School Reopening/COVID-19 Response
Memorandum of Understanding (MOU)
Dear Families and Staff,
The Governing Board held a special board meeting last night, Wednesday, March 10, 2021, to further discuss the plans for returning to in-person hybrid learning. After careful consideration and discussion, the Board Trustees voted to return TK-2 students for in-person hybrid instruction on Monday, March 29, 2021. Students in grades 3-12 will return for in-person hybrid classes on Monday, April 12, 2021, the Monday following spring break.
The reasoning that is reflected in the Board action to adjust the previously approved return target date of March 22, which results in 9 instructional days, centers on a recognition of staff completing the vaccination process. Having a vaccinated workforce in this pandemic contributes significantly to their overall confidence level regarding Covid-19 thereby allowing them to more fully focus their energy and efforts on our students. Additionally, the Board action reflects the benefit in bringing our youngest students back to campus a week before the rest of the students in order to give them an opportunity to adjust to the return to in person learning.
We are excited to welcome our staff and students back onto our campuses. We will also be continuing to provide robust virtual learning for those students who have chosen that option.
Please look for more detailed information about your child’s return to in-person hybrid instruction from your site principal very soon.
On we go!
Charles Young, Ed.D.
Dear Benicia Staff and Community.
I have good news to share. During the course of this week, the availability of Covid-19 vaccine supply increased dramatically for Solano County and most importantly, Benicia Unified School District. In fact, all staff members were provided an opportunity to be vaccinated if they have not already done so on their own.
This new development, which happened much quicker than we had anticipated, provides BUSD with the opportunity to have a much more confident workforce regarding their safety and well-being as they return to in-person learning. In addition to the robust safety measures we have in place, this increase in the vaccination process will go a long way in helping staff, students and our parent community feel more at ease returning to in-person learning.
I want to emphasize that having a confident workforce is central to our efforts as it allows staff to focus their energy on our students and everything in our system that supports that goal.
That being said, the Board Trustees have requested a special Board meeting for this Wednesday, March 10, 2021 to discuss and clarify the impact this dramatic increase in vaccination availability has on the previously approved target return date of March 22nd. I will communicate next steps Thursday, directly following the Board meeting.
This week made me feel we are finally beginning to move back to a more normal life for all of us.
On we go!
Charles Young, Ed.D.
Dear Staff and Community.
Good afternoon, everyone. As we continue to focus on vaccine availability and clinics, I am providing the following information.
There was a vaccine clinic today at the Solano County Office of Education. As I noted in my last communication, school districts that have been providing in-person instruction prior to February 15th are being prioritized and will be for the next clinic that is tentatively scheduled for the second week of March. As of 1:00 p.m. today, approximately 1,800 out of 8,500 Solano County educators were vaccinated.
The next level of prioritization is for school districts who have not yet provided in-person instruction. Fortunately, we learned yesterday that Governor Newsom is setting aside 10% of vaccine availability for education employees. This will be in addition to what counties are already receiving.
As a reminder, the Solano County Office of Education is responsible, not individual school districts, for working directly with the Solano County Health Department in the organization of vaccination clinics. The following links provide more information on the Governors’ newest vaccine availability plan.
Additional Vaccination Clinic Information From Solano County Public Health:
Through our partnership with Kaiser Permanente, NorthBay Healthcare, Medic Ambulance, Touro University, Solano County Fairgrounds and Vacaville Fire Department, two vaccine clinics are now available for Solano County residents aged 75+, 65-74 with underlying health conditions, healthcare workers, first responders, and tier groups that are currently eligible to get vaccinated (see vaccine rollout by phase and tier for more information).
The vaccine is available for eligible individuals, regardless of health care provider or insurance coverage. Individuals will automatically register for the second dose at the same time of their scheduled appointment for the first dose (four weeks after the first appointment). They will be receiving the Moderna vaccine.
TOMORROW, February 27, 2021
Solano County Fairgrounds Expo Hall
900 Fairgrounds Dr, Vallejo, CA
Register through www.bit.ly/sccovax0227
MONDAY, March 1, 2021
Markham Elementary School
101 Markham Ave, Vacaville, CA
Register through www.bit.ly/sccovax0301
Information about both clinics has been added to our Solano Public Health Facebook page,
Covid-19 Safety Plan: Our Covid-19 Safety Plan is posted on our District website and has been submitted to the Solano County Office of Education and Solano County Health Department.
