District Departments » Superintendent » Superintendent Messages

Superintendent Messages

 

August 2022 Welcome Message and Back to School Music Video for Team PUSD

Hello, Team PUSD!

I love the feeling of a new start and the possibilities that a new school year holds. I’m Dr. Marian Kim Phelps, Proud Superintendent of the Poway Unified School District. This is my 6th Back to School with PUSD!

I want to take this opportunity to kick off a new school year for #TeamPUSD by sharing a little fun and inspiration. You may have noticed folks walking around wearing red sneakers or wearing a red shoe pin like this (point to your lapel). Every single member of #TeamPUSD will be receiving a shoe pin from your site principal, supervisor or department head. Wear the shoe pin proudly on your lanyard, hat, or lapel as a reminder of your impact in going the extra distance for students. Every time you look at your pin, remember: “You go the extra distance for students. Your daily steps alongside students gives them the courage to explore their passions. Your example builds a foundation for their future. Your footprints are the stepping stones to their success."

The thing about success, is that oftentimes, the road there can be difficult. One example many of us can relate to: Nobody remembers how hard it was to learn how to walk as a baby. But many of you are parents now, or grandparents, or siblings, cousins, aunts or uncles and have seen a baby learn how to walk. It’s a struggle. There’s trial and error. They try, but topple over. They are unsteady and fall flat on their bottoms! They cry and get frustrated. They might even want to be carried or resort back to crawling.

As the adults - we help them get up, we cheer them on, encourage them. We might hold their hand, guide them, and give them something to hold onto to steady themselves. We build their confidence, praise their resilience, and they keep trying. We celebrate even the smallest milestones. And eventually - the baby makes progress and achieves their very first few steps.

No adults tell the baby that they are failing when they struggle. No adult tells the baby, maybe walking isn’t their strength. No baby gives up after a few falls and decides to crawl around into adulthood!

What if we treated learning at our schools like we did learning to walk? Where struggling is seen as a necessary part of learning and opportunities to grow. Mastery happens through collaborative effort and short-lived failures.

Adults would praise your efforts, come alongside you, offer a helping hand when needed, and not compare you or rank you. Baby steps, working towards a long-term goal, and signs of progress would be celebrated. We could say to our students:

“Maybe right now you feel like you are crawling through reading while others seem to be jogging.” -I got you.

“Maybe right now you feel like you’re barely holding yourself steady on wobbly legs in your math class.” -I got you.

“Maybe you feel like you’re taking two steps forward then falling on your bottom on a test or presentation.” - I got you.

Likewise, for those of you who can remember, think of where we were as a District just five years ago and how far we’ve come. As a new Superintendent to PUSD, it felt like we were learning to walk sometimes. For every one step forward, two steps back.

Audit findings, parent lawsuits, failed bond measures, feeling stuck in a rut with isolated pockets of excellence and innovation. Often, we felt like we were crawling forward ever so slowly.

But when we look back and reflect on all that #TeamPUSD has accomplished together, it is nothing short of amazing. One-to-one devices, inclusive practices, expansion of global languages and CTE, equity and belonging, universal TK, free breakfasts and lunches, Voyager, eco-friendly buses, a priority on mental and social-emotional health… we are running forward in leaps and bounds!

Many of you know I broke my ankle this past Spring. I was in a cast and scooter for eight long weeks. If anyone can appreciate the value of someone coming alongside to help me on my journey and relearning how to walk, it’s me.

Now that I don’t need my scooter to get around or have a cast on anymore for me! I feel like a brand-new person! This brings me to our annual PUSD Back to School music video: “Brand New” by Ben Rector. This is truly a celebration of the joy and anticipation that our students and staff feel as they return for a new year. I hope you enjoy watching it as much as we loved creating it.

The lyrics really spoke to me, and I hope you’ll be inspired by them too. There’s a sense of hope and promise that this new year holds for us:

“I feel like for the first time in a long time I am not afraid

I feel like a kid, never thought it'd feel like this

Like when I close my eyes and don't even care if anyone sees me dancing

Like I can fly, and don't even think of touching the ground

Like a heartbeat skip, like an open page

Like a one-way trip on an airplane

It's the way that I feel when I'm with you, brand new”

Enjoy!

