VUSD unveils the outline for hybrid campus life


The webinar addressed 150 live questions and concerns from listeners. Many topics continued to come up, such as vaccines and the ability to switch groups. Graphic by: Greta Pankratz

In their most recent information webinar, the VUSD board presented the current plans for safety, transportation, food, and more for this spring’s switch to hybrid learning.

On March 3, 2021 at 5:30 pm, Ventura Unified School District held a meeting regarding the new target return date for secondary schools, April 1, and the process for reopening secondary schools on a hybrid system. Some of Superintendent Dr. Roger Rice’s opening words of the webinar were “We are going to open, we are going to open soon, and we are going to stay open.” With over 600 attendees and approximately 150 questions asked, a variety of topics from limited room for transportation to special education plans and food service were covered. The school board had previously made the decision to open on April 12; however that decision was redacted when SB/AB 86 was signed into law on March 5, 2021 providing major provisions to schools that plan to open earlier– including greater funding to the district and priority vaccines for educators. Due to the benefits they will receive from an earlier start date, VUSD has decided to bring some secondary students back to campus on April 1.

The plan is, following the target return date of April 1, Ventura High School will remain with hybrid, in-person learning for the remainder of the 2020-21 school year. In the 2021-22 school year, the goal is to be open fully for in-person learning (as permitted). However, the main issue for full time return is social distancing protocol. Due to Ventura High’s large student population and classrooms limited in size, flexibility for social distancing is being considered. For example, changing a 6 feet social distance requirement to 4 feet and the utilization of outdoor space for academic classes.

The school board insists that things are looking promising for the full time 2021-22 return, as COVID-19 cases continue to decrease locally, with a current case rate of 10.6 and positivity of 4.3. Vaccines for educators are also beginning to roll out. Many staff members have already received their first COVID-19 vaccine, and should be fully vaccinated come late April. Students ages 12-17, according to Rice, will likely be able to receive vaccines in the summer. When asked if students will be mandated to receive the vaccine, Eric Reynolds responded, “Generally speaking, the State of California determines required vaccines for students.” 

The day to day of students during the initial hybrid return will be different than the school day that they knew before the pandemic. VHS students will be divided into three groups: “A group” coming to school on Mondays and Tuesdays, “B group” coming on Thursdays and Fridays, and “C group” being completely remote. No groups will come to campus on Social Emotional Learning Wednesdays. Wednesdays will continue with a thirty minute SEL check in, cleaning day for the campus, and food pick up day for the distance learning group. (See schedule below)

In the secondary school hybrid model, students will be concurrent, meaning all students will be learning together, some in person, some on Zoom. Dr. Greg Bayless, Director of Curriculum and Instruction 6-12, affectionately called the groups, “Our roomies, and our zoomies.” 

During the hybrid return to on campus school, students will be receiving the same teachers with no schedule changes. The instruction will continue at the same rate that students were learning in with fully distanced learning. Students who are on Zoom will receive an additional 10 minutes with their teacher after class to ask questions, etc. The district hopes this will provide a more seamless return. 

When coming to school, hybrid students will bring their VUSD devices (chromebooks) to campus fully charged, along with the device’s charging cable. Personal devices are allowed for use at home, however personal, non-VUSD devices are discouraged to be used during on-campus days due to issues connecting to the school Wi-Fi. Every student will continue using Canvas for asynchronous work at home. The district would like to stress that just because chromebooks will be used at schools, it does not mean students will just sit on their computers all day. It is simply an efficient way to keep the submission process consistent.

The VUSD school board held a public meeting regarding the secondary hybrid opening. Labor Union representatives and the VUEA president were also in attendance, along with over 600 viewers. Photo by: Greta Pankratz

When preparing to return in person; VHS students’ classroom numbers can be found on their Student Connect (Q) schedules. If a student would like to switch groups (between A, B, or C) they must call the school to check for space/availability. 