On we go!
Charles Young, Ed.D.
Dear Staff and Community,
I hope you are doing well this Friday afternoon and are looking forward to a weekend of some rest and rejuvenation. I know we all want our entire society to return to normal, and fortunately, there is some good news on the COVID-19 front as case rates continue to decline at a steady rate. Click on the link to see the state-wide data: https://covid19.ca.gov/safer-economy/
Vaccine for Schools Update: The Solano County Office of Education is working with the Solano County Health Department to organize COVID-19 vaccine clinics. There is a planned vaccination clinic on February 26th, pending any issues with vaccine supply due to severe weather conditions in parts of the country, and is prioritized for education employees whose school districts have been providing some level of in-person instruction prior to February 15.
The next level of prioritization, this is where BUSD falls, is for school districts that have an established return to in-person instruction date (the Board Trustees approved the desire to return to in-person hybrid instruction on March 22nd, state rules permitting), a safety plan (we are finalizing and submitting for approval this coming week), and the number of employees (that will be anonymous for confidentiality purposes), who will request the vaccine, of which we will be compiling and sending to the County Office.
I will continue to keep you updated regarding this process. Again, the main issue for our County, according to the Solano County Health Director, Dr. Matyas, is vaccine supply.
In-Person Instruction: The Board Trustees approved small-group, in-person instruction during last night’s Board meeting. This service will be provided by staff who have volunteered to provide in-person support to students. Your school sites are working with those teachers who volunteered. If your child is currently receiving support services (i.e. specialized instruction or intervention), and your child’s teacher has not volunteered to do in-person small groups, their virtual services will continue.
The Leavening Effect of Equity and Opportunity: We continue to be excited about this work as we all come together to build community in ways that are inclusive, respectful and hopeful. The superordinate goal is to meet the needs of all our students while identifying and removing barriers for any student groups who are not reaching their potential.
We are currently working on solidifying additional professional learning opportunities for staff centered on culturally responsive practices, diversity, and equity. Our curriculum department is preparing to begin curriculum audits where we evaluate our materials through the lens of equity.
Finally, we are working on drafting a broad equity goal for our Strategic Plan-LCAP that will serve as the guidepost for actions and services focused on removing barriers and providing opportunities.
I want to close by extending my deepest gratitude to all BUSD staff for their ongoing commitment and tremendous effort they put in each and every day on behalf of our students.
On we go!
Dear Community and Staff.
As we head into the four-day weekend, Monday being President’s Day and an opportunity to pause and reflect on the long lineage of presidents in our great country, I wanted to provide a quick update on matters related to in-person learning.
In-person Learning Review: During the January 14 Board meeting, the Trustees voted to remain in distance learning through March 19, 2021, with the desire to return to in-person instruction, implementing the approved hybrid learning plan, on March 22, 2021, which is the first day of the 4th quarter, State rules permitting.
The good news is recent COVID-19 case rate data is showing positive signs of trending in the right direction in the three primary categories: New COVID-19 positivity rates per day per 100k, positivity rate (7 day average) and ICU availability.
Please use the following link for detailed COVID-19 data. Hover your cursor over Solano County for our data. https://covid19.ca.gov/safer-economy/)
As a follow-up to the February 4th Board meeting, the Trustees asked that we explore options related to small group, in-person instruction before the implementation date of the larger hybrid plan mentioned above. We will be discussing this item at the upcoming Board meeting on Thursday, February 18th.
Safety Plans: Since the January 14th Board meeting, the State established a new requirement called the COVID-19 Safety Plan, which consists of a COVID-19 Prevention Program and COVID-19 Guidance Checklist. Districts are required to submit this plan to the County Health Director for approval before heading back to K-6 grades in-person hybrid learning. Fortunately, we worked very closely with our two unions earlier in the year and passed two Memorandums of Understanding (MOU’s), which outline, in considerable detail, the required safety elements for in-person instruction.
Most, if not all, of the safety requirements are included in the MOU’s and we were able to transfer them to the COVID-19 Prevention Program which is nearing completion for submission. Please find the COVID-19 Prevention Program linked here. If you have any feedback or comments, please email them to Dr. Gill, Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources: email@example.com.