Click here to see video

I’ll leave you with a final quote: “The start of something new brings the hope of something great when anything is possible.” Thank you for your hard work; have a wonderful start to your school year, Team PUSD!

Dr. Marian Kim Phelps

Superintendent

Like many of you, over the summer, I watched the Olympic Games, and was moved by the stories of triumph and heartbreak. But one story in particular that resonated with me as I was thinking about the opening of our new school year, was a story that happened a few years ago.

Runners Abel Mutai from Kenya and Ivan Fernandez of Spain were approaching the finish line of a long distance race. Mutai was only a few meters from the finish line of a long distance race, but he got confused with the different signs and stopped, thinking he had finished the race. Fernandez was right behind him and realizing what was going on, started shouting at the Kenyan runner to keep running. Mutai did not know Spanish and so did not understand the shouting. So Fernandez then pushed Mutai to the finish line so Mutai could win the race.

Later, a reporter asked Fernandez “Why did you do this? Why didn’t you take the opportunity to win the race?” Fernandez replied, “My dream is that one day we can have some sort of community life where we push ourselves and also others to win.”

The reporter insisted “But why did you let the Kenyan win?”

Fernandez replied, “I didn’t let him win, he was going to win. The race was his.”  

Again, the reporter insisted and asked again “But you could have won!”

Fernandez looked at him and replied, “But what would be the merit of my victory? What would be the honor of this medal? What would my mother think of it? The values are transmitted from generation to generation. What values do we teach our children and how much do you inspire others? Most of us take advantage of people’s weaknesses instead of helping to strengthen them.” 

So I ask you, what is YOUR role as we look to help others finish their race?

How will you help to strengthen others, and lift them up to run the best race that they can.

What kind of community life are you helping us build?

As a community, we are stronger and more resilient, because this past year we all ran this challenging long- distance race together!

Now we can set our eyes forward, pushing each other toward a brighter future, helping each other through the confusing signs of life, helping our children, neighbors, loved ones to win their race. 

That is why I kicked off the new school year, encouraging my staff to think outside the box, and try everything...  for the sake and love of each and every one of our students.

This brings me to our annual PUSD Back to School music video: every year I pick a song that will inspire us for the new school year. This year's music video the song we picked is “Try Everything” by Shakira from the movie Zootopia.

The lyrics really reflected what we experienced during the past and current year. I want to share just a few lines from the song with you:  

“Birds don't just fly, They fall down and get up, Nobody learns without getting it wrong...

I won't give up, no, I won't give in till I reach the end, and then I'll start again.

No, I won't leave, I want to try everything, I want to try, even though I could fail.”

To watch our 2021 music video, go to ​​https://youtu.be/T4V879pC1NQ 

Finally, I’ll leave you with a quote: “If you want to go fast, go alone, if you want to go far, go together!” Everyone needs an Ivan Fernandez, pushing us through the confusing signs along the way, and helping us to finish our race!

Superintendent Update (Thursday, August 20, 2020)

Dear PUSD Families,

We are now just two weeks away from our first day of school on September 2nd. Our teachers, principals, and staff have been working very hard to get ready for our fully virtual start to the year. This week, hundreds of PUSD teachers are engaging in professional development around virtual learning; our technology team is preparing Chromebooks and laptops for our students and staff; and our schools are working out schedules and preparing for material distributions. We are so excited to have our students back, and we can’t wait for the day when we ultimately reopen our campuses for in-person instruction.

As you may know, on Tuesday, San Diego County was removed from the state monitoring list after experiencing 3 days of below-100 per 100,000 case rates. San Diego County is the only Southern California County so far to be removed from the state monitoring list. While this is encouraging news that could help pave the way for us to reopen schools this Fall, there are also some important things to keep in mind. Most importantly, there is a 14-day waiting period the County is requiring before schools can physically reopen. This means if San Diego County case rates, and other metrics, stay below acceptable thresholds for 14 consecutive days, the County will allow for schools to start reopening.

