October 23, 2020
Vista Classic Status Update
Our Vista Classic program implementation continues to improve as students and staff become reacquainted to the classroom environment after nearly eight months. We have been able to visit every school in the district to tour the classrooms and see, first hand, students and teachers engaging in authentic in-person learning. It is gratifying to see the teacher-to-student and the student-to-student interaction happening across all grade levels. We have posted an assortment of pictures of each school to the main webpage to track their progress settling into Vista Classic. We continue to see strong evidence of mask-wearing and handwashing throughout the school district. We have also seen a dramatic expansion of students and teachers using outdoor learning spaces in the past two days. The use of outdoor spaces is one of many strategies schools are using to expand social distancing between and among students. Another area of strength is the morning entrance routines at all grade levels. Each school continues to work with students to develop social distancing habits during lunch and after school dismissal. These social distancing habits are essential during unstructured time to keep everyone safe. In order for us to keep the Vista Classic model going, we must all share responsibility for following social distancing rules during unstructured time. We are working with our principals to increase the number of campus security personnel at lunch and dismissal. Parents, we need your help in reminding students to take responsibility for social distancing during lunch and after school. Your assistance is greatly appreciated.
Rainy Day Schedule - Middle and High Will Pivot to Virtual Learning
As we transition into the fall weather, it is important to prepare for the possibility of rain during the school day. We will pivot all middle and high schools to virtual learning if there is a 30% or greater chance of rain. This movement to virtual learning when rain is in the forecast is necessary because certain programs would not be able to use outdoor spaces for their learning such as physical education, band, choir, other classes, and lunch. We will be using a 48-hour notification procedure for parents and students in the event we shift Vista Classic students from in-person to virtual for the rainy day or days. This means that middle and high school students will not be coming to school in-person on the day or days identified as “rainy days,” and, instead, will participate in virtual learning through Zoom and Canvas at home. We do not have a rain day identified at the moment; however, we will notify all middle and high school parents 48 hours before we implement a rainy day schedule. Individual school sites will send specific information to families using their weekly newsletter and/or phone reminders. This pertains only to secondary students; elementary students will continue to be on campus with Vista Classic on rainy days.
COVID-19 Symptom Decision Tree Process
One very important part of our school reopening plan is to be vigilant in following the COVID-19 Decision Tree and Decision Guide. This means that we will be tracking students and staff members in three distinct categories:
- Students or staff members experiencing symptoms
- Students or staff members who have had close contact with a person confirmed to have COVID-19
- Students or staff members who are COVID-19 positive
Both the Decision Tree and Decision Guide were designed by the San Diego County Health and Human Services Agency and San Diego County Office of Education to keep a very strict accounting of any student or staff member in any one of these three categories. We have had student and staff activity in all three categories, which means that our response system is working. For the first two categories, this impact is almost always on one student or staff member at a time. Students or staff may have a fever, or cough, or may have come into close contact with a COVID-19 positive person outside the school environment. The third category almost always involves a group of students and teachers. We have had only one incident of a student who was on campus this week that tested COVID-19 positive after being sent home. This happened on Tuesday at Mission Vista High School. We immediately notified all of the students and staff members who may have come into contact with the person on campus. There were approximately 130 students in the four classes that the student attended on Tuesday. The student did not come into close contact with every student; however, since this is our first incident, we are proceeding with an abundance of caution and considering each of these students and the classroom teachers as close contacts of the COVID-19 positive person. These students and staff members were placed into a 14-day quarantine at home in accordance with the Decision Guide requirements. Their classes will pivot to virtual learning using Canvas. Just about every school district in the county that has students and staff on campus in the past few months has had cases in category three. Most school districts keep a dashboard of the total student and/or teacher cases in category three. You can see our COVID-19 Case Dashboard on the Health and Safety webpage.
School Closure Items
The CDPH recommendation for school closure only relates to the third category, students and staff members who are COVID-19 positive. While closure is not strictly mandatory under the guidance, if a school hits their closure trigger (5% of the student and staff population on campus), school districts are compelled to immediately consult with Dr. Wooten, our local Public Health Officer, to determine if school closure is appropriate.
Expanding COVID-19 Testing
A critical component of our plan to reopen schools is to expand testing for our school community. We have a three-pronged approach to expanding testing for students and staff.
COVID-19 Testing Options
1. Referral for testing if showing symptoms
2. Mandatory testing for staff on rotation basis
3. Expanded testing locations for students in Vista
The first layer is our daily health screening that is required for students and staff before they come onto campus each day. When a student or staff member exhibits symptoms (fever, cough, shortness of breath, sore throat, headache, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, fatigue, new loss of smell or taste, muscle or body aches, poor appetite), they are sent home pursuant to the Decision Tree described above. In an effort to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in our community or rule out the disease altogether, we always recommend testing. Also, a negative test result shortens the required time that the student or staff member is required to be away from school.
Our second layer of testing is a mandatory testing rotation for all staff on campuses in Vista Unified. Groups of teachers will be released from work every day to get tested. This rotation is aligned to the county recommendation to test every staff member every two months.
The third layer is to expand testing for students in Vista. We have partnered with the Vista Community Clinic and already scheduled mobile testing for the community at each high school: Vista High on October 26th, Rancho Buena Vista High on November 2nd, and Mission Vista High on November 9th. We are scheduling mobile testing at middle schools as well; Vista Magnet Middle is set for November 3rd and 10th. Each of the three mobile units will test approximately 40 people a day. In addition to expanding mobile testing, we are working with local officials to open a full time testing center at the Linda Rhoades Recreation Center in Vista.
It is important to note that as we expand testing in our community, we are likely to find more incidences of COVID-19. This proactive plan will allow us to seek out the virus, isolate it, and get medical attention to those who need it. As this happens, we will respond immediately using our COVID-19 Decision Tree and Decision Guide.
Matt Doyle, Ed.D.
Superintendent of Schools
Vista Unified School District