Editor’s note: Dr. Michelle Rodriguez, Pajaro Valley Unified School District superintendent, Leticia Oropeza, president of California School Employees Association and Nelly Vaquera-Boggs, Pajaro Valley Federation of Teachers president, sent this letter to parents on Feb. 11 to explain the delay in returning to in-person instruction.
Dear PVUSD Community,
Thank you to our students, staff, families and community for the resilience and flexibility that you have shown as we live through the COVID-19 pandemic. Teaching staff, students, and families made the challenging shift to distance learning. Classified staff have shown up each and every day to ensure students are engaged and the need of the whole child is met.
Classified staff have also ensured facilities and services are operationally sound and meat all health and safety guidelines. We individually and collectively continue to experience a range of emotions from great loss, frustration, isolation, and now of increasing hope.
Out hope in recent months had been to return in-person instruction on Mar. 1. Unfortunately, data and conditions such as case- and vaccination-rates are not at the levels necessary to allow for a phased-in return to in-person instruction until potentially after Spring Break.
Our readiness work continues unabated, and a path forward is becoming clearer as we move towards vaccinations for all staff, and case rates continue to decrease.
The formal decision for the delay to return to in-person instruction will occur at the Feb. 24 board meeting.
The case rate for COVID-19 is gradually beginning to decline in both the state and in Santa Cruz County. However, the county continues to be in the widespread Purple category and the areas within PVUSD boundaries are currently double the percentage of known cases than in other parts of the county.
Due to the significant number of cases in our District boundaries, we have placed substantial emphasis on ensuring that all staff — including classified, certificated, and management — have access to both doses of the COVID-19 vaccine prior to the return to in-person instruction.
Dignity Health has partnered with PVUSD, through the County Office of Education, to provide vaccines to PVUSD employees ahead of the County Health Department’s Timeline. Dignity is prioritizing their own vaccines to include PVUSD classified and certificated employees who are working with preschool, transitional, and food services staff.
In the last week, approximately 250 PVUSD employees have received an opportunity to be vaccinated. Over the weekend of Feb. 6, 310 staff members — including bus drivers, employees working in our Safe Spaces, elementary office staff, and yard duty personnel — will receive the vaccine.
PVUSD is committed to swiftly providing the opportunity for all staff to get vaccinated and is continuing to work with local healthcare providers and the County Health Department to ensure all PVUSD employees have the opportunity to receive the vaccine.
On the day teachers and instructional staff are assigned their vaccine appointment, they will be providing asynchronous work to enswure they have the adequate time to make the appointment. Staff should reach out to the site administrator if there are any questions or concerns.
Apart from vaccinations, PVUSD has implemented multiple additional mitigation strategies to prepare for return to in-person instruction. Currently, we are utilizing the Small Group Cohorting Guidance successfully with seven Safe Spaces locations, 10 Special Education cohorts, three elementary general education cohorts, and three secondary general education cohorts.
We will continue to expand the number of students served in small-group cohorts over the next several months.
Additional examples of mitigation strategies include:
- Purchase of additional PPE and face shields for all staff and students
- Installation of hand sanitizer stations throughout the campus at entrances and within classrooms without sinks
- Acquisition of three-sided barriers for individual student desks to promote physical distancing
- Comprehensive Interagency evaluation of ventilation system throughout district with $4 million of repairs to facilities HVAC up to MERV 13 filters and windows
- Purchase of 1,200 HEPA filters for all classrooms and areas with the need for additional ventilation
- Installation of thermal scanners for symptom screening at each site
To ensure that our system is ready, we began Surveillance Testing on Dec. 4, 2020.
PVUSD is currentloy providing surveillance testing to our employees within various departments including Food Services, Maintenance and Operations, Transportation, and District Office.
On Jan. 14, California Department of Public Health updated the surveillance testing requirement from one every two months to once every two weeks for hybrid in-person instruction. Therefore, when we are providing in-person instruction beyond the small-group cohorting, we must — and will — provide surveillance testing to all staff every two weeks.
To meet that expectation, in the next several weeks, we will expand surveillance testing to additional classified and certificated staff currently working on site or with plans to work on site. Scaling up surveillance testing is another important readiness factor for returning to in-person instruction.
PVUSD’s commitment remains to address the needs of our students and educational community, while keeping health and safety our top priority.
Despite the hardship and uncertainty of these times, and regardless of our individual circumstance, our community has come together to support our students and each other.
Please know that we all want to see our students back in the classroom when it is safe to do so.
— Dr. Michelle Rodriguez, Superintendent
— Leticia Oropeza, CSEA President
— Nelly Vaquera-Boggs, PVFT President
Visit www.santacruzhealth.org/HSAHome/HSADivisions/PublicHealth/CommunicableDiseaseControl/CoronavirusHome.aspx for the most up-to-date version of the above graphics.