Even with this shorter, revised reopening timeline, we have no way of knowing for certain whether San Diego County will be able go 14 straight days staying off the monitoring list. As a large school district, we cannot wait until the day before the first day of school to find out. We already know the constantly changing timelines and decisions have made planning extremely difficult and frustrating for District leadership, our staff, and our families. 

As a result, to avoid further uncertainty for our staff and families planning for Fall, the Board of Education reaffirmed our September 2nd fully virtual start at its last meeting. However, if San Diego County passes the 14-day window and schools are cleared to begin reopening, the Board would like to reassess when and how to physically reopen schools, instead of waiting until December. Board members have indicated a desire to reopen in phases, starting with small groups at elementary school first, including our youngest students and learners with special needs, then eventually middle and high schools after a grading period. However, staff is also exploring creative ways to bring back small groups of students in our middle and high schools sooner, such as through labs, clubs, or electives as feasible. You can view the full presentation and discussion from the Board Meeting below.

Meanwhile, we continue to do everything possible to ensure healthy environments for our students and employees when they do return. We all want to reopen schools and remain open when it is safe to do so. We must approach reopening carefully and thoughtfully to avoid the mistakes we are seeing in other districts that have already been forced to shut down. The initial transition from fully virtual to in-person learning will be based on the preferences our families and teachers have indicated on the commitment forms, to the greatest extent possible, which will take time to successfully implement at all grade levels. We will notify families and staff with as much notice as possible before any transitions to AM/PM or A/B learning take place. 

I appreciate your understanding and support as we adjust to these ever-changing conditions.

Sincerely, 

Marian Kim Phelps, Ed.D.

 

 
Board-Approved Reopening Plan Update (Thursday, August 13, 2020)
 

At the August 13, 2020 meeting of the Board of Education, Board Members approved an updated version of Poway Unified School District’s 2020-21 Reopening Plan, which was originally adopted at the June 25, 2020 meeting.

The updated plan, which can be viewed below, includes:

  • September 2nd fully virtual start
  • the adjusted student calendar
  • new grading periods
  • sample virtual learning schedules
  • technology support
  • professional development

Since June, new State and County guidelines, mandates, metrics, and public health conditions have resulted in many revisions to PUSD’s reopening plan. For example, on August 4, San Diego County presented K12 Superintendents with this 28-day timeline (14 days to get off the watch list + 14 days waiting period) for reopening schools.  On August 7, the County presented K12 Superintendents with this revised timeline (3 days to get off the watch list + 14 days waiting period) for reopening schools.

  • As a result of the constant changes, and the desire to avoid further uncertainty for our staff and families planning for the Fall, the Board approved the updated reopening plan to start the school year fully virtual on September 2 – with the option of reassessing at its next meeting when and how to physically reopen schools if San Diego County allows schools to safely reopen before December (after the 3 days to get off the monitoring list + 14 days of good metrics).
  • The Board also expressed interest in reopening elementary schools sooner than secondary schools. In order to maintain continuity and avoid disruption for secondary students in the middle of a grading period, the Board would like to wait to reopen middle and high schools until after the end of a grading period. Elementary schools, however, could possible reopen sooner as feasible.

You can view the presentation and board discussion in the video below:

Reopening Update pdf
 

Videos of LiveStream Reopening Q&As

 

Re-Opening Update

Dear Team PUSD,

This week, the County of San Diego announced new, more stringent metrics that must be met in order for local schools to reopen for in-person instruction. The revised metrics have made it impossible for any San Diego County school district to physically reopen schools for in-person instruction before mid-September. Therefore, Poway Unified will start the 2020-21 school year fully virtual on September 2

Prior to this week's announcement by the County, schools could have resumed in-person instruction if the county remained off the state monitoring watchlist for 14 consecutive days. Based on this previous requirement, we pushed back the start of the school year to allow case rates to decline and provide us with the best chance of reopening for virtual and in-person instruction. However, the new metrics announced to San Diego County Superintendents yesterday, require our county to be off the monitoring list for two 14-day cycles (a total of 28 consecutive days). Additionally, if at any point during the aforementioned 28-day period, the county exceeds established thresholds for three days, it will be placed back on the state monitoring watchlist. Then, the county would need to remain off the monitoring list for another 28 days to resume in-person instruction.

