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
Dear Benicia Community,
On behalf of the Board Trustees and myself, we hope this communication finds you healthy and safe during this challenging and ever changing time in our society due to Covid-19. The complexity and unpredictability of this pandemic is calling upon all of us to be flexible and responsive in our decision making in order to protect and preserve the health and safety of those we serve.
With that said the Benicia Unified School District will begin the school year in an all virtual learning model. We intend to work in the virtual learning model for the first quarter of the year. To remain responsive, we will review the status of our virtual learning model at each Board meeting throughout the first quarter.
While we intended to make this decision at our July 23rd Special Board meeting, the rate of case increase in our community, information gathered from our workforce and families, and uneven guidance being shared at the state and local level have compelled us to move up our decision making timeline. On July 23rd we will instead focus on the details of the virtual learning model and the hybrid learning model that we intend to move into when we can safely move forward.
We know for some of you, this decision might come as a relief and for others, it will cause further challenges. We all want students back in school, there is no disagreement there, but we must do so through exercising an abundance of caution. We are also reviewing the status of our childcare program to determine if we can safely expand capacity to support more of our families.
If you are not able to watch the Board meeting of July 23rd, please know the meetings are recorded and posted on our website for your convenience. We will also put together a summary of key points and make that available to you in a Superintendent update..
Thank you so much for being patient, supportive and committed to the safety and well being of everyone in our community. The Board and I wish there were easier answers to all of this but unfortunately, there are not. For now, we believe this is the most prudent course of action for the start of our school year together.
Charles F. Young, Ed.D.
Charles F. Young
Diane B. Ferrucci
Diane B. Ferrucci
Stacy Heldman-Holguin, Ed.D.
Gethsemane Moss, Ed.D.