January 7, 2021
Joint Statement of Condemnation
In my role as Superintendent of Schools and on behalf of every member of the School Board of Trustees, we feel compelled to officially and unequivocally condemn the actions of the protesters who violently invaded our nation’s capital yesterday. Their actions were dangerous, illegal, and categorically un-American. As a critical component of our national and state government, the Vista Unified School District is an educational institution that is fully committed to upholding the U.S. Constitution and the California State Constitution. One of the most important aspects of our government is the rule of law and the peaceful transfer of power. This is a very important part of our history and our values as a country. As educators, we are charged with educating all of our children and young adults in the structure of our government agencies, laws, and policies. As a school district, we have established a set of four values that guide our behavior and how we treat each other. Respect, Trust, Collaboration, and Equity are expected to be practiced in every school, classroom, front office, and school event - virtual or in-person. Democracy is the bedrock of who we are as a people and a nation. One critical aspect of democracy is to ensure that all members in our society are treated equally. Our school district has taken decisive action, with the adoption of Equity as a value, to ensure that our most vulnerable students have access to the resources and support they need to pursue the American dream. To make this happen, our school board is engaging in a series of equity work study sessions, and we have launched the Superintendent’s Council for Equity and Anti-racism. How we treat each other matters. It is our collective responsibility to uphold the ideals of our national and state constitutions and to model for our children the respect that these two guiding documents deserve. Please join us in reinforcing our commitment to America as a country of citizens who respect each other and who respect our laws and institutions. We must move forward. We must be better.
Happy New Year!
I would like to wish everyone a happy new year. As we look forward to this new year, we have much to be excited for. The vaccine distribution is underway in our county, with the education sector poised to start getting vaccinated in late January and February. The second round of federal COVID relief funds have been approved and will make their way to school districts in the coming weeks. Vista Unified is slated to receive $18 million dollars. These funds can be used to support health and safety related needs, additional staffing for learning loss, professional development, social/emotional supports, technology enhancements, facility improvements, and targeted services for high needs student subgroups like English learners, special education, and foster youth. Governor Newsom is in the process of refining the statewide COVID response plan for schools, called “Safe Schools for All Plan.” The Governor indicated that he will be highlighting the details of his plan this Friday. One important aspect of his plan is a specific focus on getting students back to in-person learning. Governor Newsom will be outlining the augmentation of funding for schools to make this possible while continuing to address the challenges of the pandemic. More details to come in the next few weeks. On a challenging note, while the new year opens with the potential promise of an end to the pandemic, our challenges in San Diego County and our local community continue to deepen related to the spread of the virus. See the Health and Safety section below for more details. As we move into the new year, it is incumbent upon us all to hold onto, even deepen, our collective commitment to keeping students at the center of all of our decisions and actions. Now more than ever before, students are counting on our community to amplify and elevate their strengths, interests, and aspirations as learners. We can do this together, as a community and a team.
Elementary Students Get Back to Campus
While some folks had an opportunity to enjoy a winter break, many of our Vista staff were hard at work preparing for students to return to campuses across the district. Our elementary principals and their teams are busy this week getting ready for students who chose Vista Classic to return to school on Monday, January 11, 2021. We had a significant increase in the number of parents who chose to switch learning models at the elementary level. Our school teams worked over the winter break to adjust class rosters to accommodate parent requests. In fact, of the 749 requests for changes, our fifteen elementary principals were able to accommodate 620 (83%) of the requests. For the requests that they were not able to accommodate, the principals worked together to offer an option for parents to access their choice at a school nearby. The learning model changes will take effect on January 11th. Whether students are in Vista Virtual or Vista Classic, we are excited to support their learning.
Board President Vargas, Vice President Morton, and our team met this week with representatives from the San Diego Health and Human Services Agency to discuss our return to in-person learning. We reviewed our health and safety mitigation measures, including the new quarantine and school pivot guidelines. Both Dr. John D. Malone and Nurse Mary Kacy-Svoboda were supportive of our return for elementary students and staff on January 11, 2021. It is important to note, however, that Governor Newsom has indicated that his team will be updating the CDPH guidelines for schools in the coming week. When they become available, we will determine if these new guidelines impact our current school reopening model.
