Supts: Time to pivot to endemic strategy
Santa Clara County leaders make recommendations for transitioning to the next phase of the pandemic
February 14, 2022
A group of superintendents in Santa Clara County have urged state leaders to start planning for what K-12 education will look like once the COVID-19 pandemic becomes endemic.
In a letter sent to Gov. Gavin Newsom and state legislators on Jan. 27, district leaders in the Santa Clara County Superintendents Association said that it is unsustainable for school staff to continue performing many of the COVID-19 health responsibilities that have fallen on schools, such as COVID testing and tracing.
Santa Clara County Superintendents Association President and Berryessa Union School District Superintendent Roxane Fuentes said the Omicron surge that swept through schools in January made leaders in the county question whether there were more effective ways to serve their communities.
“We are now going into our third year of dealing with this pandemic. What’s the off ramp? Because there is a cost to teaching and learning and we recognize that currently what we’re being asked to do is not sustainable,” said Fuentes during an interview on the Feb. 2 episode of the ACSA Legislative Lunch Break. “We wanted to be able to start thinking creatively and looking at all the resources in terms of advocacy for this critical conversation and not wait any longer — it needs to be had now.”
The letter provided examples of COVID-related activities that are usurping time and resources that would be spent in their role as educators. For instance, one school principal who previously spent 60 percent of her school day in classrooms working with teachers supporting instruction and learning now spends 100 percent of her school day on COVID cases and covering staff absences.
SCCSA Vice President and Milpitas Unified School District Superintendent Cheryl Jordan said she has witnessed students missing up to 30 minutes of instructional time while waiting for COVID testing or results.
“We’ve spent almost from day one being reactionary in this pandemic. We haven’t had an opportunity to be proactive,” said Jordan, who also joined the ACSA Legislative Lunch Break. “Now we are at a pivot point where we can finally be proactive, but we need our legislators and leaders in the community to work with us to spell out what that future is going to look like.”
The Santa Clara County Superintendents Association, which represents 31 school districts and serves 253,000 students, made a number of recommendations to state leaders, including:
  • Align CDPH and CalOSHA guidance on isolation and quarantine rules or establish CalOSHA exemptions for the education sector.
  • Eliminate, reduce or fully transition responsibility for COVID-19 testing, isolation and quarantine to the health care and insurance providers or public health sector as appropriately defined.
  • Provide a reprieve from chronic absenteeism accountability given the skewed data as a result of COVID-19 impact.
  • Establish dialogue now with school districts about the pivot to living in the coming era of endemic, which could begin as early as summer 2022.
The letter also recommends increasing flexibilities on mandates and reporting requirements, as well as extending the deadline for spending Expanded Learning Opportunities Program dollars, given that schools are limited in their capacity and staffing to implement programs right now.
“There’s definitely concern about burnout across our educator sector,” Fuentes said. “Everybody has taken on additional responsibilities to meet the needs of their communities, and we certainly don’t want to see good people go because they can’t maintain the level of work that’s being asked of them during this crisis period. Our expertise is in teaching and learning, yet health care expertise has landed in our laps.”
Fuentes urged other districts to share their perspectives with state leaders on how to enter the next phase of COVID.
“Santa Clara County is one voice,” she said. “We know we have common experiences across the state and common sentiment regarding these issues, and so we ask you to join us.”
Contact Us
© 2022 Association of California School Administrators