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Update from the Superintendent - September 25th
Posted 9/25/20

Dear SVUSD Community,

In keeping with the commitment I made at the beginning of the pandemic, this year I intend to send periodic and necessary updates.  Some of these communications contain a lot of different information.  I apologize to those that feel these are too lengthy.  Length will vary depending on the content to share.

This letter includes:

     -Overview of progress up to Week 3

     -Update on the new state Monitoring Color coded system 

     -Upcoming Parent Survey - October 1st

     -Cultural Responsiveness District update

     -Site Highlights and Back to School Nights

Congratulations SVUSD community, we have completed Week Three of full remote instruction, which is new for teachers, students, parents, and administration.

I believe everyone now acknowledges that this fall’s remote instruction has differed greatly from last spring’s distance learning. As expected, our team has been working through Zoom link challenges, Internet challenges, and some accessibility issues. Of course, on our first day, September 8, Google struggled early on and though eventually picked back up, it created a lot of anxiety just on day one. Although there was some user error, Google has had its challenges far beyond just our District or County, and a lot of folks are working to assist students, parents, and teachers and we are making good progress.

I want to give a big shout out to all of the teachers, administrators, and support staff, as preparing for this new version of school has required a lot of new learning. For many of us who have been in this profession for many years, in many ways, it feels like starting over. We will look back at this time when we were forced to learn new things that are carried forward hereafter.

Many people have inquired about when we plan to return to some form of in-person instruction with students. As most of you know, the state changed its monitoring system into a color-coded system with new timelines in place.

School districts need to be in Red (Sustainable) for over two weeks and near or in the Orange level, (Moderate), and Santa Cruz County is moving closer to that category.  In addition to the Public Health requirements, there are also the California Department of Education and state legislative requirements. One example is that employers need to provide COVID testing to 25% of their employees every two weeks, and 50% of the district staff once a month. We have been working on requiring insurance to cover the majority of those expenses and the County Superintendent has been working to secure timely and accurate testing for school employees. In addition to those parameters, we also have agreements that need to be finalized with our employee groups for returning to small group in-person instruction.

The schedules our teachers and administrative team have worked to put together meet the needs of students, parents, and staff while keeping our community safe.  As we have implemented our new year, we acknowledge the need to analyze what is working and prepare to make shifts where necessary if we are able.  To help us in this process, we are soliciting input from our parents and our teachers. On October 1st, you will receive a Parent Survey through our school messaging system.  Your feedback is very important to us and we ask that every parent participates in the survey in order for us to make informed decisions.  The survey will be open until October 9th.   

While our focus has been getting the school year started and working to make the necessary transitions at every grade level to move into small group or hybrid instruction, we continue to work on a multi-layered approach for our district to address cultural responsiveness and sensitivity on a variety of levels within the district. We have formed a district committee, researched age-appropriate supplementary curricular materials which we will purchase, and are investigating training opportunities for our leadership team and employees. We do have a plan and look forward to responding to this important topic.

The District is proud to be offering a series of Parent Trainings. This past Wednesday, September 26, our own SVUSD counselors presented a workshop on Mental Health, Anxiety, and Depression.  We had a great turnout!  Please see the Distance Instruction Resource page of our website for resources and additional upcoming training sessions.

As you are aware, all of our schools have held successful, online Back To School Nights.  Engagement and attendance for these events were high!

A few site highlights:

At Brook Knoll and Vine Hill, materials have been handed out, and students have the technology and the resources needed to fully participate in Remote Instruction with online enrichment courses, such as lessons from the Life Labs, Code Naturally, Music, and Art. The PBIS teams are working on creating a strong virtual community with expectations and creative, positive rewards. 

Teachers at SVMS are providing games and activities for students in Instructional Support to reinforce learning.  The school counselor, Abbie Stevens, is offering Lunch Bunch for students and is creating a google classroom for each grade level to share pertinent information. The band is in full swing, and students have picked up instruments and have been participating in virtual music activities!

The Student Government at SVHS is actively creating a weekly Falcon News video with announcements. Their Welcome Back Rally featured a socially distanced teacher competition and it looks like they will have 22 active clubs. Respect Week will be held Monday, September 28th through Friday, October 2nd and will include a Virtual Community Service Fair.

As always, thank you for your patience and your tenacity as we work together to ensure that we provide a quality education to all students.

Best regards,

Tanya Krause, Superintendent