Vaccine: Although the COVID-19 vaccination is not required for in-person learning, the enhanced protection and sense of safety it provides, is obvious. The main challenge, as per Dr. Matyas, the Solano County Health Director, and who presented at the last Board meeting of February 4th (recording), centers on the demand for the vaccine being greater than the supply. We are continuing to work closely with Dr. Matyas regarding a specific date and plan for the availability and distribution of the vaccine in BUSD.
The following link will take you to the Solano County Health Department’s COVID-19 Vaccination plan. This is a VERY useful website and provides all related information related to the vaccine and its distribution, including the following COVID-19 interest from sent to all staff last week. https://www.solanocounty.com/depts/ph/coronavirus_links/covid_19_vaccines.asp
Governor’s Safe Schools for All Plan: In my last newsletter, I referenced the Governor’s plan and that it was still being negotiated in the legislature. As of today, we do not have any clear updates regarding this plan and whether or not it will be passed. I will provide more information as it is made available to us.
LCAP/Strategic Plan Survey: We are beginning the process of collecting information on key goals and initiatives for our LCAP/Strategic plan. This document plays a central role in providing clear direction for key initiatives and goals for our district. Your input is vital to this process. Please watch for an additional email with a link to the survey.
Dear Staff and Community,
I sincerely hope you had a positive week and are heading into the weekend with a hopeful and ebullient heart. At the risk of sounding glib, I remind us of the importance of taking a few moments each day to reflect on the parts of our lives that bring us joy. These moments of gratitude go a long way in helping us foster a sense of hopefulness as we look forward to greater normalcy in our daily lives. I gratefully remind us that our common bond as a learning community is our commitment to our students and our shared goal of striving to bring the best version of ourselves to them each day.
Board Meeting Update: Last night’s special Board meeting centered on the North Coast Section modification to designate sports according to the Tier system for safety. Sports in the Purple Tier, which include: Cross Country, Boys and Girls Tennis, Boys and Girls Golf, Boys and Girls Swimming, and Track and Field, may begin as soon as February 1st. The Diablo Athletic League is working to create a new calendar for each sport and possible competitions, with a reduced number of weeks in the season and reduced number of competitions anticipated. The Board approved to accept the modifications.
Items of particular note for the February 4th Board meeting include: An update from Dr. Matyas, Solano County Health Official/Deputy Director on COVID-19 and Related Data; discussion items on the Governor’s January Budget Proposal for 2021-22; an Equity Update and Consideration of In-Person Small Group Instruction.
Public Comment: We will be implementing an improved for public comment using a voicemail system where you leave a message that will then be played during the public comment section of the board meeting.
Transitional Kindergarten, Kindergarten and New Student Enrollment: Benicia Unified is announcing that TK, Kindergarten and New Student enrollment opens on February 1st! Students who turn 5 by September 1st can enroll in Kindergarten and those who turn 5 between September 2 and December 2 can enroll in Transitional Kindergarten. These dates are firm and exceptions are not considered. Information can be found here or by emailing or calling your local school site to follow proper enrollment procedures set by the schools. Don’t wait! Make sure you are ready for the start of school in August!
Weekly Update from Solano County Health Dr. Matyas: During the weekly update meeting today, Dr. Matyas reported that positivity rates are trending downward and Solano County is now in the Purple Tier. He went on to say that if the trend continues, Solano County could be in the Red Tier toward the end of February or early March. This is positive news, and also a reminder that we all need to continue being disciplined with the safety measures: maintain six feet, wear a mask and wash your hands.
Dr. Matyas also discussed the vaccination rollout process and the challenges around dosage availability in relation to the need in our county. He cautiously stated that vaccines might start to be made available to educators in approximately two weeks, acknowledging this could change as well. I know we are all looking forward to being back in school and the vaccine obviously plays a key role in this process.
The following links provide further Covid-19 related information.
- COVID Resources for Community Members/Employees
- Solano Vaccine Town Hall Meeting Recording
- Solano County Vaccination Plan Status– updates on who is currently eligible for the vaccine, and distribution quick stats (at the bottom of the page.)
