Letters from the Superintendent
May 14, 2021
You likely woke up this morning reading or listening to some version of a news story about the CDC updated guidance regarding mask use for people who are fully vaccinated. For the sake of accuracy, I’ve posted the link to the actual CDC guidance here.
The new guidance is the strongest signal to date by the CDC that things continue to move in the right direction regarding the pandemic. It’s also a strong statement by the CDC that vaccinations are effective.
As a practical matter, it also signals the beginning of the end of mandatory mask requirements in most settings. For now, it is also a confusing message, especially for schools, as many adults in our setting are vaccinated while the overwhelming majority of students are not. The new guidance makes no mention of school settings.
- The new CDC guidance does not update quarantine procedures. Schools are still required by our health department (via the CDC guidance) to quarantine anyone who is in close contact with someone who is COVID positive. As of this writing, we have five classrooms at various sites that have some level of quarantine happening.
- Students 12-15 years of age became eligible for vaccinations yesterday. Very few students 16 years and older have had an opportunity to be fully vaccinated.
- Our current mask requirements allow for optional use outdoors while requiring mask use indoors.
- All people ages 12 and up who want a vaccination will have the opportunity to become fully vaccinated prior to the new school year.
- Our mitigation goals over the last two weeks of school are to ensure that students have as few learning disruptions as possible while also being able to participate in end of the year celebrations, promotions, and graduation ceremonies. In light of the quarantine issue, keeping our indoor mask requirement for two more weeks will help us accomplish this goal.
Considering the information above:
- Masks will remain a requirement indoors for the remainder of this school year. There are only 10 days of school left and only 5 until our first graduation ceremony.
- Barring any additional CDC, state, or local changes in recommendations, it is my intent to recommend to the Governing Board at our June 8th meeting that face coverings will be optional for all students and staff for the new school year beginning in July 2021.
If you have any questions, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thank you for your continued support and partnership through the numerous changes that have been required this year. We are finishing this year strong and are excited about the many positive signs ahead for a smooth start to next school year.
April 30, 2021
I want to provide you with several important updates.
This past Tuesday, the CDC updated its guidance on outdoor activities. After consulting with public health officials and listening to comments from parents and staff, the following adjustments will be made to our mitigation policy.
Beginning on Monday, May 3rd, the mask policy will be adjusted as follows:
During outdoor activities students will now have the choice of wearing a mask or removing it.
All students K-12 must continue to wear masks while indoors and while riding district transportation.
All mitigation strategies, including those listed above, will remain in place for the remainder of the school year. Thank you for your help and understanding in finishing out the school year safely.
Due to an unfortunate series of events, this past Tuesday’s board meeting was canceled. That meeting is being rescheduled and will be split into two meetings next week.
The first meeting will be held on Monday, May 3rd at 5:00PM. The only agenda item will be a discussion of Vail’s mitigation policy which is set to expire on June 30th. Anyone wishing to speak to the Board on this issue may do so by registering at this link prior to 3:00PM on Monday.
All speakers will be limited to two minutes. The call to the public portion of the meeting may be limited to one hour.
The second board meeting will be held on Wednesday, May 5th at 7:00PM. There will not be an agenda item on mitigation plans at this meeting. The agenda will consist of standard board business items. Information about the call to the public procedures for this meeting will be listed on the district website by next Tuesday.
Based on the advice from Pima County Sheriff Chris Nanos, both board meetings will be held remotely. We are working on plans to return to in-person board meetings as soon as possible.
We are hosting the last in our series of four town hall meetings on Tuesday, May 4th at 6:00PM. At each meeting we are asking participants to engage with each other around two questions focused on next year and then opening the last hour for open discussion/questions.
You can register for the town hall here. Capacity is limited to the first 100 people.
Thank you for your continued support as we navigate the changing landscape of providing education to our children during this pandemic.
If you have any questions please email us at email@example.com.
April 28, 2021
Dear Vail Parents,
I am writing to clarify that the Vail School District mitigation plans, including the requirement for face coverings, remain in place. There have been some rumors to the contrary.
This has been an intense and emotional year. I am proud of our community and value your support. This evening, our Governing Board meeting was disrupted by a group of people, several of whom lived outside our district. The meeting had to be canceled and will be rescheduled soon. I feel bad for the parents who were there tonight who simply wanted to address the board with their concerns. Another opportunity will be provided in a peaceful and respectful setting.