Safety measures will be taken. According to Dr. Roger Rice, “Staff will enforce this [mask rules] and deal with it as a serious issue. If anyone refuses, [to wear a mask] they’ll be transferred to the distance learning program. That’s our plan.” The standard classroom will contain roughly 18 students. Cleaning will be a top priority with all of Wednesday dedicated to a series of specific cleaning steps. There will also be a “daily fogging” where a substance called “pure” will be used. Pure kills germs (including the COVID-19 virus)  in 30-60 seconds. It continues to kill germs for 24 hours after the initial spray. Pure is odorless, non-irritating, and non-corrosive. It is food safe and contains no alcohol, bleach, hydrogen-peroxide, or quats. Ventilation will also be required, all ventilation areas will be kept clear and all fans in heating/HVAC units will be sat from 6 am – 6 pm. Health screenings upon arrival at school will be required. Gator masks, sheer masks, and masks with ventilators will not be allowed. Masks must cover the nose and mouth, and be used at all times. A plexiglass shield will surround the teachers’ desks. Handsanitizer, paper towels, and disinfectant will be provided in every room.

Grab and Go food services of breakfast and lunch will be provided daily when on campus. Three-day meal packs will be provided for those on hybrid learning when off campus, and five day meal packs for those on fully distance learning. All VUSD Elementary School sites will be open 11:30-1pm on Wednesdays for free meals to all children 18 and under. 

Transportation will require masks at all times (while waiting and while on the bus). School personnel will not be present at the bus stops. Temperatures will be taken when the bus arrives for pick-up. Windows on the bus will be open at all times; so jackets/sweaters are recommended for riders. No hand sanitizer will be provided on the busses due to flammability hazards surrounding a large bottle of alcohol based liquid on a gas powered vehicle, however children may bring their own small bottles. Children will sit one per seat, siblings may sit two per seat. Buses will be disinfected after the morning route and the afternoon route and fogged after the last run. Students that can ride the bus will be students with transportation listed on their IEP, and students who live farther than three miles from VHS. Out of district students  and students where VHS is their school of choice, will NOT be allowed on the bus. IEP students who need transportation are the main priority for transportation. Families will know their specific route information the week of March 29. To see qualifications for bus service, contact Arie Weilberg. 

An informative slide from the presentation specifically stated: “An in-person Special Education option will also be provided. All safety measures will be observed. Transition IEP and 504 meetings are in the process of being conducted and will continue. Updated distance learning plans for Special Ed will be delivered via e-mail or USPS. Special education SAI and related services will continue to be available. Extended school year offerings with the goal of a robust and extended program is in development. The Special Education District Advisory Committee (SEDAC) parent group has continued to meet monthly since February 2020, and will continue.” 

According to Jeff Davis, assistant superintendent, “95 percent of sports will be played.” There is even a Buena vs Ventura football game anticipated for April 16, located at Buena High School. Sporting event crowds will still be limited. There is a VHS sport info night anticipated for May 4. If there are more questions about athletics at VHS, contact the VHS Athletics director Dave Hess.

Groups A and B will attend two days a week, and C group students will remain completely online. Graphic by: Greta Pankratz

According to Greg Bayless: “We are working with brand new guidance for vocals/wind instruments– we will post it shortly, likely next week.” On the same issue of wind instruments and vocal activities Dr. Roger Rice also commented, “That [wind instruments] has been “strongly discouraged” in the state guidelines. I am working with our liability carriers to figure out a waiver form that parents would sign that might work for us. Hang in there. We met with music teachers today [March 3].” 

Summer learning opportunities are also planned. Credit recovery for seniors will be the primary priority. June 14- July 2 are for small groups and online credit recovery classes. July 6- 30 are for kindergarten-current 11th grade students, and Special Ed extended school year. Aug. 2-13 are for small groups and enrichment. High school students may take one credit recovery online course during the June session, and two courses during the July session. The courses will be offered via hybrid and distance learning options. Online registration for summer session begins April 1, 2021. 

Students who choose to return for on campus hybrid learning will be on campus for a total of 16 days due to the A-B-C schedule, till the 2020-21 school year completes in June. Contact the school for any changes in your requested schedule and they will check space availability.