Santa Cruz, Scotts Valley middle and high schools eyeing paths back to in-person learning
Santa Cruz County’s expected transition into the less restrictive “red tier” of California’s Blueprint for Safer Economy is sparking both SCCS and SVUSD to begin communicating with parents about hybrid learning plans beyond the elementary level.
Fresh off the day when elementary students have begun phased-in returns to modified in-person learning, two of the county’s largest school systems are now outlining paths to get middle and high school students back to school buildings.
Santa Cruz City Schools emailed parents about middle- and high-school return plans Wednesday afternoon, while Scotts Valley Unified School District informed parents about its latest plans on its website. (Both letters are included in full in this article.)
Both districts are citing the expected return of Santa Cruz County’s return to the less restrictive “red tier” of California’s Blueprint for a Safer Economy as the reason for potential middle and high school reopenings. Based on metrics released by the California Department of Public Health, it is expected the county will graduate into that tier on Wednesday, March 10.
Counties must remain in red for two weeks before in-person instruction can resume at middle and high schools, according to state guidelines. Given daily improving COVID-19 metrics, Santa Cruz County is expected to meet that threshold, too. That would make March 24 the first date middle and high schools could open countywide.
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With all that in mind, SCCS and SVUSD are moving forward with reopening paths for hybrid in-person instruction, though Santa Cruz’s is more definitive than Scotts Valley’s. Students in both districts can opt-out and continue to learn remotely if they wish, superintendents said in messages to parents.
In Santa Cruz City Schools, Superintendent Kris Munro said officials are targeting orientations the week of March 22 and an April 5 return to hybrid instruction for all middle and high school students.
“We’re so excited to bring our students together after a year of distance learning. We’ve had months to prepare our classrooms, upgrade our systems, and refine our procedures, and we are ready to safely welcome all students,” she wrote to parents. “Our safety protocols have been in place and tested since October when small cohorts returned to campus. It is notable that with almost 1,000 students participating in small cohort programs, our protocols have allowed no on-campus transmission.”
SVUSD Superintendent Tanya Krause that both Scotts Valley Middle and Scotts Valley High schools “are prepared” to begin forms of hybrid learning after the county remains in the red tier for two weeks. “Current estimates suggest this may occur in March before Spring Break,” she wrote, though a more concrete timeline has yet to be defined.
This is a developing story. Please check back throughout the day for more details.
Here’s the full text of SCCS Superintendent Kris Munro’s letter to parents:
Dear SCCS Families,
As Santa Cruz County’s COVID metrics will likely place us in the red tier next week, it is my great pleasure to announce we have begun final preparations for our middle schools and high schools to join elementary in opening for hybrid learning.
Hybrid Instruction means students will attend their classes in person two days a week, split into either A or B Groups to fulfill our requirements for social distancing. Look for specific grade span schedules at the end of this message. If our County proceeds into the red tier as expected, below is our timeline for beginning Hybrid at each grade level.
- March 15—Transitional Kindergarten and Kindergarten
- March 22—First through Fifth Grade
- Week of March 22—On campus orientations at each Middle and High School with schedule specifics to come from your school.
- April 5—All Middle and High School students begin Hybrid Instruction
We’re so excited to bring our students together after a year of distance learning. We’ve had months to prepare our classrooms, upgrade our systems, and refine our procedures, and we are ready to safely welcome all students.
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Our safety protocols have been in place and tested since October when small cohorts returned to campus. It is notable that with almost 1,000 students participating in small cohort programs, our protocols have allowed no on-campus transmission. These safety protocols include:
- Class & campus design to support social distancing
- Hand washing & sanitizing protocols
- Daily screenings for fever & symptoms
- PPE required & available for staff & students
- Thorough daily classroom cleaning
- Upgraded ventilation systems bringing fresh filtered air into classrooms every 15 minutes
- Our public COVID dashboard providing transparency into all school sites
- A fully vaccinated staff (thanks to Dignity Health and the County Office of Education)
During the week of March 22nd, each middle and high school will provide an on-campus orientation and training on campus safety protocols and expectations. Look for details in a communication from your school principal and please contact your school site specific questions. For more information on our Hybrid plans, please visit our website at www.sccs.net.
As promised, distance learning will remain fully available to all who prefer it, with students participating in their same classes via zoom.
Because counties are required to be in the “red” tier before secondary schools may open in Hybrid, there may be a delay to these plans if our county data shifts back toward purple. It is our intention to be ready to implement Hybrid as soon as possible.
