Superintendent Update

  • November 18: Board Meeting Thursday and Survey Reminder

    Spanish

    Dear Families and Students:

    On Thursday at 6 p.m. the SMUHSD  Board will have a special meeting and study session where they will take part in an equity learning session facilitated by the National Equity Project. Staff will then present a response to the recent Grand Jury Report - “Hate @ Schools - Opportunities Lost” for Board approval. All are welcome to join and listen as we engage in this important work. The agenda and Zoom login information can be found on our website. You can also watch the meeting on our YouTube channel later if you aren’t able to attend. 

    Thank you to all of the families who have answered our Spring Survey. If you have not filled out the survey, I encourage you to do so before it closes at 6 p.m. on Monday, November 23. This NON-BINDING SURVEY is an opportunity for the District to gain insight into how many of our families would like to send their students to school (knowing what they know now, and assuming health conditions do not worsen).  Further, we want to learn more about what factors are important to families as they contemplate his decision. When we are in a position to offer different options and educational models to families we will share more details  and survey our community again. We have all seen how public health conditions can change rapidly, and our District will be guided by science and directives from public health officials in our reopening plans. Our next regular Board meeting is December 3 at 7 p.m. and our conversation about reopening will continue. Zoom meeting information and the agenda will be posted on our website when it is available.  

    Finally, I want to acknowledge what a strange and difficult time this is. While we recognize how students are struggling, every employee I encounter marvels at their collective resilience. I believe we are closer to the end of the pandemic than its beginning, and I’m eager to see what unexpected strengths we gain from our experiences.

    On we go, dedicated to safety during the rest of the calendar year.

    Sincerely,

    Kevin Skelly, Ph.D.
    Superintendent

  • November 13: Survey for Families Regarding the Spring Semester

    Spanish

    Dear Families and Students:

    Last night our Board of Trustees heard a report from the Spring Semester Committee about the possibility for students to return to campus for some in-person instruction in 2021. Part of their direction from this meeting was to survey our families about your interest level for returning to campus

    Please take the survey to tell us more about your interest in having your student return to campus and the factors that are important in your decision making. We know that sometimes parents’ responses can differ from their teens, so we ask that you discuss the survey as a family and answer from that perspective. Please submit one survey for each student in your household.  

    This is not a binding survey. Your candid answers will help us to formulate a re-opening plan and make decisions about how to best serve our students in the spring semester. The survey will close at 6 p.m. on Monday, November 23, so please respond before then. 

    Thank you!

    Sincerely,

    Kevin Skelly, Ph.D. 
    Superintendent  

     

  • November 10: Thursday Night Board Meeting to Discuss Spring Semester Instructional Plan

    Spanish

    Dear SMUHSD Families and Students:

    In October the SMUHSD Board of Trustees directed staff to establish a committee to come up with a reopening plan for the second semester. On Thursday night at their regular meeting at 7 p.m. the SMUHSD Board of Trustees will receive a report from this committee and discuss how we could possibly bring students back on campus. While we don’t know if health conditions will allow this in January, we have an obligation to be prepared to do so when it is possible. Factors the committee is considering include community health conditions, maintaining student learning, minimizing disruptions to instruction, and the mental health and experiences of our students and staff. The Zoom link to join the meeting and agenda can be found on our website.

    While Thanksgiving is around the corner, this past week or so has brought a flood of positive news. There are tangible reasons to be optimistic that we might have a vaccine in the coming months. The turnout for the election shattered all previous numbers. And our democratic institutions seem to be holding up well. As has been our national custom, election results are being accepted by the public as fair and accurate. Yes, there are enormous collective challenges, but hope seems to be on the rise.

    On we go, with lightness and optimism about the future.

    Sincerely

    Kevin Skelly, Ph.D.
    Superintendent

  • November 5 Updates - Spring Semester, Panorama Survey, PSAT 

    Spanish

    Dear Families and Students:

    Happy November. I hope this email finds students making the final push of the semester as we are into the last six weeks. As I talk to teachers they consistently report that classes are productive and students are generally highly engaged. Thank you for your support in this regard.  

