December 18, 2020
A Message from Board President Vargas and Vice President Morton
As a nation and a community, we are faced with one of the most challenging times for public education. The good news is that the vaccine is already here with more on the way, and we can finally see a light at the end of this tunnel. We recognize that these are stressful moments, and as a community, we are navigating this together. We want to thank Boardmember Smithfield for her leadership over the last two as years Board President.
As your Board President and Vice President, we look forward to serving our students and our community in VUSD. Our charge as a board is to put students at the center of our work, expand our partnership with parents, and make sure that our budget decisions are guided by our commitment to equity.
We wish you and your family a Happy Holiday Season.
Board President Cipriano Vargas and Vice President Debbie Morton
School Reopening Mid-Year Review
The school board met two times this week to review the status of health and safety in our community and to revise the school reopening plan for the second half of the school year. During these meetings, the board listened to feedback from members of the community, received an update on the COVID-19 data, and reviewed official recommendations from the Superintendent’s Council for Innovative Learning on mid-year revisions to the learning models. I also shared the Superintendent's Statement, thanking everyone in the community for their patience, perseverance, flexibility, and understanding during this challenging time. I would like to underscore the main point of my statement. During these incredibly challenging times, we must be vigilant in protecting our relationships with one another. How we treat each other really matters. We may disagree about how to address the competing priorities of safety and schooling, but we should always practice our values:
- RESPECT - treating all with dignity
- TRUST - having confidence that every decision focuses on the best interests of all students
- COLLABORATION - working in a collective partnership with clear two-way dialogue that builds relationships among home, school, and the community
- EQUITY - ensuring that each child receives what they need to develop to their full academic and social potential
After much discussion and deliberation, the school board members took action to make revisions to the school reopening plan in three areas outlined below.
Revised Health and Safety Guidelines
In an effort to address the disruption caused by quarantining and school pivots, the board took action to adopt a new set of guidelines that are more closely aligned to the recommendations from the CDC and the San Diego Health and Human Services Agency. These new health and safety guidelines will dramatically reduce the number of people quarantined as a result of a COVID-19 positive case by following the CDC’s contact tracing protocol of six feet and 15 minutes. The guidelines will also dramatically reduce the need to pivot schools. Click HERE to view a synopsis of the new guidelines.
Districtwide Pause in Vista Classic to Fight the Spread
Our community, similar to most other communities in San Diego County, is experiencing a dramatic increase in covid positive cases. The good news is that the new testing center at the Linda Rhoades Recreation Center has been a huge success, averaging more than 700 tests administered per day. Our community members are rallying around the importance of using this center to combat the spread of the virus. Our challenge is that there is a very high incidence of the virus in our community at this time. It is important to note, however, that there is no evidence of spread within our Vista Classic classrooms. After much discussion about how to address the community spread of the virus, the School Board took action to implement a one week pause on all in-person learning at the elementary schools after the winter break and pivot to virtual learning. All elementary schools will reconvene for Vista Classic in-person instruction on January 11, 2021. All district supplemental programs (including alternative schools and athletics) will be included in this one week pause and reconvene on January 11, 2021. The board decided to implement a two week pause on all in-person learning at middle schools after the winter break and pivot to virtual learning. All middle schools will reconvene for Vista Classic in-person learning on January 19, 2021. The board decided to implement a three week pause on all in-person learning at the three comprehensive high schools after the winter break and pivot to virtual learning. All three comprehensive high schools will reconvene for Vista Classic in-person learning on January 26, 2021. The high school pause was extended an additional week to accommodate final examinations.
Learning Model Revisions
The board members participated in more than three hours of discussion and debate about the revisions to the learning models for the remainder of the school year. The board took action to accept the recommendation by the Superintendent’s Council for Innovative Learning for the elementary learning model. This means that the Vista Classic learning model at the elementary level will continue unchanged for the remainder of the school year. We will be investigating the possibility of hiring additional staff to support learning loss and providing paid time for teachers who pivot to virtual learning as a result of quarantining requirements. The elementary principals will be working with parents who chose to switch models during the month of January. It is important to note that parent requests will be accommodated as space is available. In some instances, parent requests may not be accommodated at their current school. The school board did not take action on the middle and high school recommendations. The school board agreed to reconvene on January 14, 2021 to continue the discussion about learning model revisions for secondary schools. As a result, the current learning models for middle and high schools remain in place.
Superintendent’s Council for Innovative Learning - Vista Virtual Refinement
The Superintendent’s Council for Innovative Learning, which is composed of students, parents, staff, teachers, administrators, and board members, will meet January 26, 2021 to continue our work refining the Vista Unified learning models for the spring. The January council meeting will focus on our Vista Virtual learning model with updates from the world, our nation, and our region; data from student, teacher, and parent surveys; and discussion about priorities to address the changing needs of our community during the pandemic. Particular attention will be placed on discussing students achievement and strategies to make virtual learning more engaging for students. Surveys will be sent to our community via email after we return from winter break.
This past Monday, the California Department of Public Health released new guidelines for Outdoor and Indoor Youth and Recreational Adult Sports, which includes high school sports. This new guidance is intended to support a safe environment for our student-athletes. Different sports have been assigned to a risk profile depending upon the amount of close, person-to-person contact involved. For example, golf and tennis are considered low-contact sports, whereas basketball is considered a high-contact sport. The ability to participate in competitions in each sport depends on that sport’s risk profile and the current tier assignment for San Diego County under the State’s Blueprint for a Safer Economy criteria.
For additional information about the impact that this new guidance will have on high school athletics, please see this CIF San Diego Section public memorandum on the topic or this CDPH memorandum with information and tier assignments for all sports.
Matt Doyle, Ed.D.
Superintendent of Schools
Vista Unified School District