Given this new information, our aim is to avoid further uncertainty for our families, staff, and students during these unfortunate times:  to maintain stability and continuity-of-learning for our students, PUSD will remain fully virtual through the December break (December 21-January 1), regardless of whether the in-person or fully virtual learning option was selected in the recently-completed Family Commitment Form. Teachers who chose the alternative homeschooling or independent learning options will be placed based on the number and grade level of students enrolled in this option. In late Fall, we will reevaluate our plans taking into full consideration then-current public health conditions, and guidelines and restrictions from the Governor and public health department.

While this information is likely to disappoint the majority of our staff and families who indicated a desire to return to on-campus learning as soon as possible, everyone should know that -- due to our extensive planning thus far -- PUSD will be ready for a prompt and safe return to in-person instruction if permitted to do so come January. 

Finally, you may rest assured Team PUSD has also been preparing for a robust, rigorous, and comprehensive virtual learning experience since Spring. Based on the feedback from your distance learning experience during emergency school closures, we have been refining virtual learning to include one learning and communication platform, age-appropriate daily schedules, 5-day-a-week lessons and contacts with teachers, and required attendance and letter grades (for secondary) and progress reports (for elementary).

  • Since March, we have offered extensive professional development opportunities for our teachers, with over 1,125 teachers taking advantage of professional development focusing on innovative tools and strategies to support virtual learning.
  • In August, all PUSD teachers and IAs will receive additional training in virtual teaching platforms and tools.
  • Since April, groups of teachers have been collaborating across grade levels on virtual lessons and curriculum as well as age-appropriate daily schedules.
  • PUSD will be a 1:1 device district, meaning teachers, IAs, and students will receive the necessary technology for a successful virtual learning experience.
  • We are also expanding our training for staff to provide social/emotional supports for our students in a virtual learning environment.
  • IEP meetings will resume for our students receiving special education services. 
  • We are developing parent training videos to support our families in becoming familiar and comfortable with technology and various learning platforms.

While the start of the 2020-21 school year is not what we had hoped, I am confident we will be able to navigate this challenging time together. There are so many school traditions that we are experiencing differently in this new reality. Just like our schools surpassed our expectations by making drive-through graduations and promotions so personal and special for our students, I am confident our amazing and creative staff will be able to rise to the challenge to provide an opening of the school year that is memorable and successful for our students and their families.

Sincerely,
Marian Kim Phelps, Ed.D.
PUSD Superintendent
Dear PUSD Families,
Thank you for all of the input you have provided us during these past several weeks. Following extensive discussions with school principals, employee groups, and District leadership, and after reviewing the survey feedback from our PUSD families, teachers, and staff, we would like to share some important information with you regarding PUSD’s start date and learning options. We would also like to provide you with PUSD's School Reopening Guidebook ahead of the family commitment period next week.

Adjusted Start
PUSD will be adjusting the start of the school year from August 19 to Wednesday, September 2. A revised calendar will be provided once it is negotiated with our employee groups. While a delayed start will require additional days to be made up throughout the school year or at the end of the school year, we believe this is in the best interests of our students, families, and staff. A later start allows PUSD the best chance to reopen our schools for on campus learning, allows us more time to work on the complex student assignments that would ensure continuity of learning and teachers, and allows us to give our high school student athletes a chance to finish their sports seasons through the end of June, with the newly adjusted CIF calendar.

Survey Feedback
Based on this week’s survey with 33,247 responses, or 91% of our families, we have:
  • 61% who want to return on campus
  • 36% who want virtual learning
  • 3% who want an alternative such as homeschool or independent study.

It is clear that our families want a choice and we want to honor that, if possible. As we stated last Friday, the Governor shared that schools will not be permitted to physically reopen, unless the county in which they are located is removed from the COVID-19 monitoring list for 14 consecutive days. Poway Unified is closely monitoring San Diego County metrics to see if cases are reduced, and we are committed to physically reopening our schools for our students when health conditions permit us to do so. We know how difficult the closure of schools has been on our students and their families, and we are working hard every day to get ready for school reopening. If county cases continue to increase, and we are not permitted to reopen physically, we will start the school year virtually for all students on September 2.