    Our work continues on planning for the Spring Semester, with the hope of creating considerably more opportunities for on-campus experiences for students. The Spring Semester operating  committee met on Monday, subcommittees will meet today and the larger group will meet again next Monday. Their work is focused on the delivery of the highest quality instruction in the best model for our students. Safety for students, staff and families is the top priority in all of these conversations. We will bring a potential framework to our November 12 Board Meeting, and I look forward to advancing the conversation. Zoom information on logging on to this meeting will be posted on our website Friday afternoon. I hope you’ll join if you have an interest and are able to do so. As we know, it’s not a question of if students return, but when we can do this effectively. Stay tuned.

    SMUHSD will administer an online survey of all students from November 9-17, 2020 intended to gather information and inform our staff about students’ experiences with school in terms of safety, belonging, and school culture. In addition, it is intended to inform us about student experiences regarding incidents of hate speech and bias/discrimination in our schools. We are hopeful that the answers to these questions will help us to  better understand recent reports of discrimination across the District including a recent Grand Jury Report. The survey will be conducted using our online survey platform, Panorama and we will use the data to evaluate our programs and policies. Please make sure your student completes the survey when they are prompted in one of their classes between November 9-17.

    Our District will attempt to administer the PSAT assessment on Tuesday, January 26, 2020, for our current SMUHSD 11th graders (only) if health conditions allow. Juniors and their families will get an email from me on Friday with more information along with a google form families must complete in order to indicate their interest in sitting for the exam.

    Take care.

    Kevin Skelly, Ph.D.
    Superintendent

  • October 28 Update - Planning for Second Semester

    Spanish

    Dear SMUHSD Families and Students:

    I hope you are enjoying these last few days of October as the weather starts to cool and winter, or the Bay Area's version of it, starts to take hold. My son is visiting from Michigan and consistently reminds me how much we have to be grateful for in terms of climate.

    As you may know, at its October 22 meeting, the Board directed staff to study the possibility of bringing students back in some sort of hybrid model for the second semester (after the Winter Break) if that can be done safely. This would give students who request it the opportunity to have some in-person learning at their school. The Board asked for a proposed framework at their Thursday, November 12 meeting. In every scenario families would be given options regarding the manner of instruction they would like for their student. We will continue to offer distance learning to those families who request it for the remainder of the school year.   

    We are forming a committee, exploring logistics and learning schedules, and having preliminary conversations with families about what they would like for their students.  As elementary schools start to open for in-person learning and surrounding high schools study a second semester change in learning models, we have a responsibility to do the same. There's a lot we have learned since the Spring to inform our work, and we are clearly not the only district engaged in this exploration.

    To be clear, no decision has been made by the Board.  Pending board direction, in the next few weeks we will be soliciting families’ opinions on this topic -  asking families their preferences about in-person or continued virtual instruction. Please look for a survey from me via email in the coming weeks. All processes and logistics are being drafted and will be discussed. We keep you informed as we move forward.

    From now until December 21 the days are getting progressively shorter. All the darkness can darken our moods. I’m going to make a special effort to smile through my mask these coming months.  

    On we go into the Orange Tier and hoping for sunny days sprinkled with rainy ones.

    Sincerely,

    Kevin Skelly, Ph.D.
    Superintendent

  • October 16 Update - Unity in the Community is Tuesday, October 20 at 6:30 p.m. 

    Spanish

    Dear SMUHSD Families and Students:

    On Tuesday, October 20 at 6:30 p.m. the District and the Black Parents Association will host a virtual town hall entitled Unity in the Community where we will review the results of a recent Thought Exchange and discuss how these ideas align with District goals. In the Thoughtexchange, we reached out specifically to our African American students and families (or those who identify as African American and another race) and asked what we could do to serve them more effectively. Respondents told us that anti-bias and anti-racism training, curriculum and staffing were at the top of their minds as well as networking and mentoring opportunities and anti-racism in the community. 

    We may not have all of the answers at this meeting, but it is an opportunity to continue this dialogue. I hope you will join if you are interested. The Zoom login information can be found on our website.

    It goes without saying that we live in a time of division, fear, and anger. I recently received the following from a wise parent. It is from the remarks from Ana Mari Cauce, the President of the University of Washington, and it resonated with me, particularly when I  engage in conversations about race.

