The Vista Unified School District's board voted Tuesday to activate a series of school closure protocols that will see campuses temporarily close if certain coronavirus case criteria are triggered. At least one campus will close Thursday as a result.
Although students were on campus Wednesday at Mission Vista High School, which already has two confirmed cases among students and satisfies the first trigger, the school will move to distance learning for at least two weeks starting Thursday. The news was confirmed Wednesday morning in a note sent out by MVHS Principal Jeremy Walden:
Dear MVHS Students and Families,
Last evening, the VUSD Board of Trustees met to review the District’s reopening plan, specifically the status of Classic learning in VUSD schools. After much discussion, the school board decided to add a metric to the Vista Classic model that would cause a school to pivot to Vista Virtual in the event the school has two or more COVID-19 positive cases at the same time. This decision was made based on the need to maintain a conservative approach to health and safety and to ensure there is sufficient staffing to support student learning on campus.
MVHS currently has two positive cases, and will therefore pivot to the Virtual model beginning tomorrow, Thursday, October 29th. Please make the necessary accommodations to have your student remain at home. Students will use the Vista Virtual learning model that they used during the month of September. We will send more details in the coming days. We anticipate a return to the Vista Classic in-person learning model on Monday, November 9, 2020.
With a unanimous vote on Tuesday night, the board approved operating under the Vista Secondary Threshold Model and will send students back to distance learning for at least two weeks if their school sets off one of the following triggers.
- If there are two or more positive student or staff cases at a school, the entire campus will close for two weeks and students will shift to the "Vista Virtual" (distance learning) model.
- If there are three secondary schools (middle school, high school, or a combo campus) with at least one positive student or staff case, each campus will close for two weeks and students will shift to Vista Virtual.
- If the county shifts to Purple Tier (Tier 4) while any school site is in a two-week closure, students will stay in Vista Virtual until the county moves out of Purple Tier.
The changes are expected to go into effect on Thursday.
The district has not confirmed if the cases at Mission Vista combined with the cases at Alta Vista and Roosevelt will lead to closures at the latter two campuses due to the second trigger being satisfied.
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Combined, the six cases have forced more than 400 students and nearly two dozen staff into 14-day quarantine. The district said there's now a teacher shortage because so many staffers are suddenly unable to work, and also because fewer substitute teachers are willing to take jobs.
The district called Tuesday's special board meeting on Monday shortly after confirming its third and fourth student cases at Roosevelt and Alamosa Park. Then it confirmed the fifth at Mission Meadows Tuesday afternoon and the sixth at Alta Vista during the meeting.
District campuses reopened Oct. 20. Parents were given the option of the Vista Classic or Vista Virtual models and about half chose to send their students to campuses.
Two first two cases at Mission Vista High led to the quarantine of 275 students and nine staff; The case at Roosevelt Middle sent 95 students and nine staff into quarantine; The case at Alamosa Park forced 26 students and two staffers into quarantine; and the case at Mission Meadows put 33 students and three staffers in quarantine. The district said the exposure impact of the case at Alta Vista is expected to be minimal.
The district’s in-person teaching model has come under criticism from the teacher’s union, whose president said social distancing protocols are difficult to follow because classrooms are too crowded.
“It’s such a disruptive system for kids to go under quarantine, come back in, go under quarantine, come back in. How can we bring down the anxiety of our community when there’s such a disruption of student learning,” said Keri Avila, president of the Vista Teachers Association.
Of school districts that have reopened, some are disclosing the number of active cases online. Poway Unified School District says they've had 10 positive cases among students. There have been 15 students and one staff member in the Cajon Valley Unified School District to test positive. VUSD is the next highest with 6. There have been a handful of cases between students and staff at Lakeside Union, Santee Union, Del Mar Union, Alpine Unified and Lakeside Union school districts. Not all districts reopen have reported cases.