November 5, 2020
Celebrating our Vista Classic Teachers and Staff
It is with great appreciation and pride that we recognize the hard work, dedication, and courage of all Vista Classic teachers and staff. We have over 1800 teachers and staff members (instructional assistants, nurses, psychologists, speech and language pathologists, noon duties, secretaries, librarians and techs, and many others) who work directly with students every day on campus to make learning engaging, meaningful, and personalized. Every day, they arrive on campuses across the school district with their mask and other PPE in place, eager to connect with students individually, in small groups, and in large groups. Since we started the Vista Classic program model on October 20th, we have averaged over 9000 students on campuses every day. In addition to the primary focus on academics, these teachers and staff members have also reestablished our theme of care and connection for students during this challenging time. A very sincere and heartfelt thank you to all of the Vista Classic teachers and staff.
Health and Human Services Agency Monitoring
Our district team continues to actively engage the San Diego Health and Human Services Agency in monitoring our Vista Classic program implementation. Just a few weeks ago, we hosted Dr. John Malone at Mission Vista High School. His feedback was to continue to expand our use of outdoor learning spaces as appropriate, engage students in the cleaning procedures for desks and other surfaces in classrooms using a safe soap solution, and layer our use of air circulation measures to improve airflow in classrooms. In response to these recommendations, we have purchased safe cleaning materials for every classroom so that students can become involved as appropriate. We have also purchased additional room fans to add another layer of air filtration. Each school continues to expand their outdoor learning options during the day. Just this week, our team met with Dr. Wilma Wooten and her team to discuss our progress, go over concerns that some of our staff and parents have had, and identify solutions to be implemented. We spent much time discussing the main concern about social distancing. While establishing a six-foot distance between all people, students, and staff, is optimal, there are many instances where this is not practicable given the constraints of our learning model. Dr. Wooten informed us that if we are not able to maintain six feet between students, then we should consider other forms of separation to mediate the potential for spread. One example shared was to make use of desk barriers or study carrels. Another measure is the configuration of the desks and tables. A third measure was to make strategic use of spaces just outside of the classroom for some or all of the students. All of our school administrators are working with their respective teams to see how these recommendations could be implemented on each campus. This will require our staff to make consistent use of personal protective equipment like desk and table barriers and maximizing the configuration of desks in the classroom. We are also bringing educators and staff together to discuss the successes and challenges of the Vista Classic learning model. Specifically, we have set a meeting with the representatives from the Superintendent's Council for Innovative learning on November 17, 2020. This is the council that is responsible for the design of the Vista Virtual and Vista Classic learning models. We are also putting together a team of secondary administrators and Vista Classic teachers to discuss adjustments to the learning model for the second semester. These ideas will be presented to the school board in open session on December 15, 2020.
Another topic that Dr. Wooten discussed during our meeting was the district’s application of quarantine measures. Specifically, her team felt that Vista Unified was overly strict in quarantining staff. They recommended that, when a group of students is quarantined, staff should not be quarantined if they are following the six-foot distancing requirements for teachers. They also pointed out that teachers and staff members may move within six feet of a student or a group of students for a brief amount of time to check-in or to clarify questions, as long as they do not spend more than 15 minutes in this close proximity. We will share these ideas with the school board at the next school board meeting on November 12, 2020. Until the school board provides a specific direction, we will continue to use our strict quarantining protocols.
Health and Safety Update
On Wednesday, the State of California announced that San Diego County’s adjusted COVID-19 case rate rose above 7.0 new cases per 100,000 residents for the first time since mid-September. For the time being, our county will remain in Tier 2 (Red), however, if case rates do not decrease and the adjusted case rate is above 7.0 again next week, the state will move San Diego County from Tier 2 (Red) to Tier 1 (Purple) and force the county to implement the most restrictive conditions for the public, including new restrictions on restaurants, gyms, churches, theaters, and schools. School district leaders have met with San Diego County’s Public Health Officer, Dr. Wilma Wooten, to discuss the situation, and we are awaiting further guidance from her regarding the precise impacts Tier 1 status would have on VUSD schools if that happens next week. One possible impact could be that schools that have recently pivoted to fully virtual may need to remain virtual until the county returns to the red tier. In the meantime, we continue to urge all our school community members to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 by following all of the guidance provided by the County of San Diego Health and Human Services Agency.
Since our last Community Update, there have been six additional cases including four students and two staff who were on campus and were later identified as COVID-19 positive. All of the cases were confirmed to be acquired outside of the school environment. We continue to follow our decision tree and guide, and have notified and quarantined all of the students and staff who may have come into contact with the individuals. We have posted the updated data on our dashboard. Rancho Minerva Middle School was included in this notification because they did have a second positive case reported over the weekend. In keeping with the School Board’s threshold criteria, we have pivoted this school to virtual for the quarantining period. The other cases were at the elementary level and all necessary quarantining was initiated immediately.
The school district confirmed that two large house parties occurred over the Halloween weekend. One involved a very large group of students who were primarily from Mission Vista High School, and the other included a very large group of students who were primarily from Vista High School. There were more than 200 students involved in these two house parties. Based upon reports we have received, students were not practicing social distancing and were not all wearing face coverings. Public health officials have expressly warned the public about the dangers of the COVID-19 virus spreading among the attendees at large gatherings like house parties. Current guidance from the California Department of Public Health prohibits gatherings involving individuals from more than three different households. In order to protect all students and staff members, we are postponing the resumption of in-person learning at both schools until Monday, November 16th. It is important that we all work together, following the guidance from the California Department of Public Health to ensure the health and safety of our students and staff.
Parents and Community Responsibility
As a school district, we have created a pathway for students to return to campus for in-person learning. In order for us to continue to provide this option for parents and students, we all need to work together to ensure that all students that come onto campus are healthy, do not show symptoms (fever, cough, shortness of breath, nasal congestion, sore throat, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, fatigue, loss of taste and smell, runny nose, etc.) and do not participate in large group activities in the community. These simple but essential responsibilities will ensure the success of the Vista Classic learning model. Thank you for your cooperation.
Vista COVID-19 Testing Center
Finally, we are making great progress with the new COVID-19 testing center. We toured the Linda Rhoades Recreation Center last Friday with the San Diego Health and Humans Services team. We have already completed much of the preparation for opening the center next week on November 11th or 12th. The center will have its own driveway entrance with plenty of parking.
We have a regularly scheduled board meeting on November 12, 2020. We will hold this meeting in person and virtually, similar to the last meeting. We will be holding this meeting in the boardroom at the District Office location. There will be very limited seating for the in-person meeting due to the size of the room. The reason for using this location for the meeting is to ensure that our livestream feed for the public is high quality. Please visit the district website for more details about the board meeting.
Matt Doyle, Ed.D.
Superintendent of Schools
Vista Unified School District