Dear GUSD Staff and Families:
We are deep into the first semester of the 2020-21 school year and there are so many great things happening in virtual classrooms throughout the District. I want to thank each of you for continuing to work so hard to provide support for your student during distance learning. At last night’s board meeting, I provided our board of trustees and our school communities with a report about the latest information regarding our District’s plans for return to in-person learning.
Santa Clara County is now in the Orange Tier of the State’s monitoring system. When a County is in this tier or the red tier, schools may reopen.
However, that is only half of the equation. School districts must be able to demonstrate that they meet the requirements in the report released by the Santa Clara County Office of Education and the Public Health Department. The revised report was released on September 21, 2020 and can be seen on our website.
In response to the revised recommendations by SCCOE and the PHD, I recently reconvened the District’s Reopening Planning Committee.
This committee, which is comprised of more than 30 staff members from all three bargaining units, district leadership, union leadership, teachers, staff members and parents, have met several times since the beginning of the 2020-21 school year. The committee will continue to meet regularly until we are ready to make a recommendation to the Board regarding if our schools should reopen this school year and if so, when and at what levels. While the committee will provide our best recommendations, it is important to understand that ultimately the final decision will be made by the GUSD Board of Education.
In January, I will provide an update to the Board. Until then and until a decision is made at the board level, our schools will continue in distance learning just as districts in our County are doing with a few exceptions, and most public school districts in California are doing as well. You can watch the entirety of my update to the Board of Education here.
It is my hope that this announcement is helpful as you continue planning your work schedules and other commitments in conjunction with supporting your children as they continue with distance learning. These considerations will always be made to ensure the health and safety of every member of our school communities, even though so many of us want to return to normal, including in-person learning. I am so proud of the collective effort by everyone to make the best of this situation.
I want to thank those staff members, students and parents/ guardians who took the time to fill out our district’s Return to In-Person Learning survey. Collectively, we had over 15,000 responses to our survey questions, and that data is invaluable. Detailed results from the survey will be shared in the near future.
New computers for students
At last night’s board meeting (October 15, 2020), the Board of Trustees voted to approve the expenditure of over $3 million of one-time funding from the Coronavirus Relief Fund to purchase more than 6,000 new laptop computers for our students. These new devices will replace the current Chromebooks that more than 5,300 of our students are using to access the GUSD Distance Learning or Virtual Learning Academy program. The new devices were selected for their ability to withstand the demands of distance learning and include faster speed, more internal storage and an enhanced touch screen. Once we receive the devices, we will begin the process of exchanging students’ current devices with the new ones. If your family is using a district-issued Chromebook, please watch for more details about the process to receive the new devices.
South Valley Middle School renovation is underway
The GUSD Board of Trustees recently approved the preliminary design of the new South Valley Middle School campus. The next step in the renovation project is approval by the Division of the State Architect of the actual designs for the new campus. We anticipate construction beginning in the fall of 2021 and completion in 2024. Many thanks to the Gilroy residents who voted for Measure E. These bond funds ensured that $90 million for South Valley Middle School and $70 million for Brownell Middle School renovation projects will provide state-of-the-art educational facilities for our middle school students.
Free meals for Gilroy children and Titans School Solutions applications
I want to remind you that seven of our school sites: Eliot Elementary, Glen View Elementary, Luigi Aprea Elementary, Rod Kelley Elementary, Rucker Elementary, Solorsano Middle and South Valley Middle Schools continue to serve free meals to all Gilroy children, ages 0-18, five days a week. Families who visit one of these campuses to pick up food will be asked to complete a Titans School Solution application to determine eligibility to receive free and reduced meals. I encourage each of our families to complete this application because families who qualify also can receive possible discounts on utility bills and AP testing fees. Additionally, our schools receive much needed funding of almost $12 million, to support students and teachers in the classroom. Paper applications are available at school sites and applications can be completed online as well.
Week of the School Administrator
At last night’s board meeting, we also celebrated the Week of the School Administrator. The Board of Trustees read a resolution commending the hard work of our leadership team. Please join me and our board members in thanking our school and district office leaders for all they have done, and continue to do for our families, staff and students.
In closing, I wanted to share with you the latest virtual performance by the Gilroy High School Chamber Choir, Kuimba Nafsi Yangu: A Virtual Performance amidst the 2020 COVID19 Pandemic, directed by Jonathan Souza and accompanied by Irina Smolyakova on the piano. To me, this performance embodies the hope and optimism for the future.
Mr. Souza shares: We believe that as artists we have a voice. We believe music can change the hearts and minds of those around us. We choose to lift up those around us and celebrate our differences. This is a truly hard time to be a performing artist, chorister and music professional. This celebratory piece embodies the spirit of music, performance, and community.
Kuimba Nafsi Yangu by Jacob Narverud, translation inspired by the Swahili text:
Sing my soul,
sing my heart.
Sing for peace,
sing for joy.
There is so much love here, yes!
This performance was a part of the students' educational curriculum at Gilroy High School. Audio and video editing by Jonathan Souza and mastering by Aaron Souza. Well done Mustangs!
This weekend, I’ll be completing my ballot and returning it to be counted for the November 3 election. I hope that if you are able to, you’ll vote as well.
I continue to send you all my encouragement and gratitude. We are so lucky to have each other. I hope you can find a reason to laugh and smile every day.
Take care of each other,
Dr. Deborah A. Flores, Ph.D.
Gilroy Unified School District
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