Vail Unified School District
March 5, 2021
At a special meeting of the Vail Governing Board yesterday evening, plans to expand in-person instruction were discussed and approved.
The following will begin on March 22, 2021:
- All schools will continue with the current start and end times to the day.
- Elementary schools will return to in-person instruction five days a week.
- Middle and high schools will return to in-person instruction four days a week, Monday through Thursday, with Fridays remaining asynchronous.
- Brick to Click instruction will continue for families who need that option.
More information will be coming from your child’s school regarding the specific details of these plans at their respective schools. If you have any questions after you receive those details, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thank you for your continued support. Please have a safe and wonderful spring break.
January 20, 2021
Dear Parents and Families,
Yesterday afternoon the Vail Governing Board approved a return to hybrid instruction for all Pre-K-8 schools and Vail Academy and High School on Monday, January 25th and all high schools on Monday, February 8th.
Parent and staff input was thoughtfully considered along with four important factors to make this decision including Pima County Health Department metrics (PCHD), guidance from PCHD, very low virus transmission rates on our campuses, and staff availability.
You can expect additional information about the return to hybrid learning from the principal at your child’s school within the next few days.
January 18, 2021
Dear Parents and Families,
After careful consideration I will be recommending to the Vail Governing Board that they approve a return to hybrid instruction for all Pre-K-8 schools and Vail Academy and High School on Monday, January 25th.
In an effort to stagger the return, I will also recommend that all high schools return to hybrid instruction on Monday, February 8th.
Staffing schools with many on quarantine has been one of the most difficult challenges of the last several months. Staggering the opening will help assure we have enough staff, bus drivers, and substitute teachers to keep schools open.
The Vail Governing Board is holding a special meeting Tuesday at 3:00 PM to discuss and take action on these recommendations.
If you have any further questions, please email email@example.com.
Our strong mitigation strategies will continue to be used moving forward. Further, if someone in your household is sick with COVID or experiencing COVID like symptoms, notify the respective school and please keep your student home.
Thank you again, for your continued support.
December 13, 2020
The Vail Governing Board will be holding a special meeting Monday, December 14th. At the meeting I will recommend a temporary transition to remote learning for a three week period for all Vail schools starting Monday, January 4th.
This three week period will allow staff, students, and community members who may have come in contact with the virus during Winter Break a period of time to quarantine before resuming hybrid learning.
There was an increase in staff and students needing to quarantine after both the Fall Break and Thanksgiving Break. This increase often made it very difficult to staff schools. We hope to avoid repeating this situation by providing this temporary period of remote learning.
A final decision regarding the transition is pending Board approval on Monday evening. If approved, we plan on resuming hybrid learning on Monday, January 25th.
Navigating the changing conditions of this pandemic is extremely difficult. We will continue to monitor these conditions closely and make adjustments if and when necessary.
We also understand that decisions such as this one impact all of you. Please know that they are made from a place of deep care for our students, their families, and our staff.
If you have any questions, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
We greatly anticipate the day when we can resume normal school operations. Together we will overcome these difficult times. Thank you, again, for your continued support. Please have a very safe and happy holiday season.
PS – We also understand the current crisis in hospitals and will make accommodations to support the community by continuing to provide child care through Vail Community Programs and Vail Inclusive Preschool for hospital staff who are parents in the District. Please contact Vail Community Programs at 879-2032 or Vail Inclusive Preschool at 879-1755 for more information.
November 25, 2020
I would like to provide you with an update on where we are with regard to keeping our schools open for hybrid learning.
Through all the changes during the pandemic, one constant continues to guide our decisions. We must continue to rely on public health benchmarks and guidance from Pima County Health experts to provide the safest learning environment for students and staff.
Yesterday, we met with Dr. Garcia, the Chief Medical Officer of Pima County Health Department (PCHD). Now that schools across the county have been in hybrid learning for the past two months, they are seeing very low rates of spread (less than 5%) within school environments. Dr. Garcia stated that while cases of COVID-19 are rising in our community, it is largely being driven by small social gatherings. For these reasons, he continues to support hybrid learning as the preferred environment for schools to use at this time.
The health metrics from Arizona Department of Health Services (ADHS) also continue to support hybrid learning at this time. The PCHD and ADHS health benchmarks can be found HERE.
