Superintendent’s Update January 2021

A Message From the Superintendent 

On December 30, 2020, Governor Newsom released the Safe Schools for All Plan “to support all communities to be on track for safe in-person instruction by early spring 2021.” Although many details regarding the Governor’s plan remain to be announced, we know that if approved by the legislature, this plan would offer financial incentives for some elementary schools to open in hybrid schedules, first for Transitional Kinder (TK-2) through grade 2, followed by grades 3 through 6. The plan requirements include intensive COVID-19 testing of staff and students, robust contact tracing, priority access to vaccinations for teachers and school staff, information and transparency to school communities, and the funding and resources to support the safety measures that districts must put in place. The Governor’s Plan can only be implemented if Santa Cruz County has a case rate of 28 per 100,000. We currently have an adjusted case rate of 41 per 100,000. This plan would also require an agreement with teacher and classified unions. The Governor has established an accelerated timeline for interested elementary schools to have all these components in place by February 1st.  

Some of the requirements that are set forth in the Safe Schools for All Plan, such as weekly COVID-19 testing for all elementary students and staff would be difficult to achieve, as it would require a tenfold increase in our current surveillance testing capacity.  Additionally, schools that are offering instruction to small groups or which are fully reopened (private schools) over the past few months have had very few examples of in-school transmission. For these reasons, Santa Cruz County Superintendents and Santa Cruz County Public Health have concluded that weekly testing of students is not feasible nor is it necessary. We will continue to monitor updates regarding this proposed plan and communicate with our community as soon as more information becomes available.  

As COVID-19 cases surge across the state and in Santa Cruz County, we must continue to prioritize the safety and wellbeing of our students, families, and staff during this arduous time. We have expanded Santa Cruz COE Surveillance Testing System to now offer testing at two locations and have a maximum capacity of 1500 COVID-19 tests per week. We are working diligently to build a vaccination plan for our school community. On or around January 19th, schools will resume in-person services to small cohorts of students in strict adherence to our health and safety guidance.  

Like our students and parents, our education leaders, teachers, and school personnel have been working incredibly hard over the past nine months to provide high-quality distance learning education to students while also grappling with tremendous change and personal challenges. Although the weeks ahead will continue to be difficult, ongoing developments in the vaccine indicate better days are coming. Santa Cruz County schools are committed to continue supporting the students and families of Santa Cruz County with comprehensive resources and services.

Yours in education,

Dr. Faris Sabbah
Superintendent of Schools