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November 13, 2020 Friday Letter Volume 2, No. 24
Posted 11/13/20

Friday Letter

 



NOVEMBER 13, 2020 FRIDAY LETTER VOLUME 2, NO. 24


MDUSD's Friday Letter—updates and stories prepared weekly for the school district community.



What You Care About, We Care About -
Our Reopening Plan Considerations

     We have heard what our families and staff care for most about reopening: 

  • Safety. Every MDUSD physical environment will require social distancing, mask-wearing, sanitization supplies, and screening precautions. Staff who are working at site locations now are already meeting these requirements to a manageable success. We will continue to operate according to the safety guidance of public health authorities.
  • Consistency. Teachers want to stay with their students. Students want to stay with their teachers. Maintaining consistency will be a top priority in our schedule development, but cannot necessarily be guaranteed. 
  • Options. No families will be forced to send their children to a physical classroom—100% distance learning will continue to be an option, even as we phase in a hybrid model. Options for staff will revolve around current expanded leave rights, a standard interactive process, and union agreements. 

     Some quick notes for this week—the, "Non-Binding Survey," sent out to families two weeks ago confirmed a trend most districts have been seeing: around half of families are interested in having their children enter a hybrid learning model. The, "Binding Survey," that was intended to be sent on November 16 will now be delayed, as district leadership gives more time for plan specifics to develop. The, "Sample Schedules," that were provided last week earned us valuable feedback from staff and families and will help us at the drawing board in the coming weeks. 

     Our planning work continues. Right now, we are working with our union partners at the negotiations table, collaborating in staff meetings, and seeking guidance from our governing board to define details as soon as possible. The ideological echoes of this summer's task forces, in their diverse representation of our community, still inform the forward steps we take. Next, the MDUSD Governing Board is hosting a Special Meeting on November 17, where Superintendent Dr. Adam Clark will provide an update with the latest progress; of course, we will be sure to communicate out any new information district-wide. 


Red-Tier Safety Requirements Return -
How this Autumn COVID-19 Spike Affects Us 

     Contra Costa recently moved from the Orange Tier to the Red Tier status, so local businesses and recreation areas face tighter restrictions. School reopening plans are not immediately affected. 

     From our public health authority, Contra Costa Health Services, on Tuesday, November 10:Tiers

     In response to evidence that COVID-19 is spreading rapidly in Contra Costa, the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) today moved the county back into the red tier of its Blueprint for a Safer Economy, restoring more safety requirements to slow the virus and save lives. The average daily number of new, confirmed COVID-19 is on the rise in Contra Costa, and across the Bay Area and the U.S. Health officials urge county residents to consider how they are protecting themselves and their families from the virus, and what they can do to make the holiday season safer.

     "The most critical way to protect against COVID-19 is to wear a face covering whenever you are near people who do not live with you, and whenever you go in a building that is not your home," said Dr. Chris Farnitano, Contra Costa Health Officer. "Face coverings help prevent people who do not know they are infected from spreading the virus to others. My mask protects you. Your mask protects me. Masks also provide some direct protection for the wearer."

     Most new COVID-19 cases in Contra Costa are spread within the home, with an infected member of a household passing the virus to people with whom they live. Face coverings in public reduce the risk of bringing COVID-19 into the home, where people usually do not mask or practice physical distancing. Data from Contra Costa show that the average daily number of newly identified COVID-19 infections has risen steadily since the county entered the orange tier of the state's plan on October 27.

     On Tuesday, the 7-day average, per-capita number of new cases (the "adjusted case rate") was 5.3 in Contra Costa, higher than permitted for counties in the orange tier for a second consecutive week. That triggered the county's shift back into the more restrictive red tier, effective today. Other data show an alarming rise in local cases. On Nov. 8, for example, there were 46 people hospitalized with COVID-19 in Contra Costa – the highest one-day total since September.

