‘Supper with the Superintendent’ Reveals Plans for Reopening

On Wednesday, September 30th, Superintendent Dr. Ron Williams discussed the district’s 5 phase plan for reopening along with other important information

Superintendent Dr. Ron Williams explained the VVUHSD’s plans for reopening on September 30th, at 6 pm. The ‘Supper’ was held via zoom.

Under other circumstances, food would be provided to the attendees of the Supper with the Superintendent. Superintendent Dr. Ron Williams lamented this fact, but continued, “We hope that all of you are having a nice dinner… It’s like we’re being together while apart.”

With this statement, he started off the zoom meeting at 6:02 pm and dove into business. The first thing on the agenda was addressing the requirements needed to continue on to the next phase. 

This slide shows the status of San Bernardino County’s new cases per 100,000 and testing positivity rate as of September 30th. Before the district can move on to Phase 2, both measures must be out of the purple Widespread Tier 1. (Leslie Tello)

The slide behind Dr. Williams read, “As of Wednesday, September 30, San Bernardino County’s ‘new cases’ rate is approximately 9.16 % and the ‘Testing % Positivity’ rates is approximately 5.9 %.” 

This means that the county is currently in the Widespread Tier 1 for new cases, while it is in the Substantial Tier 2 for the testing positivity percentage. In order for the district to move forward, both measures must be out of the first tier.

“As the positivity rate as well as the case per 100,000 begins to decrease, we are starting to look at some face-to-face contact for our students,” stated Dr. Williams.

The plan to reopen school consists of five phases. The district is now in Phase 1, which includes complete distance learning for students, while teachers have the option to work from home. 

Once the county’s levels allow it, the district will be moving into Phase 2. This would involve students attending their campus one day per week. There would be four groups of students (A, B, C, and D) that would each attend a different day of the week, excluding Wednesday to allow for a rigorous cleaning. 

The district’s 5 phase plan, starting with Distance Learning and ending at things going back to normal, is shown here. (Leslie Tello)

Phase 3 limits the amount of cohorts from four to two (A and B) and would allow students to attend two days per week, with A attending Monday and Tuesday, and B attending Thursday and Friday. 

By Phase 4, schools reopen at full capacity with precautions, and Phase 5 removes the restrictions.

Senior Alexandra Armijo stated that she is worried about the phases. “[I am] concerned because I have no idea how it will actually work splitting up grades.”

Freshman Amaris Esparza is happy with the district’s plan. She states, “I think the phases are planned out well. I’m excited because I am DONE with distance learning.”

Esparza elaborates, “I really don’t like distance learning… The hard part is that it’s much harder to learn talking through a screen; you’d think it be easier but it’s not. Being able to talk to someone in person and human contact is something I think everyone took for granted.”

Being able to talk to someone in person and human contact is something I think everyone took for granted.”

— Amaris Esparza

Armijo stated that waking up and going straight to class was an upside to online school; she also stated that “not actually learning a thing” was a downside.

Junior Abigail Rivera-Pantaleon stated that although distance learning allows her to wake up later, get food from the kitchen, and spend more time with her baby brother, she sometimes has internet issues and doesn’t get to see her friend anymore. She is “a little bit excited” about the phases.

Sophomore Brianna Mendoza stated, “I am actually a bit concerned because I do NOT want to go back to school 100%. I do not want to wear uniforms, wake up early again, stay in school for nearly 7 hours, or have to do all the extra work that the teachers would normally assign us. Our school does an awful lot and this online distance learning is a great break from all of that. I don’t mind attending school a few days of the week, but I do not want to return to daily classroom instruction.”

Although students rely on many different websites for distance learning, such as Google Classroom and CANVAS, the following phases call for a transition to ACELLUS.

Only Mendoza has used ACELLUS before. “My chemistry class used to use Acellus daily. It’s okay. The videos are boring but tolerable. I don’t know how other Acellus classes are like, but it should hopefully be manageable.”

Rivera-Pantaleon stated, “I do not know what ACELLUS is. It makes me feel a little bit nervous because I have never used that app/site before.”

For students who wish to continue Distance Learning during the next phases, they may do so and continue in full-time classes with ACELLUS. They can return to in-person instruction at any time.