In Vail, we are also seeing very low rates of virus transmission within our schools. Mitigation strategies including wearing face coverings, health checks, frequent hand washing, and social distancing are working. When someone (staff or student) is exposed to someone who is sick, we are using quarantines to prevent spread and protect others.
You can continue to help us keep our doors open by exercising caution in regards to COVID-19.
The conditions of this pandemic remain fluid. We are watching closely and will make adjustments when conditions and public health advice warrant a change. We will also give you advanced notice so that you can prepare.
If you have any questions, please email us at email@example.com.
The Thanksgiving holiday always gives us a reason to pause and reflect on the things for which we are most grateful. I am very grateful for your partnership during this most unusual year.
All I can say is thank you. Thank you to the Vail parents, teachers, staff, students, and community for the endless support, words of encouragement, and volunteer hours you continue to render on behalf of Vail’s students.
Please have a wonderful and safe Thanksgiving.
October 9, 2020
I want to personally thank you for your trust and partnership over the past seven months as we navigated one of the most challenging times in the history of our school district.
During Spring Break 2020, I sent the first letter to you letting you know that we were preparing for the storm of COVID-19.
Seven months later we stand on the cusp of Fall Break 2020. The world looks vastly different, yet our shared values have bound us together as we weathered this storm. We have leaned heavily into our motto, “Where Education is a Community Effort”. I am grateful for your partnership as we worked to provide an education and a sense of normal to your children and family during the most unusual of times.
While the COVID-19 virus will play a role in shaping what learning looks like over the next several months, I anticipate the most drastic changes are behind us now. We have created solid frameworks for remote and hybrid learning. And when the conditions are such that it is reasonably safe to do so, we know how to do in-person instruction better than any school district in the state.
After Fall Break, we will continue with hybrid and brick to click instruction. We will also continue to work closely with both the Arizona Department of Health and Pima County Health Department to determine when it is reasonably safe and stable enough to move into full in-person learning.
It will be pretty quiet around the Vail School District over the next two weeks. I am encouraging our staff to unplug and get some much needed rest. If you have specific questions, please contact your student’s respective school, or you can always ask at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
I hope you enjoy time with your children over the break, too. Please be safe and be well.
September 19, 2020
We are excited to welcome Vail students back to our campuses on Monday. Although the hybrid model of instruction is new to us, we have worked hard to plan and expect Monday to be a great day.
Our parent survey results ended with 76% choosing hybrid instruction and 24% selecting Brick to Click. For parents who have chosen the hybrid option, it is likely the first time their children will be back on a school campus since early March. As such, we’d like to call attention to a few important details.
IMPORTANT INFORMATION FOR MONDAY
Coming to school feeling well (and staying home when not feeling well) along with wearing a face covering are the two most powerful tools we have in keeping our students and staff safe and our campuses open during the pandemic.
Wellness checks and face coverings:
•Please make sure that your student is feeling well before sending him/her to school. A list of symptoms to be mindful of can be found here.
•Please have a child care plan in mind. Both students and staff will be required to leave campus when they are not feeling well and stay home until the symptoms resolve.
•Please make sure to send your student with a proper face covering. We will provide one if a student forgets to bring one or if you need any assistance with purchasing one.
What happens if my student is sick?
Changes for food service – Free breakfast and lunch!
Due to the ongoing pandemic, the US Department of Education has authorized the continuation of free meals for school age children. Please click here for more details.
All of the information contained in this email is also posted on our district website at: www.vailschooldistrict.org
If you have any additional questions, please contact your student’s school or reach out to us at: email@example.com.
Thank you for your continued trust in the Vail School District. Deputy Superintendent Debbie Penn was asked by a reporter if we were ready for hybrid learning. She explained, “we have worked very hard to prepare, and although it is new to all of us, our hearts are ready!” Thank you for your continued patience and partnership as we open the doors and iron out wrinkles along the way.
September 4, 2020
Last week we were excited to announce that the health metrics surrounding COVID-19 in Pima County are improving. Assuming the metrics continue to improve, we are still targeting September 21st as the date when we will move to the next phase of opening schools – the hybrid phase.
The purpose of the hybrid phase is to welcome students on campus, but physically distanced as much as possible and/or keep them in the same groups throughout the day. This is made possible by the reassigning and restructuring of classes and teachers,.