Family Commitment Form & Learning Options
  • Whether we begin the year on campus or virtually, we will be placing students in classrooms based on the results of next week’s July 26-31 family commitment form. In order to ensure continuity of learning and maintain connections with their classmates and their teacher, both on campus and virtual learning academy students will begin the 2020-21 school year placed in their chosen learning option. On campus students may need to start the year online with their teacher and classmates, but they can continue with their same teacher and classmates on campus, regardless of when they can physically return to school. Likewise, virtual learning students will be able to maintain their classmates and teachers without interruption. This will ensure more stability during this uncertain time.​
  • Additionally, we want to clarify that the goal and priority for students in the virtual learning option is to place them with teachers and classmates at their current school to the greatest extent possible. Instead of a District-based Virtual Learning Academy model, we are shifting to a site-based Virtual Learning Academy model. We recognize the importance of students’ connections to their schools, classmates, and teachers. This site-based model would also eliminate the need for trimester high school students to transition to a 4x4 virtual schedule. Ultimately, the determining factors will be the number of students and staff requesting the VLA option for each school. If placement at the home school is not feasible, the student will receive VLA instruction from another highly qualified Poway Unified teacher.
  • Hence, the scheduling work to accommodate two programs within a school, especially for middle and high schools, is a monumentally complex task that is further complicated by staffing availability. Normally, this process takes several weeks, but with both on campus and virtual learners, instructors, and courses to account for, schools will have to manually schedule thousands of students. We think it greatly benefits students to give our schools more time to decipher this complicated puzzle based on the data from next week’s family commitment form. We will also be able to train all of our teachers on our virtual learning platforms and tools in preparation for the school year.
  • Additionally, many families want to pursue our alternative programs such as Poway home school and New Directions independent study. In a normal year, only a few dozen families choose these programs. That has grown to nearly 1,000 this year. This option is unique to Poway, due to the fact that we already have an existing program that allows our families the flexibility to stay within PUSD and remain enrolled in their schools. Delaying the start of school will allow us to shift staffing to support these families and train teachers for this new role.
  • On Monday, the California Interscholastic Federation announced that the high school athletic season has shifted to a January 2021 through June 2021 calendar. Their adjusted calendar, which ends in late June, compliments a later end to PUSD’s school year. You can view CIF’s announcement and schedule here.
  • Finally, last Friday, the State announced it is allowing school districts to apply for waivers from the public health department to open elementary schools based on local health conditions. This is an option that we are exploring and have asked the San Diego County Office of Education to provide further guidance on how to apply and what the requirements would be for a waiver.

Additional Information: Guidebook and FAQs
In the meantime, please know that we have been working very hard to prepare for the start of the school year. Thank you for being patient with us, as we prepared as much information for you as we could, while navigating the multiple revisions and updates to local and state guidelines and orders. We would like to provide you with this comprehensive guidebook and additional FAQs to inform your decision. Please review these documents thoroughly before filling out next week’s family commitment form. The family commitment form period will be Sunday, July 26 - Friday, July 31. Our Special Education Department is preparing a supplementary guidebook for our families with children receiving special education services. Also, look for additional information in your upcoming school site Q&A sessions next week. Following your site meetings, if you have any additional questions, please submit them here https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLScaCoFxaZ5HgwlrXxz5iccOwu3QKGmUWULozNd5XDt6XEGR-g/viewform?fbclid=IwAR2bRTBK5l_N5SToAWkFYJliiRjl9ErDez--NH_sqb0A8DTESBPpf1AjMFo, and PUSD will hold a District Q&A session on Thursday, July 30 at 6pm.

Once again, I want to compliment staff on their efforts, and thank our parents for their continued patience. As our plans progress, I am confident we can have a strong reopening of our 2020-21 school year.

Sincerely,
Marian Kim Phelps, Ed.D.
Superintendent

Dear Team PUSD,

As you may have heard, today the Governor held a news conference outlining some key directives from the State for schools to follow when considering reopening. As a result, we are sharing the following message with our families. For those of you who missed the news conference today, we also wanted to provide you with a summary of the key points below.