     In response to the data, Contra Costa Health Services (CCHS) issued a local health order last week that restored red-tier safety restrictions for a number of businesses and activities, though the county remained in the orange tier at the time. Those changes remain in place today, including requirements for reduced occupancy during indoor worship services and for indoor dining and movie theaters, and the closure of bars that do not serve meals with alcohol. Cardrooms are required to operate outdoors only.

     The state's action today adds these additional requirements, effective starting Friday, November 13, in Contra Costa:

  • Retail stores that operate indoors must scale back their maximum occupancy to 50%. Grocery stores can operate at full capacity.
  • Indoor shopping malls must reduce their occupancy to 50% and reduce the occupancy of food courts to 25% or 100 people, whichever is fewer.
  • Office workspaces must operate remotely.
  • Higher education institutions must keep indoor lectures and student gatherings to 25% occupancy or 100 people, whichever is fewer.
  • Gyms and fitness centers must scale back their indoor occupancies to 10%.
  • Communal indoor pools must close.
  • Indoor family entertainment centers, such as bowling alleys, must close their indoor operations. Amusement parks cannot operate.
  • Most live outdoor theatrical, musical or artistic performances are prohibited.

     The tier change does not affect the ability of schools to reopen for in-person instruction, following state and local health guidelines. Outdoor playgrounds may also remain open. Visit cchealth.org/coronavirus for local information about COVID-19. For questions about details of state or local health orders in Contra Costa County, visit our online FAQ or call 1-844-729-8410.


How Do Pandemic Tier Ratings Affect MDUSD Reopening Plans?

     The Yellow, Orange, and Red Tiers generally allow schools to reopen with certain restrictions. The Purple Tier (worst rating) does not allow schools to reopen without an approved waiver. This answer can be much more specific when we look at the official California Department of Public Health (CDPH) Guidance and the California Department of Education (CDE) Guidance; for those that want to know more, let's digest this in a question and answer format here:

     My county was once eligible for school reopening (held a Red Tier status for 14+ days), but has since become ineligible (i.e., reverted back to Purple Tier). Is my school still permitted to reopen for in-person instruction?

     No. The CDPH published that a county must be in Red Tier for 14 days for schools in that county to be eligible to reopen for in-person instruction. Schools must have actually reopened for in-person instruction while the county was in the Red Tier in order to remain open if the county moves back to Purple Tier. If the county is in purple tier on the day the school plans to reopen for in-person instruction, the school must wait until it is eligible again (i.e., county in red tier for 14+ days).

     If a school was implementing a phased re-opening (e.g., only opened grades 9-10 for in-person instruction with set plans to phase in grades 11 and 12) while the county was in the Red Tier, the school site may continue their phase re-opening when the county reverts back to the Purple Tier, if authorized by Local Health Officer. This is only applicable to individual school sites. If a district has a phased reopening of their schools, the schools in that district that did not open for in person instruction may not re-open until the county is back in the Red Tier for 2 weeks.

     What are the criteria for closing a school?

     Individual school closure is recommended based on the number of cases, the percentage of the teacher/students/staff that are positive for COVID-19, and following consultation with the Local Health Officer. Individual school closure may be appropriate when there are multiple cases in multiple cohorts at a school or when at least five percent (5%) of the total number of teachers/student/staff are cases within a 14-day period, depending on the size and physical layout of the school. The Local Health Officer may also determine school closure is warranted for other reasons, including results from public health investigation or other local epidemiological data.

     How should schools calculate the 5% benchmark for closing? 

     The benchmark will generally include the denominator of both students and staff, which should be tracked separately.  The CDPH guidance provides that each school site should designate a liaison – the school nurse, if applicable – to help coordinate monitoring and communications to local health officials, as well as the school community.  The liaison should monitor and report positive cases, and track whether the school approaches the 5% threshold during a 14-day period.

     What are the criteria for closing a school district? If a school district is closed, when may it reopen?