Under the hybrid phase, parents who did NOT choose the Vail Innovation Center for the first semester will have two choices for their students:
Hybrid – Partially In-Person/Partially Remote (with modified schedules)
Brick to Click* – Remote Instruction Connected to Your School
These two options will look a little different at each level.
Vail Inclusive Preschool: See note below**
Hybrid: 4 days of on campus learning, a shortened school day, one hour of at-home learning each of the 4 days, and independent learning on Fridays
Brick to Click: teacher contact 3 days a week, including live lessons for Language Arts and Math on Fridays. Brick to Click is ideal for families who are not yet ready to come back to school on campus or who have the support at home to continue learning remotely.
Hybrid: 2 days of on campus learning, a shortened in-person school day, and one hour of at home learning each day. Students will follow their class schedule from home on the at-home learning days with Friday serving as an independent learning and office hours day.
Brick to Click: students will follow their class schedule from home 4 days a week with Friday serving as an independent learning and office hours day.
Hybrid: 2 days of on campus learning for a full day with 3 days of at-home learning.
Brick to Click: students will follow the same daily schedule as their peers. Fridays will serve as an independent learning and office hours day for all students.
Smaller schools of choice like Civano, Esmond Station, Pantano, VAHS, and Vail Blended may have different scenarios.
We will make every effort to keep students in the same family on the same schedule.
You will be receiving further communication about the specifics of each option from your students’ principals on Wednesday, September 9th. If you are ready to make your choice for the hybrid learning phase now, please feel free to do so here.
You will be able to make and/or change your selection through Sunday, September 13th when the survey closes. Please also visit School Opening – Hybrid Learning Information on our District website for more information.
If you have further questions, please feel free to contact us at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Again, thank you for your patience and support as we work to develop sustainable plans for each phase of learning. We are grateful for our community.
*During the hybrid phase students will not be able to move between Brick to Click and in-person learning unless in the case of illness or the need to quarantine. Further, students who choose Brick to Click will be asked to remain in Brick to Click for the duration of the hybrid phase.
**This survey does not apply to students at Vail Inclusive Preschool. If you have not received a call from your child’s VIP teacher, please call the VIP office.
August 28, 2020
Dear Parents and Staff,
Two weeks ago, we wrote to let you know that the Vail School District would be using the recently established public health metrics as a guide for when our schools would transition between the three phases of delivering instruction during the pandemic. Those phases, as outlined by the Arizona Department of Health, are: Remote instruction, hybrid instruction, and in-person instruction.
We also communicated that it was likely that Vail schools would be able to move to the next phase of instruction sometime between September 14th and October 5th.
The good news is that the conditions are improving. The metrics indicate steady progress in the reduction of the spread of COVID-19 in Pima County.
As such, we are targeting September 21st as the date for when we will move to the next phase of opening schools. Like most things during this pandemic, this assumes that conditions continue to improve and do not get worse.
The next phase will allow for hybrid instruction during a time of moderate risk. The hybrid phase involves another shift in the way instruction is delivered, staff are utilized, and campuses operate. The purpose of the hybrid phase is to keep students physically distanced as much as possible and/or keep them in the same groups throughout the day.
Plans are being developed for what the hybrid phase will look like at the preschool, elementary school, middle school, and high school levels. We will communicate the details of these plans to you by Friday of next week.
Remote instruction will continue to be a choice for students during the hybrid phase. Brick to Click* will be available through each school, and the Vail Innovation Center will continue to provide full-time remote learning to students who have chosen this option.
Thank you for your continued patience and support as we work to get students back to school safely.
*During the hybrid phase students will not be able to move between Brick to Click and in-person learning unless in the case of illness or the need to quarantine. Further, students who choose Brick to Click will be asked to remain in Brick to Click during the hybrid phase.
August 13, 2020
Please watch this video for the latest information on schools remaining in remote learning.
Please email email@example.com if you have any questions.
- Remote learning will continue to be in place on Monday, August 17th through at least September 14th.
- Tuesday evening the Vail School District Governing Board voted to utilize public health benchmarks developed by the Arizona Department of Health (ADHS) and Pima County Department of Health to guide the district’s decision on when to safely return to in-person instruction.
- A key component to reopening school buildings for in-person instruction is tracking the level of COVID-19 spread within a community. The ADHS benchmarks track the spread and are updated every Thursday. You can follow these benchmarks here (click on Pima County to see our county level data).
