July 28, 2020
Vista Unified School Reopening Plan
We have completed a series of board meetings over the last month to present ideas and discuss the school reopening plan for the 2020-21 school year. With direction from the school board last Thursday, we are closing in on the details of the school reopening plan. We have also posted the Board Action Update to the website. This document provides the exact actions taken by the board last week. Please find below a general overview of the key elements of the plan. Most importantly, we will be sending parents the official registration link on Thursday, July 30, 2020 to register for the learning model that best works for their student(s). More details below.
Above all else, the Vista Unified School District has a dual obligation to ensure the health and safety of all students and staff, while, at the same time, develop an innovative approach to learning and teaching that provides a high quality, engaging education for all students within the environment of a worldwide pandemic. This dual obligation is both complex and challenging. Now, more than ever before, we all must demonstrate our commitment to our values of trust, respect, collaboration, and equity. In preparation for this complexity and challenge, we have made a number of strategic adjustments to our normal district structures: health and safety, school calendar, learning model, technology, curriculum, and professional development. We would like to thank you for your continued patience as we work with staff to design a learning model that complies with state and local requirements and meets the needs of students and families in Vista Unified.
Health and Safety Update
The current health orders from the Governor and the San Diego County Health and Human Services require all schools in the county to implement a 100% distance learning program until the county is removed from the state watch list. Please refer to the detailed Health and Safety Update provided to the board last week for more information. We also provided the initial details of the health and safety procedures we will be using at each school to ensure that students and staff are safe when they are on campus. We have already delivered over two months of personal protective equipment to every school including sanitation equipment, extra hand washing stations, hand sanitizer in every classroom, new hospital grade air filters in every classroom, plexiglass dividers in high traffic areas, and much more.
The school board voted to approve a change in the district instructional calendar for the 2020-21 school year. The new start date for students will be September 8, 2020. The daily start and end time for students will be similar to last year. There will be twelve days of instruction added to the end of the school year, shifting the final student day to June 24, 2021. The Calendar Committee will be convening in the coming days to make the official adjustments. The adjustment to the school calendar will provide more time to monitor the current closure of schools in San Diego County, prepare for a positive start to the school year, and shift instructional days to the end of the year, allowing for a greater possibility of in person instruction.
Learning Model Adoption and Registration
The school board adopted two learning models for the 2020-21 school year. Parents will have a choice between Vista Classic and Vista Virtual models. Please refer to the School Reopening Plan presentation provided to the school board last week for details. This slide deck also includes the notes and approvals the board made during the meeting.
We will be sending out an official registration for parents to choose the learning model that is best for their student(s) on Thursday, July 30, 2020. Parents will have until August 12, 2020 to register their students. Based on direction from the school board, if a parent does not respond to the registration process, their student(s) will be assigned to Vista Virtual model. Prior to assigning the learning model, we will, however, reach out via U.S. mail and phone to any parent who has not submitted their registration by August 10th. The registration will be in effect for the first semester. This means that students will be required to stay in the learning model they chose for the entire semester. We will prepare a second registration process for the second semester, if necessary, depending on the status of the COVID-19 pandemic.
San Diego County Health Order is Virtual School
It is important to note that if the countywide health order requiring distance learning is still in effect on the first day of school, all students will be participating in the Vista Virtual model for no less than six weeks. The board decided to follow a six week format to ensure that the initial learning sequence is consistent, rather than moving back and forth between learning models. Site administrators will be developing their school master schedules based on parent registration information in the coming weeks. Principals and teachers will work together to staff Vista Virtual and Vista Classic models based on student registration.
Teaching and Techology
The school district has made a number of strategic purchases in the past few months in order to ensure that teachers and staff have access to new curriculum and tools that support a virtual teaching environment. Specifically, we have purchased a Zoom professional license for every teacher so that they are able to connect daily in real time with their students in large and small groups. We have purchased a diagnostic assessment platform to support teachers to determine possible learning loss quickly. We have purchased a learning management system, Canvas, to serve as the district wide standard for launching the Vista Classic and Vista Virtual classrooms. At the elementary level, we have purchased Eureka Math and Benchmark ELA and ELD curriculum. This new curriculum has robust digital features including digital books, leveled readers, activities, and assessments. While we know that learning how to use new technology is challenging, parents will find that these new tools will greatly enhance the learning environment for all students.
We are recommending that our teachers set up their virtual teaching environment in their classrooms on campus. This will maximize the quality of the virtual learning environment because teachers will have a dedicated space to design the learning environment and access to curriculum and materials, high speed internet, and a variety of technology. This system will also set the stage for a quick pivot to the Vista Classic model when the health order allows for students to return to campus.
Teacher and Staff Professional Development and Training
Our learning and teaching environment is going through a dramatic disruption as a result of the current health crisis. It is more likely than not that this disruption will change the educational landscape permanently. To support teachers and staff responding to the dramatic disruption, our school board members have approved a change in the school calendar (described above) and proposed three full professional development and training days for teachers and staff. We are currently working in collaboration with our two employee associations (VTA and CSEA) to finalize the impacts and effects of the school reopening plan through collective bargaining and the establishment of a Memorandum of Understanding. This includes finalizing health and safety procedures, the shift of the instructional days and professional development days in the school calendar, school set up, and other related activities. The proposed three days will provide focused training in health and safety protocols, professional development in the new technology, professional development in the use of the new diagnostic assessment system, and collaboration and preparation time for teachers and staff to design their virtual learning environments.
Vista Institute for Parents (VIP)
Our Family and Community Engagement (FACE) team of liaisons have come back from summer break early to work in concert with district administrators to design the Vista Institute for Parents. We are excited about creating a robust set of parent workshops so that parents feel more prepared to support their students in the virtual environment. The VIP website will have links to custom videos focusing on topics based on parent requests, parent-friendly resources, continuously updated FAQs, and a help desk that is staffed with FACE liaisons to quickly respond to your needs. The VIP website is coming soon.
The Mission of Vista Institute for Parents: Creating a system of support to engage and empower families as partners in education:
Facilitating access to academic supports
Prioritizing care and connection
Building technology literacy
Helping families effectively navigate the education system
We would like to thank you again for your patience and flexibility as we work collaboratively to address the challenges presented by this extraordinary worldwide health pandemic. We are all in this together.
Matt Doyle, Ed.D.
Superintendent of Schools