After a year of ever changing state requirements, of uncertainty and distance, I hope you share my optimism as we start on the path back to normalcy. I want to thank all of our families for your patience and collaboration through this most extraordinary year. I hope it feels good to take this first step back. We are looking forward to seeing our students in person again!
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Here’s the full text of SVUSD Superintendent Tanya Krause’s letter to parents:
Dear Scotts Valley Community,
Things are moving very quickly now so I want to make sure that you have the most recent information (at least for today!).
The COVID-19 Safety Plan for SVUSD has been submitted and approved by the California Department of Public Health (CDPH). The California Safe School For All, District Reopening Map, reflects that SVUSD has been approved to reopen for elementary hybrid instruction. The map can be viewed here. Given this information, the elementary schools have announced a phased return to in-person hybrid instruction during the month of March, with all grades returning in the hybrid model prior to Spring Break. The elementary Principals sent this letter to their parents on February 19th: Letter to Elementary Parents 2/19/2021
I want to reiterate that those families who have already requested an independent study program in the elementary grades will be able to maintain that program for the remainder of this year, and those families that have already requested full-time distance instruction will also be accommodated.
COVID K-12, Lookout’s overview of COVID-19’s impact on education, is among eight Lookout initiatives documenting all aspects of the pandemic this year. For more, go to our COVID 2021 section, sign up for COVID Text Alerts and our COVID PM newsletter here, and leave feedback and ask questions at the end of this story.
Scotts Valley Middle School is prepared to begin hybrid instruction after the County has moved into the Red Tier for two consecutive weeks, and based on current numbers, this shift may occur in March before Spring Break. SVMS families have already had the opportunity to indicate if they would like to return to campus for in-person. However, families who selected online distance instruction and would like to switch to in-person instruction will have the opportunity to change their request after Spring Break, pending space availability within the classrooms. SVMS will follow the hybrid plan that was released in November 2020 and will continue to provide in-person afternoon interventions as needed. The middle school already has plans to bring back 6th graders at the beginning of March. If in fact, we are moving sooner into the Red Tier, we may postpone that plan in order to bring back the sixth, seventh, and eighth graders into hybrid instruction. We are closely watching the potential changes of the improved COVID ratings.
Scotts Valley High School is prepared to begin their hybrid schedule after the county is in the Red Tier for 2 consecutive weeks. Current estimates suggest this may occur in March before Spring Break. Upon entering the Red Tier, the school will again survey parents and students to know if students will return to campus for in-person hybrid instruction, or choose to access their classes only through distance instruction. However, families who selected online distance instruction and would like to switch to in-person instruction will have the opportunity to change their request after Spring Break, pending space availability within the classrooms. Additionally, school staff are reviewing the hybrid schedule released in December and are considering changes based on new knowledge and current conditions. The school will continue with the after-lunch Tutorial sessions offered to 9th-grade students during distance instruction, and other grade levels may be included in the Tutorial session program if the hybrid start date is pushed out past Spring Break.
High School athletics are also beginning to open up, and the District is working with local Public Health, Santa Cruz Athletic League, Athletic Directors, and secondary administration regarding the latest updates for outdoor youth sports. Next week the football season opens and we will continue with conditioning until certain requirements are adhered to for practice and competition in the Purple and Red Tiers. We were informed recently by Santa Cruz Public Health that spectators will not be allowed on the campus for these events.
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The good news is that we may be moving into the Red Tier sooner than expected. We will definitely keep you updated on this information, as we will need to be in the Red Tier for two weeks prior to transitioning to in-person hybrid schedules at the middle school and at the high school.
I am extremely pleased that we have been able to successfully get all of our employees in for their initial vaccination, and that the round one process should be completed by the end of this week. So many people worked around the clock to make this happen and we greatly appreciate these efforts. I specifically want to express my thanks to our County Superintendent, Dr. Faris Sabbah, for his leadership and partnership with Dignity Health and Dominican Hospital that has allowed educators in Santa Cruz County to receive vaccinations for the purpose of reopening school’s sooner.
Last night, Dr. Faris Sabbah, along with the Santa Cruz County Superintendents, hosted a Town Hall Zoom event with special guests from Dignity Health and Dominican Hospital. The topics included reopening plans, the recent vaccination implementation, other details regarding reopening schools for hybrid instruction, and the session concluded with a question and answer period. If you missed it, you can view it here:
Safely Bringing Students Back to Our Classrooms - Town Hall Recording from 2-25-2021
I completely understand that this new phase of our COVID response is creating mixed reactions, and I want to thank you for your patience, perseverance, and kindness as we move forward. At SVUSD we are all very excited for the opportunity to return to campus!
Tanya Krause, Superintendent