- Currently, the benchmarks have not been met. Utilizing the ADHS benchmarks and in consultation with Pima County Health officials, it is estimated that it may take an additional five to seven weeks before the criteria for opening schools are met. The Vail School District is targeting a transition from remote learning to occur sometime between September 14th and October 5th. We will continue to utilize these public health benchmarks to refine the exact date.
- We intend to provide parents with at least a two week notice for when the transition out of remote learning will occur.
- We are committed to opening schools as soon as it is reasonably safe to do so. We share the beliefs of many parents that having students in school is best for children and their families.
July 27, 2020
July 24, 2020
Dear Vail Families and Staff,
We have wrapped up our virtual town halls this week. It was wonderful to connect with so many families. We miss you and your children and look forward to the time when we can be together again. I was again reminded just how strong our community is. Vail is most certainly a place where education is a community effort. I know that we will get through every challenge we face in the coming months together.
So, what’s the update for this week?
Yesterday, Governor Ducey held a press conference and issued a new executive order regarding the opening of schools. We are working to unwrap what the order means for the Vail School District and will inform you once we have a clear understanding. This morning a small group of superintendents met with Pima County and Pima County Health Department leaders to determine what metrics should be used to determine when schools can safely re-open, as referenced in the Governor’s order and press conference.
As we anticipated the executive order would make changes to reopening schools, we have delayed sending out the survey for parents to choose an educational option for their child(ren). Our intent is to open up the survey for parents in the next week after ensuring that our plans are in compliance with the new instruction from the State.
In the meantime, please review the graphic below to see what our options currently look like, and get more details around each educational option on the district website at vailschooldistrict.org.
Thank you again for your continued patience and support as we work to provide you with the most accurate and up to date information. Please let us know if you have any further questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Vail Unified School District
It has been a little less than two weeks since I last wrote to you. At that time, I indicated that we were working hard on plans to open school on time in July. In the same email, I also noted that the conditions around COVID-19 remain very fluid.
As of this writing it has become apparent that additional time before the start of the new school year would be very helpful to address the following issues:
1) Arizona and Pima County are currently experiencing a record spike of COVID-19 cases. According to Governor Ducey’s news conference today, this spike is expected to last into July.
2) Additional planning time is needed to ensure that details around the three instructional choices and safety precautions for schools are fully developed and in place before the start of the school year.
As such, our Governing Board is meeting tomorrow evening at 6:00PM to discuss the possibility of moving the start of the school year to August 10 for all K-8 schools and high schools.
The Governing Board will also review three instructional choices for your family that will be made available next year along with health and safety plans for school sites. The instructional choices include:
On Campus Learning where school will be as close to normal as possible with enhanced health and safety precautions in place.
“Brick to Click” Learning that allows students to learn remotely for short intervals of time while remaining connected to their regular schools.
Full-Time Digital Learning with the Vail Innovation Center (VIC) delivered by Vail teachers to provide virtual learning in your home for a full semester or school year.
The board meeting will be streamed live for those who would like to view it. A link to the livestream video will be made available on our website at www.vailschooldistrict.org.
If you have questions or comments regarding the new school year, please feel free to reach out to us at email@example.com.
Thank you for your support and understanding.
June 12, 2020 Update to Parents
I hope that you and your family are healthy and are enjoying your summer. I’d like to provide you with an update on plans for next school year.
Our primary focus since the end of the school year has been planning for our return to school. Thank you for your feedback through the parent survey and other correspondence. It has helped shape the decision making.
We are planning to open schools on-time in July.
We are working closely with Governor Ducey’s office, the Arizona Department of Education, and state and county health officials. As of this writing, Governor Ducey has stated that schools will be allowed to open on time.
The reality is that conditions around COVID-19 are fluid and will likely remain so through much of this next school year. As such we are planning for flexibility and parent choice.
We are developing three primary choices for you and your family.
- School as close to normal as possible with reasonable health and safety precautions in place.
A list of logistics and safety precautions being considered is attached to this letter.
2.A “Brick to Click” option that allows students to learn remotely for short intervals of time while remaining connected to their regular schools.
A student or group of students may want to remain connected to their regular school but may need to learn remotely due to health concerns, illness, or personal reasons.
On-line school with the Vail Innovation Center delivered by Vail teachers to provide virtual learning in your home for a full semester or school year.