During the January 14 Board meeting, I reported on the Governor’s recent proposal called the California Safe Schools for All Plan. This plan includes an application process with aggressive timelines, various additional safety metrics, testing and tracking guidelines designed to encourage school districts to move toward in-person instruction.
In a recent article in the “San Francisco Chronicle,” it was noted that While reopening schools remains a priority for Newsom, as well as national and state health officials, the plan is tied up in the Legislature, where elected officials have questioned whether it’s fair or logistically feasible to implement the stringent testing requirements of staff and students required in the proposal.
I will continue to provide updates as more information is made available.
I wish everyone a safe and restful weekend.
On we go!
Dear Staff and Community:
Virtual Learning Extended: Last night the Board Trustees voted to remain in Virtual Learning through March 19, 2021, with the desire to return to In-Person Learning on March 22, 2021 which is the first day of the 4th quarter, state rules permitting.
The reason behind the decision centered on concern over the continued high rates of infection in our county and the hope of the vaccine being made available soon for all educators, thus lowering the chance of spreading the disease and ensuring a safer return to school for staff and students.
We will continue to do our very best to engage and support your students in the virtual learning model, knowing we are looking forward to a safe return to in-person learning in March.
New Board Roles: The Board Trustees and I want to thank Diane Ferrucci for her time as Board President. She provided strong, thoughtful and experienced leadership in that role for the past few years. As is customary, the Board President role changes as does the role of Clerk, providing an opportunity for other trustees to serve in those roles.
Our new Board President is Sheri Zada. Ms. Zada facilitated her first meeting last night and did an excellent job. She too will provide thoughtful and reflective leadership in the role. An additional change includes Dr. Gethsemane Moss who is our new Clerk. Dr. Moss has a great deal of experience in the field of education and will serve with distinction in the role. Thank you to all of our Trustees!
Martin Luther King and our Work Around Equity and Opportunity: Today being Martin Luther King, Jr’s., birthday presents an important opportunity for us, as a school district, to reflect on the work we are engaged in around equity and opportunity for all of our students. During last night’s board meeting, we discussed the work the District has been engaged in for the past several years and what we are planning going forward.
We have identified five broad areas of focus and are fleshing out actions and related metrics to bring that work to fruition. Here is the Board presentation from last night regarding our work to date with equity and opportunity. Once the goals, actions and metrics are completed, we will post them on the website for your access. We will be providing regular updates at board meetings regarding our progress.
The important and exciting work around equity and opportunity for all students must center on a rejection of all forms of prejudice, including racism, as it alienates, disparages and creates barriers in our efforts to help each student reach his or her potential. This work is urgent and a priority and we are working to lay a solid foundation so our efforts will take root, endure and continue to make a positive difference in the lives of our students for many years to come.
I have included a link to Dr. King’s speech here from the History Channel. The site also includes other resources on Dr. King’s work. I sincerely hope you can take some time to listen to his speech, or read the text, listening for themes of hope as reflected in his clarion call for all Americans to join together so each one of us can experience his/her inalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. https://www.history.com/topics/civil-rights-movement/i-have-a-dream-speech.
Please have a safe and restful holiday weekend.
On we go!
Charles F. Young, Ed.D.
Dear Benicia Community.
I sincerely hope the transition back to virtual learning after the winter break went well for all of our families. I know it can be challenging transitioning back to school after a break and hopefully, you were able to hit a stride by week’s end.
This was a particularly challenging week for BUSD with the terribly unfortunate loss of life of one of our students. I want to thank members of our Crisis Intervention team under the Direction of Jessica Garcia, our Coordinator of Student Services, for working with sites to make sure we had systems of support in place. I am so proud of our staff who are striving to help keep our students safe and supported.
In addition, there were very alarming events in D.C. Wednesday which undoubtedly can cause additional anxiety for everyone. Our support of one another, now more than ever, is essential to our overall well-being and goes a long way in helping us navigate the uncharted waters our nation is facing.
Regarding Covid-19, as you know, the positivity rates remain very high state-wide, including our county. The ICU availability rate for our region, the Bay Area, is currently only 3% and we are still under the stay at home order. These high rates continue to impact when and if we return to in-person learning anytime in the future. As per our County Health Director, Dr. Matyas, we still have not experienced the full impact of the holidays on cases.
