Please read this important message from Natomas Unified School District Superintendent Chris Evans on safely re-opening NUSD schools:
Dear NUSD Key Stakeholders,
We have 12 school days left. I believe 2019-20 definitely wins the award for the most unique school year. As this school year ends, I want to ask you all to turn an eye to the upcoming 2020-21 school year. Hang in there with me…I know we are just trying to get through this year.
I do not have a crystal ball that can predict what the fall of 2020 looks like. Will we start early, start on time, and need to push the year back a few weeks? Early or late calendar changes need to be negotiated with the Natomas Teachers Association. And as of today, neither of us has discussed changing our August 13th start date. From my perspective, we don’t know what we don’t know. As of today, plan on school starting as planned on August 13th, 2020. County and state guidance plays a major role.
Natomas Unified Schools in August
Before we give the green light to reopen our schools in Natomas Unified, there are 6 major areas we feel we must address. Some of these pillars will be contingent on the continuing support from California’s leaders. These 6 areas are what we refer to as our Six Pillars for Success:
- Eliminating the Digital Divide
- Providing Families Educational Options
- Expanding Physical Health and Safety of Students and Staff
- Expanding Emotional Health and Safety of Students and Staff
- Feeding Our Students
- Creating a Culture of Connectivity in a New School Environment
The 6 Pillars
- Eliminating the Digital Divide: During Distance Learning and for 2020-21, NUSD has eliminated the digital divide in Natomas Unified. Every student has and will have access to a laptop or similar device and the Internet for another school year. This technology allows us to address a number of our other pillars. This would be a very expensive on-going expense, so for now, just expect this in 2020-21.
- Providing Families Educational Options: Yesterday, we sent out a survey to gauge parent/family interest in a modern Independent Study opportunity with our increased technology access. Other options are possible, and we have a meeting with NTA leaders next week to discuss further what a Virtual/In-class option we negotiated a few years back could look like. Eliminating the Digital Divide allows us more options. If we can successfully collaborate with our labor partners again, we could create something special for students and staff.
Expanding Physical Health and Safety of Students and Staff:
We are looking at a variety of schedules and approaches that have been discussed across the country and state. These shifts MAY result in new blended learning environments. While students are on campuses, we are investing in more Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for staff, acquiring cloth masks for students who need them, as well as continuing what we started in February with new cleaning equipment and material. And yes, using hand sanitizer and teaching/reinforcing washing hands, to name just a few areas of emphasis, will continue. We are also going to look to be creative and explore new medical opportunities that we hope will reassure students and families that we are doing what we can to mitigate the virus. The major takeaway for you – we won’t continue with business as usual. We are going to “keep moving forward” with new ideas and solutions for the health and safety of our students and staff.
- Expanding Emotional Health and Safety of Students and Staff: Our social-emotional system has provided direct intervention for dozens of students who have faced some form of crisis. It’s a strong response team that is adding social workers. Also Eliminating the Digital Divide has allowed for virtual support, therapy and intervention we could not do before. Our social-emotional support program is even stronger with expanded technology.
- Feeding Our Students: Whether we can continue to provide free meals to all students or will need to return to a combination of Free/Reduced Lunch plus paid lunches is yet to be known. I suspect in August, students who do not complete the Free and Reduced Lunch application will need to pay again. Regardless, our award-winning Nutrition Services will still be there feeding our kids.
- Creating a Culture of Connectivity in a New School Environment: What about sports, arts, and music? What about parents, family and students being connected to others? If schools have two or three types of learning programs, it will be more work for site leadership to keep everyone connected, PTAs strong, and more. We’ll be ready, and our principals will do their best.
These are Natomas Unified’s 6 pillars that will address our efforts to mitigate the effects COVID-19 may have on the 2020-2021 school year. I cannot promise we will be able to keep Kindergarten students six feet apart at all times. That would not be honest to say we could. Even if we split the school day in half and held smaller classes, kids are kids (especially 5-year-olds). And then there are teenagers ;). Rest assured, we will soon talk more about our plans within these 6 pillars. We are aware 100% of our parents want their students educated. We are also aware that there is anxiety for some families and students about the August return. Plus, many parents/families will soon return to work and supervision becomes an issue. Please know, we recognize these opposing interests and concerns. Natomas Unified is here to support you all. The Board of Trustees understands these challenges. I recognize the needs. And we have a phenomenal staff to do all we can for our students.