January 7th, 2021
Dear FUSD Community,
I am hopeful the winter break provided a chance for you to find some time for relaxation and shared holiday celebrations (even if virtually) with loved ones. Regrettably, only a few days into the new year, we are confronted with what I can only describe as a very sad day for our nation.
I take very seriously the responsibility of providing clear and transparent communication to our staff and community. In that same spirit, despite the often inherent political aspects of my work in public education as a Superintendent, I work to ensure my messages are objective and neutral. However, after the events in our nation’s capital yesterday, I feel compelled to share some thoughts that I am hopeful will be received in the same way there were created - through the lens of a father, a former 5th-grade teacher, and as someone who has committed his life to make the world better for our children.
Yesterday’s events were truly saddening and there are so many layers upon layers of what they communicated to people across the country. Understandably, within the rich diversity of our Fremont community, there will be many different responses, emotions, and depths of reaction to these recent events.
Undoubtedly, yesterday cemented the reality of how challenging our path will be toward building common ground across our nation. As I’ve shared before in community newsletters, it is beneficial to think globally or nationally, but to also act locally. We are now each presented with an opportunity to be solutions-focused toward positively addressing the challenges within our society. With that opportunity, we are also given a choice in our response, our thoughts, and our actions.
I am hopeful we all choose a course of action that reflects the inherent value of communication, dialogue, a willingness to learn from others, an ability to listen, and the ability to hold close the values you deem most important. May we all also choose to engage those habits and actions within the framework of peaceful and civil action.
I extend my thanks and appreciation for our teachers, administrators, and school-based classified staff, who always carry the immense responsibility of helping our children navigate their emotions all while establishing safe places for discussion, learning, and expression during difficult times in our nation. Thank you to all our parents and guardians for their cooperative efforts in supporting students as well.
Distance Learning and Future Return to In-Person Instruction in FUSD:
As you may be aware, on December 30th, Governor Newsom announced details of his proposed, new California Safe Schools For All Plan. While there is much to consider regarding the Governor’s plan, it is critical to understand that his announcement was only a proposal - it is not a mandate or directive. Furthermore, there remains a lot to learn about the details of this new proposal. At this time, the Governor has not yet published the details of his proposal for a full review. As our state senate and assembly return to session on January 11th, that will be the first time the Governor’s proposal can begin going through the legislative process.
The plan outlines a financial incentive to return TK (Transitional Kindergarten) through 2nd-grade students by February 15th, and grades 3rd-6th by March 15th. The proposed funding is slated to come from Proposition 98, which indicates it will come from money that would otherwise already be provided to K-12 schools, even without the Governor’s newly proposed plan.
I believe fiscal incentives should not change our view of when is the right time to return to campus. We currently still have a high level of transmission within our community. To that point, as of January 5, 2021, Alameda County’s adjusted case rate is 31.6/100,000 (the number of new COVID-19 cases in Alameda County per day, per 100,000 people). Within the Governor’s proposed plan, a county above a 28/100,000 rate would not be permitted to return students to campus.
Therefore, at this time, FUSD will continue with distance learning. Concurrently, we will proceed with the process we’ve already outlined - including completing the comprehensive plan for a safe return to in-person instruction, continuing to negotiate in good faith with our employee groups related to aspects of that return to campus, and gathering input from our community and stakeholder groups.
While it may be too early to know the full scope of the Governor’s proposals, it is certainly an important development and something we must work very hard to understand as things develop over the coming weeks through the legislative process. Without question, there is agreement that students being back on campus in a comprehensive learning environment is the desired outcome, but only when it is safe to do so.
Other significant developments of the Governor's proposal relate to testing students regularly, via asymptomatic testing. FUSD is already moving forward with plans for staff testing, based on ACPH (Alameda County Public Health) recommendations. However, this new development related to student testing will likely be discussed more thoroughly through the legislative process at the state level. As I learn more about that potential reality, I will keep you informed in a timely manner.
Additionally, even if a school district did return for in-person instruction, distance learning must remain an option for students under the current state guidance. That circumstance remains the same in the Governor’s new proposal. FUSD will continue to prepare for the eventual return of students, including the development of re-opening scenarios, our comprehensive plan, and continued conversations with our school community stakeholders so we can be prepared for when it is safe to return staff and students to campus.
In the coming weeks, you’ll again be asked to complete some survey questions as a means of gathering information and input from our parent community. FUSD staff will also receive surveys in the very near future, related to a future return to campus. Please know that we will continue to keep lines of communication open for our staff and our community.