Dear GUSD families and staff members:
I feel a collective exhale coming as the long-anticipated and much-needed Thanksgiving break is upon us. This school year has been more challenging than most of us has ever experienced. Although the celebrations associated with this holiday will look much different this year, I am hopeful that you will still be able to celebrate, have some time to rest and relax, and find new ways to connect with families and friends from afar and find new ways to safely celebrate this season of gratitude.
Santa Clara County Moves Back to Purple Tier: What Does This Mean for our Schools?
On Monday, November 16, Governor Newsom announced that Santa Clara County & 40 other counties representing 94% of the residents in the State of California are now in the Purple Tier. This decision at the State level was due to the significant increase of COVID19 cases, increased positivity rates, and increased hospitalizations statewide. I have attended three meetings since Monday about the change in the County’s status and impact that the Purple Tier has on schools. The bottom line is that those schools in Santa Clara County that were open at the time of the change may stay open. Only a few public school districts were open at the time of this tier change. Schools that were not open when the County went into the Purple Tier, cannot reopen until the County is in the Red Tier for at least 14 days. There is a rigorous waiver process available for targeted assistance and elementary students which will be discussed by the GUSD Planning Committee.
Based on the numbers in our County, it is likely Santa Clara County will stay in the Purple Tier for some time especially with the winter months and holiday season approaching and much more time spent indoors. In the last week, Santa Clara County has experienced the highest daily counts of COVID19 since the pandemic began. Gilroy continues to have the highest rate per 100,000 residents in the county. The Public Health Department continues to reiterate that the best defense we have against the COVID19 virus is vigilant mask wearing, consistent handwashing, and maintaining social distance from people who don’t reside in your home. They are also encouraging residents in Santa Clara County to celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday only with the people in your home.
In short, what this means for GUSD is that the Reopening Planning Committee will continue to deliberate and plan. Staff are taking specific steps to meet the Public Health Department requirements for reopening: ordering needed supplies; preparing classrooms for six-feet of distancing around teacher and student desks; developing protocols for dealing with COVID19 cases on campus; developing procedures for contact tracing; investigating how to implement COVID19 testing for district employees; assessing our ventilation systems at each district location, and much more. An update will be provided to the Board and school community at a January Board meeting. Rest assured that the planning for a return to in-person learning has been ongoing and will continue.
Support Schools and Classrooms by Completing a Free and Reduced Meal Application
The District is also managing uncertainty in our operating budget. One of the most pressing fiscal challenges facing the District is the district not getting back Free and Reduced Lunch applications from our families. In past years, 58% of our families have submitted and qualified for free and reduced meals. Currently, less than 43% of our families have submitted and qualified for free and reduced meals. If the District does not meet a 55% threshold by the end of December, the District’s funding will be reduced by approximately $2.6 million dollars along with a significant impact for at least two more years. The reduction in funding will directly impact our schools and classrooms. Parents/guardians can help ensure that we do not lose the funding by completing an application for free or reduced meals, even if you are not sure if your family qualifies. Applying online takes five minutes, and the only information you need are the ID numbers of the students in your home and an estimate of your income. Please support the efforts of our teachers and school leaders by completing an application as soon as you are able: https://family.titank12.com/. After the Thanksgiving break, district staff will begin calling parents to offer assistance in completing the applications over the phone.
2020-2021 Budget and Reserve
The District continues to experience fiscal uncertainty caused by the pandemic/recession. Additionally, a significant contributing factor to our uncertainty is the continued decline in student enrollment – 270 fewer students this school year, which equals a loss of $2.7 million. Although it appears that the district has a healthy reserve, much of these one-time funds are already designated for specific purposes such as: textbooks, maintenance work, feeding families, Person Protective Equipment (PPE) for staff and students when they return, cleaning and disinfecting supplies, and ventilation improvements. The district cannot depend on these one-time funds to cover ongoing expenses.
As we prepare to celebrate Thanksgiving in ways that may be different for many of us, I am thankful to live and work in this caring community. Despite the disruption and uncertainty caused by the pandemic, we continue to support and encourage each other, and most importantly, the students in our school communities. On behalf of the District administration and the Board of Education, I wish you a very happy Thanksgiving, and restful break. We all look forward to seeing our students back in virtual classrooms when we return. Be safe and well.
Take care of each other,
Deborah A. Flores, Ph.D.
Gilroy Unified School District
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