An additional factor related to in-person learning is Governor Newsom’s recent proposal (Safe Schools for all Plan), which has a number of new elements we are still unpacking. I have attached a summary of the plan below and will be sharing and discussing this summary during next Thursday’s board meeting. The Governor’s new plan must still be passed by the legislature. During next Thursday’s board meeting, the Trustees will also be discussing the timeline for implementation of the previously approved hybrid learning plan.
Dr. Matyas also shared today that if the Covid-19 vaccination distribution progress continues to go as planned, the vaccine could be available to education staff by the end of January or the beginning of February. (Phase 1b, Tier 1) He also said that hospitals agreed to administer the vaccine which would be a faster process than having to set-up clinics for vaccine distribution. We are looking for more details on all of this in the upcoming days and weeks and I will update you regularly as the information is shared and explained.
I hope you are able to have a safe and restful weekend.
On we go!
Charles F. Young, Ed.D.
Dear BUSD Community,
I hope this communication finds everyone safe and well.
As you know, the Governor implemented a new Covid-19 monitoring system on Friday, August 28, 2020. There are four tiers to the system: Tier 1 is purple-wide spread; Tier 2 is red-substantial; Tier 3 is orange-moderate, and Tier 4 is yellow-minimal.
As of today, September 22, 2020, Solano County has moved to Tier 2, red-substantial. If our county remains in the Tier 2 status for 14 consecutive days, school districts will be permitted to hold in-person instruction. The maintenance of Tier 2 status would allow for schools to implement an approved hybrid model as districts phase into in-person instruction. For more information on Solano County Covid-19 data, see https://covid19.ca.gov/safer-economy/
While we view this as positive news, it is important to note that transitioning to any in-person instruction, including the hybrid models presented before the start of the school year, takes a good deal of planning and preparation. Our administrators, teachers, staff, and Board have been working together to monitor the changing landscape and consider the District’s options. Our planning includes aspects that must be bargained with the teachers union (BTA) and the classified staff union (CSEA).
It is important to note that transitioning to in-person instruction is not like flipping an on-off switch; rather, it is more like bringing a sizable power-grid back on-line, which has to be done thoughtfully, carefully and judicially to ensure the safety and well-being of everyone involved.
We are currently working on next steps and will discuss them in detail at the October 15th Board meeting. For now, we will remain in our virtual learning model until the Board approves any changes.
We appreciate your patience as we work through this process with the health and safety of everyone involved as our primary goal.
Charles F. Young, Ed. D
Dear Benicia Unified Families,
We hope this communication finds you well and enjoying the last few weeks of summer vacation. Just a reminder that school begins on August 17, 2020, this year.
We wanted to take this opportunity to recap the July 23, 2020 Board meeting presentation where we outlined key points regarding the start of school this year. Governor Newsom outlined several points in his guide and mandate on July 17, 2020, for the safe reopening of schools. Two of these points are relevant to BUSD in opening virtually this fall. These were:
Safe in-person school based on local health data
- Schools located in counties that are on the Monitoring List must not physically open for in-person instruction until their county has come off the Monitoring List for 14 consecutive days.
- Solano is on the monitoring list.
Rigorous distance learning
- Devices and connectivity will be provided as needed so that every child can participate in distance learning
- Daily live interaction will occur for every child with teachers and other students
- Class assignments that are challenging and equivalent to in-person instruction
- Targeted supports and interventions for English learners and special education students
- In BUSD we will offer targeted supports for students who are struggling and meet identified criteria
Bulleted below are just some of the differences families can expect to see when school resumes virtually this fall.
BUSD is committed to supporting all students experiencing success during their Virtual Schooling. This commitment includes:
- Robust virtual learning through rigorous and expanded curricula and essential standards including student mental health and connectedness. Every effort has been made to ensure that high-quality core and supplementary materials are available for teachers to use both in the classroom and virtually. All of the BUSD adopted materials will be utilized; however, several additional instructional materials were added to ensure that students could access the tools and resources they needed from home.
