Dear GUSD Parents and Staff,
I hope you had a wonderful winter holiday season and Happy New Year! I am optimistic about the year ahead.
I want to acknowledge our staff for the great job they are doing in distance learning and the virtual environment. I have been visiting schools sites (virtually) throughout the pandemic and I am so impressed with the quality of instruction and the high level of technology skills demonstrated by our teachers and paraprofessionals. I also know that families have played a critical role in the success of the program by supporting children in distance learning. Thank you for your continued commitment and contributions to your child’s education. Our support staff are also doing all they can to support our students and families.
As you probably know, the Stay-at-Home Order has been extended indefinitely, and Santa Clara County is still in the Purple Tier due to the high number of COVID-19 cases and the lack of ICU beds in the hospitals. There have been 5,858 COVID-19 cases in Gilroy and we have the highest case rate - 10,550 per 100,000 - in the County (which is almost double the rate in San Jose). On a daily basis for the past 4-5 weeks, staff have been reporting to our Human Resources Department that they have tested positive for COVID-19 or someone in their home has tested positive including some children. These are challenging times for our district, city, county, state and nation. Fortunately, there is hope on the horizon in the form of a vaccine, which hopefully, will be available to educators by the spring and most Californians by the summer.
You may have heard the Governor talk about his Safe Schools for All proposal last week which would provide incentives to districts to reopen elementary schools. The cost of this proposal is $2 billion and will need to be approved by two-thirds of the legislature to be enacted. Districts with COVID-19 case rates that exceed 25 per 100,000 are not eligible to receive these funds. Gilroy’s case rate is far above this and as a result, we are not eligible to receive this funding if it is approved by the legislature.
Although it appears it will be some time before the district can reopen, the Reopening Planning Committee continues to meet monthly and discuss a number of topics related to reopening. Staff is also working diligently on issues that must be addressed or in place before schools can reopen. For instance, the district has contracted with an expert team to assess all 1,200 of the HVAC units in the district to ensure that they are providing the best air quality possible in our classrooms and in all district buildings. This process began in December and at this point, three schools have been completed. I will be providing the school board with an update about the reopening planning process at the January 28, 2021 Board meeting. I invite you to join us virtually for the meeting at 7:00 pm. The meeting will livestream on the District’s Facebook page, and you don’t need a Facebook account to watch the meeting: .
Here are some district-wide updates for you:
- There is no school for students on Monday, January 18 in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.
- There is also no meal service at GUSD school sites on Monday, January 18 and Friday, January 22.
- There is no school for most students on Friday, January 22 because it is a staff development day. GECA classes are in session.
- Given the extended shelter-in-place order and the high COVID-19 case counts in Gilroy, all upcoming material and textbook distributions will be contactless. Your school’s principal will communicate specifics with you as details are finalized. As always, when you visit our school sites, please wear a mask and respect social distancing in order to ensure the safety of our staff, students and families.
Finally, as I reflect on the events that took place in our Nation’s capital over the last two weeks, I can’t help but wonder how our students might be feeling. The images of the unrest in our nation’s capital are unsettling and may be frightening for some, regardless of where they may lie on the political spectrum. I want our students to know that our schools are a safe space and a place for support and they should feel comfortable asking questions and expressing their thoughts, concerns or fears.
Below are some resources that may be helpful as we continue to have conversations in the future. As history continues to unfold and is coupled with the uncertainty we’ve been experiencing for the last year, I urge you to take appropriate breaks from media and television and to prioritize your mental health and that of your children.
- GUSD Resources for Parents with School-Age Children
- Helping Children Cope
- Having Difficult Conversations with your Child
- Supporting Your Child's Mental Health
I believe this is a moment for our students, and all of us, to reflect on and learn from what we are experiencing as a nation. The COVID-19 pandemic has tested the way we cope with adversity - a fundamental skill that we try to instill in our students. It also reinforces how important the work we are doing at our schools is, to teach empathy, compassion, social-emotional competencies, and to learn how to cope with the challenges we are facing.
So while wrestling with the tumultuous times in our current experience, I take comfort in collective work of the teachers, staff members and leaders in GUSD. The community we have built together and the values we hold in high regard as a District - community, equity and joy - reflect the best of who we are as a country.
Take care of each other,
Dr. Deborah A Flores, Ph.D.
Gilroy Unified School District