Scotts Valley Unified School District students were set to return to classrooms yesterday, as administrators held their breath about how Covid-19 could affect learning during the third year of the ongoing pandemic.
It may seem eons away from March 16, 2020, when schools shut down. In the meantime, the district has gone through a gargantuan shift, embracing digital education tools, spending thousands of dollars on new technology and paving the way for in-person studies.
This year, SVUSD is focusing on four main priority areas: (1) Diversity, Inclusion, Equity, and Belonging, (2) Mental Health, (3) Environmental Literacy and (4) Mathematics.
Students in districts across California have struggled with behavioral challenges during the pandemic, and Scotts Valley’s public school system is no different.
Superintendent Tanya Krause says SVUSD officials were expecting problems with learning loss to crop up when students returned to the classroom. But it was the emotional challenges that caught them off-guard.
“Our biggest surprise upon returning to in-person instruction was the mental health issues that superseded some of the academic challenges that we were more prepared for,” she said.
There’s been a big push from SVUSD to promote so-called “Positive Behavior Intervention and Supports,” or PBIS, which emphasizes that education is about more than just promoting good grades. PBIS can involve things like setting clear routines, taking breaks, reinforcing good behavior and phrasing instructions in a positive manner, according to kickboardforschools.com.
“We are really going to work hard to help support teachers to embed that into their curriculum,” Krause said. “It becomes inclusive and infused, rather than being separated.”
As part of ensuring students have an all-encompassing positive learning environment, the district has upped its counseling roster.
Krause says when she took over as superintendent at SVUSD the district had just 2.2 equivalent counselors at the high school. Now there are 5.3 equivalent counselors between the middle school and the high school—one dedicated middle school counselor and 2.3 at the high school.
They’ll also focus on “Social Emotional Learning.”
Plus, the district’s Food Service Department will be providing free breakfast and lunch every day.
Public health has been another balancing act for the district.
When students were allowed back in school, many parents were frustrated their children were still required to wear masks.
SVUSD’s lawyers have been fending off legal demands from parents who believe mask policies imposed by the California Department of Public Health last year were too stringent.
Krause says it’s frustrating to see this resistance when district officials have been trying to put the health and safety of students at the forefront—specifically in order to allow the quickest return to the classroom possible. In many cases, they were just following State mandates.
“We were truly and genuinely trying to keep staff and students healthy and safe—and in school,” she said.
Heading into this week, Krause told the Press Banner that the school hadn’t received as much news—good or bad—that would affect its plans to begin in-person instruction.
“We still have notification responsibilities, but (they’re) somewhat different than last year,” she said. “We are still offering onsite testing through Inspire Diagnostics which is voluntary.”
SVUSD says it will follow recent guidance put out by the Santa Cruz County Office of Education.
So, Krause explained, while masks are not required, they are “highly recommended” indoors.