I understand how frustrating it is dealing with all of this bureaucracy. Everyone wants schools safely reopened. We're almost there.


When are current progress reports available to view on Aeries? March 5. Visit the Aeries Parent or Student Portal here to check your student's progress for current the progress reporting period which ended this past Friday.


Below are key upcoming dates. Find the entire 2020-21 calendar here.

Next Progress Reporting Period 2/22/21 - 4/9/21

State Testing Window 03/01/21 - 05/28/21

Spring Break is 03/29/21 - 04/02/21. No classes.

Last Quarter Reporting Period 4/12/21 - 5/28/21

Last Day of School is May 28


When will summer school start? Summer school is tentatively set for in-person instruction starting on June 7 (Two 3-week sessions). If you haven't completed your summer school survey yet please do so we can plan ahead. We plan to provide our summer programs in-person, as long as COVID rates continue to trend positively. But in the event that's still not possible, we will provide our programs virtually. Completing the survey allows us to plan ahead.


Will there be state SBAC testing this year? At this time academic testing is still expected to be administered between March 1 and the end of the school year. As I reported to you last week, I will have more details on testing after the State Board of Education determines exactly what will be expected at their February 24, 2021 meeting this coming week. It is expected that there will be modifications, but that there will be testing. I should have details in next week's message.


When will the 2021-22 school calendar be released? March 5. I will include it in the March 7 Round-Up. I know many families are looking ahead to plan vacations with cautious optimism as we resume normal life again, soon.


On behalf of the Board of Education, remain optimistic and join us by looking forward to the brighter days that are just around the corner. And keep your questions coming.


Stay strong, stay healthy, and be well.


Sincerely,


Allan Mucerino

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THIS WEEK'S COVID-19 RISK LEVEL

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ALVORD COVID-19 DATA DASHBOARD

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COVID-19 Vaccine Update 011421
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