The Governor started with these key principles guiding today’s announcement:

  • Learning is non-negotiable
  • Schools must provide meaningful instruction during the pandemic whether they are physically open or closed
  • Students, teachers, staff, and parents prefer in-classroom instruction but only if it can be done safely
  • Safety is determined by local health data

These are the New School-Specific Mandates

  1. Safe in-person school is to be based on local health data: Schools can reopen if the county they are located in has been off the monitoring list for 14 consecutive days. Schools that don’t meet this requirement, must begin the year with distance learning.
  2. Mask requirements: All school staff must wear masks. Students in 3rd grade and above must wear masks. Students in 2nd grade and below are strongly encouraged to wear masks or face shields. 
  3. Physical distancing and other adaptations: Staff must maintain 6 feet between each other and with students; other adaptations that must be in place include symptom checks (temperature), hand washing, sanitation and disinfection, quarantine protocols
  4. Regular testing and dedicated contact tracing: School staff should be tested regularly , and the State’s contact tracing workforce will prioritize schools
  5. Rigorous distance learning: Schools must provide access to devices and connectivity, daily live interaction with teachers and other students, challenging assignments equivalent to in-person classes, adapted lessons for English language learners and students in special education

If Schools Reopen, When Should In-Person Learning Close (due to positive test(s))?

  • Schools should consult with a public health officer first
  • A classroom cohort goes home when there is a confirmed case
  • A school goes home when multiple cohorts have cases or more than 5% of school is positive
  • A district goes home if 25% of their schools are closed within a 14-day period

LINK TO NEW PUBLIC HEALTH DIRECTIVE

LINK TO UPDATED CDPH GUIDANCE

===========================

Dear Poway Unified families, 

Today Governor Newsom announced that schools located in counties on the state monitoring list for rising coronavirus infections, which includes San Diego, would not be allowed to physically reopen and would be required to start the school year with a virtual-only learning model. San Diego County must be off the state monitoring list for 14 consecutive days in order for its schools to be allowed to physically reopen. 

I want to reiterate our commitment to honor many of our families’ wishes to reopen our schools if possible, as well as allow our families the ability to choose from two main options: on campus or fully virtual learning. As such, Poway Unified is still committed to physically reopening our schools for our students, but only when it is safer to do so. Based on the Governor’s announcement today, Poway Unified is reevaluating our reopening date with hopes that our county metrics will be reduced. We are considering a proposed start of Wednesday, September 2 with our two options as planned. However, if county cases keep increasing leading up to the later start date, we may be forced to reopen initially with virtual-only learning, until San Diego County meets the Governor’s requirements for on campus learning.

As soon as we have a confirmed new reopening date, we will let you know. By delaying the start of school, this will:

  • Allow the case rates in the county to hopefully be reduced, so San Diego County can be removed from the state monitoring list (thus allowing for us to open for on campus learning) 
  • Allow us more time to implement the updated California Department of Public Health guidelines and physically prepare each classroom and campus with all of the health and safety measures we have been planning for, including physical distancing measures, student partitions, more outdoor learning spaces, deep cleaning and disinfecting, ventilation and filters, and hand washing/hand sanitizing opportunities throughout campus
  • Allow us more time to train staff in health and safety protocols as well as plan for a rigorous, robust, and innovative learning experience for both Virtual Learning Academy students and on campus students
  • Allow us to push back the end of the 2020-21 school year to support an adjusted CIF sports schedule
  • Allow our families more time before having to commit to a learning option for their children
  • Allow us to expand our PUSD homeschool and independent study supports for families interested in alternative options
  • Allow us to be as prepared as possible for a full-District virtual model if we are forced to pivot our reopening plans in case San Diego is not able to meet the requirements to come off the monitoring list as outlined by the Governor

The Governor also mandated the following conditions for schools reopening:

  • Mask requirements: All school staff must wear masks. All students in 3rd grade and above must wear masks, unless exempt (persons with a medical condition, mental health condition, or disability that prevents wearing a face covering are exempt). Students in 2nd grade and below are strongly encouraged to wear masks or face shields.
  • Regular testing of staff and dedicated contact tracing through the State’s contact tracing workforce partnership.