    At times we will need to give each other grace. Grace is most definitely not a free pass for racist actions or language, for the willful disregard of others’ pain, or an excuse for callous cluelessness. and it does not preclude the need to apologize or make reparations when harms – even unintentional ones – occur. Grace is a recognition that even when we share values and goals, we each bring our own struggles and vulnerabilities to the table and our communications are filtered by both our own limited personal histories and our limited knowledge of the histories of those we are engaged with. What I mean by grace is that we must recognize the humanity of others and that we are all incomplete in our efforts to learn and grow. I too am learning each day. But, without the presence of grace, we will not fully engage with each other out of fear that we will get shut down, or worse, if we say the wrong thing – or the right thing the wrong way – so we shut down before we even start. 

    Our collective progress runs through difficult conversations and listening. We will go farther if we do so with compassion, humanity, vulnerability and a large portion of grace. 

    On we go. 

    Sincerely,

    Kevin Skelly, Ph.D.
    Superintendent

  • October 6: Asynchronous Days in October 

    Spanish

    Dear Families and Students: 

    It’s not possible to say thank you enough to you for your uncommon grace and positivity during what must be a most challenging and different year to be a high school student and parent/guardian. Whenever I am discouraged by the limitations we face in providing our students the experiences we all so want them to have, I remind myself that the families we serve are soldiering on -- so I should too!

    In a normal school year, October can be one of the hardest months as the sheen of the new year has worn off and school proceeds unrelentingly up to Veterans Day. This year has featured an extraordinary amount of screentime, which can be exhausting in its own right. Last week the District and the Teachers’ Association met to explore ways to provide relief to students. Here is the solution we agreed to: 

    Teachers will have the flexibility on Wednesday, October 14 and 28 to either conduct their classes as usual or have asynchronous learning on those days for their students and be available during their normal periods to meet with and support students as needed. Teachers will notify their students by no later than October 13 and 27 whether the upcoming Wednesday will be the normal class schedule or asynchronous learning. Peninsula High School will have corresponding asynchronous days on Oct. 16 and 30.

    In terms of attendance, student work on the asynchronous days will represent being “present,” or engaged for that day. Teachers will communicate with their classes exactly how and when students should turn in their work to get credit for that day. 

    As a system, we are looking at ways to reduce screen time. Teachers are offering breaks during class periods and finding ways for activities that don’t involve staring at a screen.  However, our teachers and students  also need instructional time in order to provide a high quality experience. There’s simply no substitute for time on task.

    While I look forward to the days when we can return to in-person instruction, we continue to see reminders every day about the health risks associated with Covid-19. These are difficult times, and simple acts like wearing a mask and social distancing are so important for both for our health and for other’s well being. The data in our community is getting better; let’s keep it up even as the days shorten and our patience wanes.

    On we go. 

    Sincerely,

    Kevin Skelly, Ph.D.
    Superintendent

  • September 30: Making yourself happier through serving others 

    Spanish

    Dear Families and Students:

    Once when I was a teenager and depressed my father, who rarely delved into my emotional space said, “If you want to be happier, go do something for someone else.”  At the time he was doing the equivalent of watering a rock, but his message stayed with me. 

    So many social connections are broken these days. Since many of the random, joyful encounters that make school so great are on hiatus, it is important that we find ways to be there for ourselves and for others. I find myself working doubly hard to find ways to engage in real conversations with others, for my sake and hopefully theirs. 

    So what can we do for others?  One doesn’t have to think long to realize that the elderly, those without strong extended families, and even many people who give the facade of strong social connections are yearning for someone to ask them, with genuine interest, “How are you doing?”

    For many of us, exercise fits the bill to improve one’s mood. I hope you find time to walk, run, ride your bike, or play a racquet sport. Our courts and tracks are available for use -- check out our website for more information.