- Synchronous and asynchronous live interaction and learning daily, including attendance and accountability. Students will have live interactions with their teachers and peers daily. This means there will be assigned times at the elementary and class periods at the middle and high schools where students must attend synchronous learning activities with their teachers and peers Monday-Thursday. Fridays will be asynchronous learning days for students; however, teachers will schedule check-in and support times for students. Synchronous instruction means that Learning happens live with the teacher through video or audio instruction. In addition to the synchronous interactions, students will have work to complete during asynchronous times. Families will need to expect that students will be virtually attending school and working on work between the traditional school hours each day. Students are expected to attend all mandatory classes and check-ins as required by their teachers and in alignment with Senate Bill 98. Attendance is required and will be documented daily. If a student does not participate in full virtual learning, they will be marked absent.
- Ensuring all students have devices, internet access, and a common virtual platform. BUSD has ordered Chromebooks (like all Districts we are hopeful they arrive in time), and will be providing all students with devices and supporting families to ensure they have access so they are fully able to engage in their learning opportunities. For grades TK-8, please click on the following link if you need to request a Chromebook. We will send further details regarding the distribution process in a separate communication. All students and teachers will use Google Classroom as the platform for their learning and instruction. The Instructional Technology Department has set up a live chat to support families in real-time to solve technology issues. This live chat will be available Monday – Friday 7:30am – 4:00pm, starting the first day of school, and can be found on the technology page in the bottom right hand corner.
- Ongoing assessments and progress monitoring to support learning. BUSD will be using an assessment system called NWEA MAP for all students in grades K-12 in English and Math. This assessment platform allows for ongoing benchmark and monitoring of student progress in identified skill areas as well as the broad content areas. Data from this assessment will be used to identify the direction for instructional practices for the classroom as well as students in need of additional intervention support. NWEA Map is a high-quality tool that is aligned with the statewide assessments and has been proven to be predictive of how students will fare on those assessments. This is important because teachers will be able to identify areas of concern and address those areas specifically early on.
- Intervention and supports: BUSD will be providing support intervention services and Special Education services in a myriad of ways to students. Students who require these support to be successful and continue to grow on their learning journey will receive extra support virtually in small groups more frequently than their regularly scheduled synchronous learning times. BUSD staff will work with families to create a consistent schedule for these support sessions. Students who receive extra intervention support will be assessed using a progress monitoring protocol to ensure that they continue to grow as learners and strengthen their skills in the identified areas.
- Expanded communication with families. All parents can request to be added to their child’s Google Classroom as a “guardian.” This means that parents will receive notification regarding assignments for their child’s class. In addition, school sites and the District Office will communicate via newsletter and updates as much as practicable. The District will host opportunities for families to provide input and feedback on a variety of topics throughout this year.
- Professional Learning focused on creating virtual learning environments. All staff have access to high-quality professional learning in areas of focus throughout the summer and the school year. In coordination and cooperation with the Benicia Teachers Association, BUSD created a Virtual Learning Platform with a variety of topics including creating robust online learning classrooms, equity and culturally responsive practices, curriculum and instruction, data and technology, special education, and social-emotional learning. In addition, the Virtual Learning Platform includes all mandatory yearly training for staff.
What to expect on August 17, 2020
- Students will be enrolled at their normal school and assigned to the school’s typical bell schedule
- Daily instruction will be both synchronous and asynchronous
- Supports for students, including student well-being, will be available in addition to instructional time
- Students will have an individual learning device (the devices are currently on order), and necessary curriculum to fully participate in their classes
- Households that need connectivity will receive support
- Attendance will be taken each day and for each class
- Standards-Based Report cards at the elementary level and grades at the secondary level for all students
Several SAMPLE schedules were presented (see slides 30-31) at the board meeting. These SAMPLE schedules are to give families an idea of what a typical day will look like during Virtual Learning. At all levels and in all classrooms, teachers along with their site administrators will set a consistent daily schedule. At the elementary level, students may be assigned a “cohort” group and have several times to attend synchronous learning throughout the day. Some classes and subjects or lessons may be more effective taught in a small group setting. Each family will receive communication about their child’s schedule soon.
Registration opened on Monday, August 3, 2020, please check your email for registration information and click on this link for assistance. Registration will close on August 16th, please be sure to complete it as soon as possible. More communication will be forthcoming from your sites with specifics about what to expect for the beginning of the school year.
As always, we thank you for your support and flexibility as we adapt to the frequently changing requirements and landscape of education in the era of COVID-19.
Leslie Beatson, Ed.D.
Assistant Superintendent, Education Services