A Message From The Superintendent

May 31, 2020

The school year ended for students on Friday. But certainly not in the customary way given the absence of activities, events, and recognitions that bring closure to the current year and set the stage for the following year. In the case of seniors, that stage was the grandest of all, encapsulating twelve years of memories, achievement, and hard work. This week's newsletter is dedicated to our seniors and features senior speeches as well as a message to seniors from each member of the Board of Education. I hope you enjoy them.

All five of our high schools conducted a Drive-Through Graduation event this past week over the course of two or three days to mark the occasion and celebrate this major milestone in the life of a student. It was festive and joyous and as safe a way as possible to provide closure for our seniors. Given the circumstances that surround us I'm grateful to our students, staff, and families for making the most out of a difficult situation and having fun with the event. Lots of smiling faces and satisfied students and families. When the time comes to safely assemble large groups of people again, we will be true to our word to provide a customary graduation event. Look for the virtual graduation event on YouTube on July 1.

All of 23 of our schools did their best to bring some sense of closure to the school year. For students transitioning to middle school or graduating (and their teachers and staff) it's most difficult since there was no chance to say goodbye. When we all physically parted on March 13, 2020, it was with an understanding that we would reassemble after Spring Break. Who knew it would be the last time we would all be together in the 2019-20 setting. We can only hope that the experience of living through this pandemic will impact us all in some positive ways too.

As we plan the 2020-21 school year we expect to realize some of the positive outcomes from the school closure, including finding new and innovative ways to reach our students as all schools migrated to remote learning, much on-line and in real time. We can all agree that for most students, at all grade levels, distance learning is not a substitute for face-to-face schools.

For families that opted out of traditional brick and mortar school environments and chose on-line learning long before COVID-19 forced everyone into the model, it may have been the best solution for their child. After all, one size does not fit all. But the combination of in-person and remote learning is a powerful partnership between two models that have in some ways been competing with one another. Depending on the COVID-19 timeline that will largely dictate next steps for reopening schools on August 10, I expect there will be some level of blended learning incorporated into many school district’s program delivery model.

To that end, as I reported in this space last week, we have assembled a School Reopening Task Force to study the challenges we face in safely reopening schools. It’s been a national conversation and there have been many scenarios proposed. But it will be a local decision that is in the best interests of individual school districts and the communities they serve. The stakes are high and the impact of decisions extend well beyond the schoolhouse. The truth is that reopening schools has been identified as a key factor in the economic recovery of our state and nation. Without losing sight of that fact, we remain focused on the education of our students, in addition to the future wellbeing of our students, staff, and community.

While most reopening school discussions have revolved around institutionalizing best preventative practices, including social distancing, face coverings, controlled environments, sanitization, health screening/COVD-testing, abbreviated school days, etc…it’s not quite that simple in the real world of school life. Most elements of the school experience are designed to bring people together, not keep them apart. After all, learning is a social activity and has proven to be most effective, in most situations, and for most learners, through carefully constructed interactions that lend themselves to in-person models.

It’s also not as simple as separating desks, marking spots on the ground for students to stand or sit, and retraining students on certain protocols such as entering and exiting the classroom, new rules for restroom use and playground safety, sharing materials, etc.... For example, we have always taught our children to share. Now we are telling them not to. There will need to be unlearning and new learning.

The Task Force is divided into specialty areas and will dig deep into each element. Read my message last week for more details on the Task Force. Our employee groups will play a pivotal role as we develop our plan in concert with them. There is also a cost attached to many of the steps that likely need to be taken, including reconfiguring spaces, purchasing supplies to sanitize schools more frequently, providing personal protective equipment, extra duty assignments and additional staff to lower the student to staff ratio, and provisions for distance learning and remote access for students who, for one reason or another, are not able to be present. Currently, the proposed 2020-21 State budget does not provide the necessary funding to support the costs associated with safely reopening most schools, though every situation is unique.

In closing, school districts are also dependent on local public health officials to lead the way on testing, contact tracing and a clear set of protocols on how to respond to positive test cases among students or staff. Multiple agencies are all engaged in finding solutions to safely reopen schools. Stay tuned to this space for weekly updates on the progress of our Task Force as well as updates on external forces that may impact their work. Student, staff, and parent surveys are all in the process of being developed and will be administered regularly, starting next week. I will report details and results from those surveys in this space too.

Stay healthy. Be well.

In partnership,

Allan Mucerino

Graduation Comments: Carolyn Wilson
Graduation Comments: Lizeth Vega
Graduation Comments: Dr. Joanna Dorado
Graduation Comments: Julie Moreno
Graduation Comments: Robert Schwandt
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Hillcrest High School Graduation Celebration
Alvord High School Graduation Ceremony
Alvord Alternative Continuation High School Graduation Celebration
Norte Vista High School Graduation Celebration
La Sierra Graduation Ceremony
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Superintendent's Weekly Podcast: May 20, 2020
Riverside County School Re-opening Task Force Takeaways

Summer school, 2020-21 plans, and other sections updated. This link opens in this window. Click back tab to return to the e-newsletter


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