    While acts of service, social connections, and an exercise regime are associated with good health, we know students and families may need more.  If you or your student find yourselves in this category, there is help available. Students can request to speak with a Wellness Counselor by phone or email. Learn more by visiting our website. Care Solace is an online resource with a live 24/7 concierge meant to assist students and families in finding local mental health related programs and counseling services. More information is available on our websiteOur District has developed a family support group with parents and primary caretakers in mind. This is a space to support parent-child communication, positive behavior management, interpersonal relationships, healthy boundaries, and strategies that promote school success and self-care. See our website for more information.  

    And finally, remember that by wearing your mask and maintaining social distancing, you are doing something for others. These small acts show you care about the health and well being of others. 

    To your good health -- mind, body, and soul!

    Kevin Skelly, Ph.D.
    Superintendent

  • September 25: The Enduring Work of Combating Hate

    Spanish

    Dear Families and Students: 

    This morning the San Mateo Daily Journal published a story about the San Mateo County Grand Jury report - Hate @ Schools -- Opportunities Lost that was released yesterday. The report recounts three incidents at Burlingame High School which occurred over a two year period and offers recommendations for San Mateo County schools to improve their responses to hate incidents in our schools. 

    It has been my experience these past six years that each and every staff member in our District shares the Grand Jury’s sense of urgency for this work. We know that students cannot learn when they do not feel safe. Families who entrust their students to our care should have confidence that we will do all we can to eliminate hate. Further, public schools have an enduring responsibility to instill in our students values of empathy, acceptance, and respect for others. As your student’s first teacher, I’d encourage you to share how important these values are to you and your family.

    We will prepare and our Board of Trustees will review a formal response to the recommendations outlined in the report. If you have thoughts you’d like to share please reach out to me at kskelly@smuhsd.org.  

    Thank you.

    Sincerely,

    Kevin Skelly, Ph.D.

    Superintendent

  • September 17: A word about social media - facing the modern day schoolyard bully

    Spanish

    Dear Families and Students: 

    As a community, we need to be consistently vigilant about student safety. Without it, students can’t learn or grow as they should. Recently we’ve had increasing reports of social media sites featuring posts ranging from harmful rumors to cyberbullying to hate speech involving our students. As a District we care about the safety of our students and do not turn a blind eye to their concerns or complaints. However, we all have a role to play in addressing our modern version of the schoolyard bully.

    The District does not review or monitor student social media activity. However, if we are informed of content that harasses, threatens or intimidates students and is related to a school activity or school attendance, we contact the social media site and push for removal of the offensive material. Students and families can do the same. At times this work feels like a game of “whack-a-mole,” as soon as one site goes down another goes up. And this does not change culture or behavior. 

    We encourage students, to the extent they feel comfortable, to be upstanders and defenders. It’s not easy, but one courageous voice emboldens others to work to change the culture online. 

    Students can and should report incidents of bullying and harassment to their school administrators. The District uses the Anonymous Alerts anti-bullying and safety app reporting system to help combat bullying and other negative activity in schools by empowering students to speak up. Social and peer pressure are some of the hardest obstacles for students to overcome, so we offer this option as a way for students to report issues anonymously. Information can be found on our website

    Students can also file a Title IX complaint. Title IX is a federal law that protects people from discrimination based on sex in education programs or activities that receive Federal financial assistance. This includes harassment, intimidation and bullying because of actual or perceived disability, sex, gender, gender identity, gender expression, nationality, race, ethnicity, color, ancestry, religion, sexual orientation, age, marital or parental status, or association with a person or group with one or more of these actual or perceived characteristics. Additional information about Title IX including information about how to file a Title IX complaint is available on our website

    Two more thoughts. First, while we see many of our students’ actions, there’s an often hidden life they lead around relationships, gossip, and social interactions that we don’t see. Social media can amplify and distort many emotions our students can feel. Students spending an inordinate amount of time on social media are the most at risk. With my own children, it often took some prodding and perceived nosiness to learn about these experiences, but the results made “invading their privacy” worth the scorn I received.

    Finally, it has always been the case that those spewing hate to others have their own pain and suffering. They are often victims as well as perpetrators. We are eager to help these students. Our community is safer when we can identify and help alleviate all those who struggle.

    On we go, dedicated to a safe community when we work together.