The School Board will be holding a special meeting on January 14th to continue their discussion about in-person learning on the secondary level. As of now, return dates for Vista Classic students are scheduled for January 19th for middle school and January 26th for high school. You may follow this meeting via the LiveStream.
Health and Safety Update
Unfortunately, San Diego County has been hit hard by a substantial increase in COVID-19 cases over the past several weeks. Over 24,000 new cases have been reported within our county within the past seven days. Local hospitals and intensive care units have been strained by the onslaught of new cases. Tragically, the deaths of 190 San Diego County citizens were reported during the last week of December. The rate of disease is up everywhere in the county, including here in our community. We urge all members of our school community to continue to observe the guidance provided by the California Department of Public Health and stay at home unless participating in essential and other authorized activities. When you are in public, please wear a mask and encourage your children to do the same. In this recent article, a pediatrician from Kaiser Permanente discusses strategies to get your children of all ages to “mask up” whenever they are in public.
In more positive news, the COVID-19 vaccine doses from Pfizer and Moderna have already started arriving here in San Diego County and have been administered to frontline healthcare workers and others who are at extremely high risk of contracting COVID-19, such as employees and residents of long-term care facilities. The next to be vaccinated will be individuals who have higher risk for severe disease or death (due to age or other factors), who are unable to work at home, who live or work in geographic areas that have been highly impacted, or who are most likely to spread disease to other workers or to the public. All of the people above are considered to be part of Phase 1A of the vaccination program in San Diego County. After this phase is completed, the county will move into Phase 1B, which includes vaccinating people who work in education and childcare settings such as classroom teachers and other school personnel.
Magnet School Application is Open
Vista Unified School District has five magnet school programs that are available to all interested students. Parents who would like for their child to attend one of these schools must complete an application. Because the demand for spaces at these schools typically exceeds their availability, a lottery process is held every year in early March.
If you are a parent or guardian who is interested in our magnet school options for your student, we encourage you to visit our Magnet Schools website. Individual school websites will have general information about each magnet school and information about upcoming virtual tours or presentations.
To apply for a spot in the 2021-2022 school year, parents should complete and submit an online application anytime between Monday, January 11th and Friday, February 19th. Spaces are NOT allocated on a first come, first served basis, so completing an application at any point during the open application window gives your child an equal opportunity for admission.
We are excited to roll out new technology for many students and staff in the coming month. Under the CARES Act funding, sites were allocated $5,000,000 to order a significant number of new student devices, including 2,720 iPads, 575 laptops, and 10,432 Chromebooks. The district has also spent $2,500,000 to purchase 1,346 new laptops for our site staff who directly serve and support students. The purpose of this large purchase of new technology is to ensure that our Vista Virtual students and staff are getting the maximum exposure to teaching and learning and the appropriate support in order to increase connectivity.
Supporting Students with Special Needs
We care deeply about meeting the needs of all of our students with disabilities in both the classic and virtual learning environments. Our teachers and support staff have put into practice a variety of strategies and actions to proactively support students. Some examples of these strategies and actions include:
Ongoing IEP implementation and virtual IEP meetings focused on the unique needs of all of our students with special needs in both the Vista Classic and Vista Virtual models
Individualized Distance Learning Plans in place to meet the needs of all of our students with special needs in the virtual environment, to include specific support and related services within the virtual learning platform
In-person assessments to determine eligibility for Special Education services and to support triennial IEP reevaluations
Ongoing expansion of our Supplemental Programs to ensure that our most vulnerable students have access to in-person learning to the maximum extent possible when we are required to pivot to virtual learning
Social/Emotional supports and services in place for both learning models to ensure the safety and well-being of our students
Engaging with Parents as Partners through ongoing parent newsletters and virtual forums to gain feedback, answer questions, and determine specific supports needed across the district
We are so thankful for the great collaborative spirit of all our Special Education staff, including our Education Specialists, Speech and Language Pathologists, Psychologists, Social Workers, Instructional Assistants, Related Services personnel, Administrators and all others who help support our students. We are definitely all in this together, and we appreciate you very much!
Matt Doyle, Ed.D.
Superintendent of Schools
Vista Unified School District