I appreciate your patience and partnership as we navigate these uncertain times together. Given these new directives from the State, please look for a follow up communication next week on adjusted timelines and additional information and details that we can share.

Sincerely,
Marian Kim Phelps, Ed.D.
Superintendent 

Dear PUSD Families,

We were all made aware this morning of L.A. Unified and San Diego Unified’s decision to start their 2020 school year with a fully virtual model. As we continue to closely monitor the very latest health data and number of cases in our community, along with directions and guidelines from state and local public health departments, Poway Unified School District will continue to make decisions that are in the best interest of our students’ and staff’s safety and wellbeing. 

As we’ve reiterated in all of our communications to families, any plans are subject to change due to public health orders. Our reopening plans continue to offer the following two learning options for our families to choose from: to return to on campus learning (with some online options) or participate in our Virtual Learning Academy. The current public health order still permits schools to physically reopen with the California Department of Public Health guidelines in place.  We cannot predict what will happen; we can only prepare for as many scenarios in our planning as possible. Every set of changes comes with an additional ripple effect of considerations that need to be applied across our system and negotiated with our employee union groups. That is why I continue to ask for your patience as we encounter conflicting information from our medical and scientific communities as well as ever-evolving guidelines and health orders. For example, we anticipate the California Department of Public Health will be changing their guidelines for schools to include language requiring students to wear masks when physical distance is not practicable. Once those guidelines are adjusted, PUSD will adjust our guidelines accordingly.

Over the next two weeks, our school principals are meeting to further refine and organize the details of their site specific plans, which we will be providing to you before the family commitment decision deadline. PUSD has encouraged staff to think creatively as we continue to work to reduce class sizes to increase physical distancing on campus, while carefully weighing staff availability. For example, for high school students choosing on campus learning, we are looking into expanding and leveraging some of our online courses such as civics, health, economics, chemistry, math 2A-2B, U.S. and world history. This would allow for a high school student to potentially take some of their class periods on campus and some online. Students choosing the online course offerings would reduce their daily physical presence on campus. These are the types of options and innovative solutions we are exploring for our students. We will provide more information in the next FAQ. 

Other considerations that are being discussed in our planning and negotiations with our labor unions include: possibly delaying the start of school if health conditions worsen and possibly starting the school year with modified days with staggered start times, release times, etc. As you can see, there are multiple factors that we are taking into consideration, so please give us time to work out the details. Instead of staff having to spend hours responding to the hundreds of emails we are receiving, I have directed them to focus all their efforts on the development of our reopening plans. I kindly ask that you allow us to continue to refine our plans and present them to you, so that you can see all the considerations we have made. In addition, we will provide future opportunities to ask questions once you have had a chance to review your school’s reopening plans and details.

Again, our commitment to you is to continue to provide you with the most up-to-date information and continue to communicate openly with you, so that you feel confident in whatever decision you make. 

Please see the following timeline, as a reminder:

  • PUSD Reopening Guidebook and Additional FAQs: by Friday, July 17
  • Site Specific Plans shared: between Friday, July 17- Friday, July 24
  • Valley Elementary School: Family Commitment form deadline Monday, July 20
  • Remaining PUSD Families: Family Commitment period Friday, July 24 - Wednesday, July 29
  • Live Q&A Virtual Forum for Each School: You will receive the time and date from your individual school 
  • District level Q&A Virtual Forum for PUSD: Tuesday, July 28 at 5pm to answer any of your remaining questions
  • Valley Elementary First Day of School: Monday, August 3
  • PUSD First Day of School: Wednesday, August 19 (subject to change)

Thank you for entrusting me and my team with the monumental task of redesigning our education system, and trying to offer families a choice on what works best for your children. This is the most difficult challenge we’ve ever had to undertake as educators, but I am confident that PUSD will continue to serve as a model for other districts in providing an excellent, world-class educational experience to our students.

Sincerely,
Marian Kim Phelps, Ed.D.
Superintendent