    Sincerely,
     

    Kevin Skelly, Ph.D.
    Superintendent

  • September 11 Update

    Spanish

    Dear Families and Students:

    Last night the Governing Board approved staff’s recommendation that the District continue with distance learning for virtually all instruction for the remainder of the semester (through December). The Board cited multiple reasons for their decision. Health conditions in San Mateo County continue to be the primary concern, with few expectations the environment will improve soon. Bringing students back too early poses the risk of then having to close again and return to distance learning. Making this decision now provides certainty for our families and organization as we continue to confront the challenge of providing outstanding instruction virtually. While we’re all disappointed with the situation in which we find ourselves, our only choice is to soldier on and find small victories where we can. In that spirit, on behalf of the Board I want to thank everyone -- families, students, teachers, administrators, and staff -- for the hard work and determination demonstrated so far this year. We’re having more success than many expected!

    I should note that there may be some exceptions to students returning to campus earlier including small learning pods of students whose educational needs cannot or are not met without being on campus. These students would all be in carefully monitored cohorts.

    Another exception could be Peninsula High School students who operate on the trimester system. If we are safely able to do so, we will attempt to bring this smaller group of students for whom school is a challenge to their new campus in Burlingame when it opens in mid-November at the start of their second trimester.   

    Reopening our schools safely will be determined by many factors, including some we cannot control. And it will be hard! During the next few months we will continue to provide updates. You can always find out more details about how the year is unfolding by attending Board meetings virtually or watching a recording of return to school reports on the District’s YouTube channel.

    On we go, determined to do our collective best.

    Sincerely,

    Kevin Skelly, Ph.D.
    Superintendent

  • September 1 Update from Superintendent Skelly

    Spanish

    Dear Families and Students:

    Tonight we will host the first session in our family engagement series: Student Success in Distance Learning via Zoom at 6 p.m. All of the details on how to join can be found in the Latest News section of our website. We will provide an overview of the upcoming family engagement events, talk about how to support your student in the virtual classroom, share specifics about Canvas and getting technical support for students, and briefly discuss the results of our recent Thoughtexchange. If you aren’t able to join the event tonight we will stream it to our YouTube channel where it can be viewed anytime. 

    Physical activity is inextricably linked to mental and emotional health. Our students need a safe place to exercise and see their friends. Starting today, District students can reserve times on stadium tracks and tennis courts at Aragon, Burlingame, Hillsdale and San Mateo High Schools Monday - Friday from 3:30 - 8:30 p.m. Note - Mills and Capuchino will open when construction on the stadium fields is completed. These times are available for students only. All students using the facilities will be health screened upon entry and required to present their student ID or class schedule to confirm their status as our student. Students can create reservations on the District's facilities rental platform Facilitron. Students will be expected to adhere to social distancing while using these facilities.

    We all realize that this is an extraordinarily difficult time for our families. We are our best when we offer support and are empathetic to each other.

    On we go, active and empathetic so we can be good to those we love.  

    Sincerely,

    Kevin Skelly, Ph.D.
    Superintendent   

  • August 28 Update from Superintendent Skelly

    Spanish

    Dear Families and Students:

    I want to express again my deep appreciation for the hard work and engagement students and families are commiting to so far this school year. I am often overly optimistic about how things will turn out. This can lead to disappointment. However, in the case of our fall opening, my positive outlook turned out to be less sunny than reality. How wonderful is that?

    Back to School Night is right around the corner. Originally scheduled for September 3, we have moved this date to September 10 to allow teachers time to prepare videos and communications covering what parents need to know in this most unusual year. Videos will be ready for viewing on the night of September 10 and can be accessed through each teachers’ Canvas Course Homepage. For detailed instructions on how to access Canvas, please visit our website. Friday, September 4 will still be a minimum day for students. As always, parents can reach out to individual teachers with questions and concerns. Your school site will share additional information about Back to School Night soon. 

    Please join the District on Tuesday, September 1 at 6 p.m. for our first Virtual Parent Education Convening - Student Success in Distance Learning. We look forward to sharing the results of our recent Thoughtexchange survey and providing information on how to be successful this semester. 