     A superintendent should close a school district if 25% or more of schools in a district have closed due to COVID-19 within 14 days, and in consultation with the local public health department. Districts may typically reopen after 14 days, in consultation with the local public health department.

Read More of MDUSD's Frequently Asked Questions for 2020-21
Read MDUSD's Full 2020-21 Reopening Plan in English | in Spanish
Read the Full California Department of Public Health (CDPH) Guidance
Read the Full California Department of Education (CDE) Guidance


Positively Feeding STEM Curiosity -
"Girls 4 STEM" Webinar Series Launches Soon

STEM (abbreviation) \ ˈstem  \Girls4STEM Website
Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics

 

     This free webinar series introduces high school students to women working in STEM fields. Students at this stage of their lives are making choices about high school coursework in preparation for potential college majors and STEM careers. The presenters share their education and career paths, discuss their actual job activities, and provide tips for getting college internships and jobs after college.

WEBINAR # 1 “Engineering with a Purpose”
How Adrienne Johnson built a Net Zero Energy School in S. Africa while still attending College.
Sunday, November 22, 2020 at 4:00PM
with Adrienne Johnson, B.S. Civil Engineer; M.S. Sustainable Design and Construction, 2016.

     Girls4STEM is free and open to all high school students. Webinars will be offered 1-2 times per month on Sunday afternoons for up to 500 attendees. AAUW-OML is presenting this series as part of our community outreach projects, designed to advance equity for women and girls, but is open to all students. This webinar series is made possible by a generous grant from the Bettelheim Family Foundation.
      The Girls4STEM website has webinar dates, speakers, and links to register for our first 4 webinars. You can also email any questions you have to girls4stem.aauw.oml@gmail.com.


Excitement Builds for "High School Notes"
Vocal Concert Premiering Online

Friday, November 20 at 7:00PM Pacific

     Enjoy a cappella music at the first-ever digital concert, "High School Notes," emceed and directed by Deke Sharon, producer of NBC’s “The Sing-Off” and arranger/director/producer of Universal’s three “Pitch Perfect” movies. Concord High School, College Park High School, and Northgate High School will be participating. This event will feature local high schools from across the Diablo Region and be professionally mixed and edited for at-home enjoyment. High School Notes will support local music educators and provide a healing musical outlet for students and viewers alike.

     During this unprecedented global pandemic, the arts are critical to our health and well-being. The Diablo Regional Arts Association (DRAA) is committed to continuing our support by safely connecting people in the community with the arts they love. Modeled after our sell-out College Notes A Cappella program, High School Notes is a new project aimed at outreach and engagement for local high school students, teachers, families, and communities.

     The concert will premiere on DRAA’s FacebookYouTubeWalnut Creek TV, and edTV to encourage students, parents, and relatives to support their high school group, the arts, and education. Can’t tune in for the premiere at 7:00PM Pacific on 11/20? The concert will remain online and will re-air on the TV channels – be sure to check their websites above!


For Your Review: Our District Organizational Update

     We are proud to present to you transparent, detailed operations reports on a weekly basis. You can read department updates directly from our district leaders in Superintendent Dr. Adam Clark’s weekly Organizational Update to the Board, which is continuously archived for reference. Here is this week’s Organizational Update to the Board:

Organizational Update


COVID-19 Testing and Free Flu Shots

     Contra Costa Health Services is offering free COVID-19 testing across our county. Find a location near you. Free Flu Shots are available for families at these COVID-19 testing sites: • Antioch • Bay Point • Central Concord (Monument) • North Concord • Richmond • San Ramon



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The Friday Letter is written and compiled by the district's Communications Specialist each week, and is sent to a staff and community audience totaling ~32,000. To sign up for the distribution list, send an email to superintendentsoffice@mdusd.org. To view an archive of Friday Letters and other district communications, visit the Superintendent's Office page. Do you have a story or event to share with our community? Contact breidenthala@mdusd.org with your ideas or suggestions.

Austin