A new alternative has also popped up by the way of a new school: Victor Valley Virtual Academy. Assistant Superintendent Dr. Fal Asrani stated that they were very proud of it, and that “it’s really meant for children and families that are looking for different needs…” It also uses ACELLUS and students cannot transfer to a different site until the end of a semester.

Dr. Asrani also stated, “Our opening of schools was based on input and collaboration…” Multiple surveys were conducted across many months; students, parents, community members, board members, and management were all consulted. Additionally, the state and county regulations were also taken into consideration.

Dr. Rubalcaba explained that although 44% of those asked in a survey in June wanted a full return, data and public health concerns did not allow for that to happen. (Leslie Tello)

Assistant Superintendent Dr. Ramiro Rubalcaba went over the expectations of the different phases. “Safety is a high priority for our district,” he stated.

Some of the expectations include educating individuals about illness prevention practices, social distancing, wearing masks, washing hands, taking temperatures, and referring students with obvious signs of illness to the Health Office. Dr. Rubalcaba advised that, “If you are not feeling well, please stay at home and reschedule your visit [to one of the schools].”

He also mentioned that they are considering increasing their mental health facilities by hiring more staff. 

Regarding this news, Esparza stated, “I think that is a very good idea because mental health is extremely important and you aren’t able to do many things without a healthy mind.”

Mendoza stated, “Mental health is incredibly important. People deal with so much going on in their lives, and we’re STILL expected to handle all of the school work we receive. I understand that this school is hard and all, but sometimes it can be a bit overwhelming when there are multiple factors affecting our mental state.”

Although Rivera-Pantaleon “[does not] really put a lot of importance on [her] mental health,” she stated, “I think the action is justified because lots of people are social butterflies and this quarantine might have affected them a lot.”

Dr. Asrani advised that parents monitor their children as instruction is always being given in the morning, from 7:00 am to 12:07 pm. “Please make sure the children are logging on…” she stated.

Public Engagement Information Manager Kris Reilly discussed the 4 tiered plan created to help students during distance learning.

Rivera-Pantaleon stated that she would consider attending. “…it sounds like it could be helpful. I think it is a good move on the district’s part.”

The “VVUHSD LEARNING LOSS MITIGATION PLAN 2020-2021” shown here will help students supplement their learning with the help of teachers. Tier 3, which includes district level subject specific training, will begin on October 5th. (Leslie Tello)

Assistant Superintendent Dr. Antoine Hawkins reminded everyone that lunch is still being served to all children, ages 1 to 18, from Monday through Thursday, 12 pm to 2 pm. He also went over all the technology aspects of distance learning and the cleaning protocols that will take place. He stated, “We engage all of our staff to ensure… that [the sites are] cleaned safely and efficiently on a daily basis.”

During the questions portion, which was done through email due to “zoom-bombing” concerns, Dr. Asrani reminded parents that students only have until December 18th to remediate “I” grades. “I” stands for “incomplete” and was given in place of D’s and F’s due to the pandemic. APEX remediation is also available after school.

I’m sure the students would like to be back and that parents would love to have them back in the classroom… we’re doing everything we can to move the cases south so we can bring back students at the capacity we can- whether it’s 25% or 50%…”

— Dr. Williams

Towards the end of the Supper, Dr. Williams stated, “We’re proud of all of our schools in the district.”

He said, “I’m sure the students would like to be back and that parents would love to have them back in the classroom… we’re doing everything we can to move the cases south so we can bring back students at the capacity we can- whether it’s 25% or 50%…”

When asked if she wanted to return to school, Esparza stated, “Yes. I miss people the most, seeing them, talking to them, sitting next to them and having fun with them.”

She continued, “I really miss being able to interact with people in person and talking to my friends and doing sports; I even miss being in class for some reason.”

Armijo responded, “Yes, for the experiences.”

UP Principal Valerie Hatcher stated, “We talk about [how much we miss your students] everyday.” To the parents, she continued, saying, “I want to thank you first and foremost for all of your hard work. Wearing the parent and teacher hat at the same time is not easy.” (Leslie Tello)
Dr. Williams acknowledged that many seniors and their families had concerns regarding senior events, especially since last year’s seniors had their events canceled or modified. He advised attendees to contact Mrs. Hatcher for more information.

“Information is constantly changing… We will be getting back in contact with you in the very near future,” stated Dr. Williams. The last Supper with the Superintendent will be on October 6th, at 6 pm.