Faced with an uncertain financial future and constantly changing state directives, Scotts Valley Unified School District (SVUSD) officials are working hard to stay the course.
What began as a two-week hiatus from school to flatten the COVID – 19 curve has now morphed into online distance learning for the remainder of the school year.
“This not just an education crisis. It’s much larger than that,” said SVUSD Superintendent Tanya Krause. “There’s a balance between providing adequate education, while also maintaining the students’ mental well-being.”
Quick transition to online classes
The district is challenged by a dizzying array of constantly changing federal, state, county and local guidelines. Now that the school closure is indefinite, the district finds itself in uncharted territory quickly working to incorporate curricular goals for the remainder of the year.
Toward that end, the district has provided laptops to over 200 students who lacked their own. Others were given devices because their parents used their only laptops to work at home, and still some others requested paper packets for their student’s studies. Comcast has provided some free Wi-Fi for families without internet access.
Those requiring high-tech support can find the help desk on the district’s website. Other important resources and FAQ’s can also be found on the district’s website.
“Every single teacher working from home is communicating with their students through either Zoom or Google, “said Krause, adding that grade levels range from transitional kindergarten through high school. “So far, it has been effective and overall, we’ve received positive feedback. Teachers and support staff have worked really hard to make this instructional shift.”
A down side of online learning
Though the district’s efforts will be to continue through the school year, officials have found that other challenges may thwart the focus on academics for some students.
“We know that human beings need some socialization. Online learning does not replace the relationships students are missing with their teachers and friends,” Krause said. “Parents are having to shelter in place and support their students’ academic stress. It’s a lot to ask of parents and students.”
Counselors are available for parents and students of every grade level.
Scotts Valley Middle School
Abbie Stevens [email protected]
Brook Knoll Elementary
Ryan Navarolli [email protected]
Vine Hill Elementary
Mackenzie Keller [email protected]
Grim financial forecast on the horizon
When the state put forth its tentative 2020-2021 proposed budget in January, there was a somewhat positive outlook of a growing job market and some surplus funds. Obviously, the coronavirus pandemic has changed all that for the worst. Another, revised budget will be circulated in May, with a final State budget to be approved around June, 20.
“Everything proposed in January is off the table,” Krause said. “We are hearing that the May revision will look dismal. It’s kind of a wait and see right now.”
The one piece of good news is that a February audit of students in each school and how they are attending on a daily basis worked out in favor of the Scotts Valley school district. Unless the state legislature changes the law, Scotts Valley will continue receiving Average Daily Attendance in state money for the district’s 2400 plus students for the current year.
Thus far, no contracted employees have lost their job.
Pension shortfall here to stay
Lurking in the background for the past two years are decreasing yields with the two funds that invest pension money — California Employees Retirement System (CalPERS) and State Teachers Retirement System (STRS).
Even before the recent bear market, the rate of return from the two retirement systems had fallen from 7.5 to 7 percent. That, in effect, raised the amount every government entity in the state had to contribute to keep the fund solvent.
It is unclear how the economics of the pandemic will resolve. “I’m trying to not freak out just yet,” Krause said. “It’s anybody’s guess.”
Graduation will continue
One thing is certain: the class of 2020 at Scotts Valley High School will graduate. What that will look like is still not clear. It is unknown when or what will be able to occur, but some form of celebration will happen Krause stated.
“We’re going to do something to celebrate their commencement,” Krause said. “We’ll figure something out. We are genuinely trying to do our very best,”
David is a local resident, a writer, MSV Columnist and a heck of a nice guy who cares about our commUNITY