    On a typical fall Friday night many of us would be engaged in community activities such as a fall sport or some other community endeavor. But this is not a typical fall, so many of these activities are missing from our lives. Rather than mourn these absences, I am trying very hard to find other ways to build community for myself and those whom I know whose lives have a hole with less community capital. We all need to work harder in this regard.

    On we go, celebrating lives that often exceed our expectations.

    Sincerely,

    Kevin Skelly, Ph.D. 
    Superintendent

  • August 26 Update from Superintendent Skelly

    Spanish

    Dear Families and Students: 

    In the interest of transparency I want to share a communication I sent to District staff (included below) this morning that outlines information about two positive COVID-19 cases in our District community. Our District remains committed to adhering to the  four pillars (health and hygiene, face coverings, physical distancing, limiting gatherings) and the safety of our school communities. We know that COVID is present in our community, and we are committed to doing all that we can to halt the spread of the virus. 

    We are operating in untested times, and we will undoubtedly encounter technical difficulties that are beyond our control ranging from problems with Zoom to power outages. Our District is working through steps to take for every eventuality, and I encourage students to follow their teachers’ directions. Flexibility is one of life's highest virtues these days. 

    Finally, I want to encourage parents and students to weigh in on the District’s Thoughtexchange: what is at the top of your hearts and minds at the beginning of this school year. Your responses will inform the first in our series of virtual Parent Education Convenings - Student Success in Distance Learning on September 1 at 6 p.m. Our Thoughtexchange survey will close this Thursday night, so please take five minutes to add your thoughts and rate those of  others.

    Sincerely,

    Kevin Skelly, Ph.D. 
    Superintendent


    Message to Staff - August 26, 2020

    Dear Colleagues:

    I am reaching out to you in full transparency regarding two COVID cases we have seen in our District community across the past few weeks. 

    First I want to provide information on our rationale for the notification process, which is often strictly directed by the County Health Department. We start at the center of a case and notify those closest to the case (the infected person and their direct contacts), and we move out from the circle from there. This is a time intensive process which requires a lot of sensitivity and confidentiality. We inform individuals on a need to know basis. If a case occurs at a school we inform those in the school community and may not inform the entire District. 

    During this process if you hear of a case, we ask you not to disseminate this information. Please allow the District to follow its process. This allows us to work as quickly as possible to inform those who need the information versus spending time dispelling rumors. You have my word that if you are potentially affected by a case we will notify you as soon as we are able.

    While your risk may be very low, it is normal to feel a wide range of emotions during this time including stress and anxiety about the situation. If feelings of stress become overwhelming, help is available. Employees can take advantage of our Employee Assistance Program  (EAP) and/or our partnership with Care Solace. Staff can also reach out to their healthcare provider for advice or information on mental health support.       

    District Employee

    A District employee came to work last week. The employee went through the mandated health screenings including temperature check. As the day went on, the employee began to feel sick. When they went home they were directed to reach out to their physician who determined they should be tested for COVID and were found positive. The employee reported this to District staff with information about employees with whom they had been in contact. Those other employees were informed, were excused from work, were asked to quarantine and be tested. There is no evidence of spread to date. The employee is expected to recover fully. All employees followed District and county health protocols.

    Student

    On Thursday, August 20 the Stanford Health Van was at San Mateo High School. Some students in learning pods took advantage of the COVID testing available from the van that day. All students in the pods received health screening and temperature checks prior to their attendance in the pod. One student tested positive for the virus. Results were shared with the District late Tuesday afternoon by County contact tracing staff. The Site and District administration met that evening. All employees who were in any way exposed to this student will be excused from work for two weeks, have been asked to quarantine, and will be offered testing, as will the students in the learning pod. The learning pod will be disbanded for two weeks. All students and staff followed District and county health protocols.

    Summary

    I want to emphasize that all health protocols were followed in both cases. It can be argued that District activities and protocols did and will slow community spread by providing more testing in the case of the student, and providing awareness of signs of COVID-19 in the case of the employee. However, these two cases are reminders that we must be vigilant and the virus is prevalent in our community. 

    We are not waiting for an outbreak to thoroughly disinfect our campuses. Please know that the District is fully committed to adhering to the four pillars (health and hygiene, face coverings, physical distancing, limiting gatherings) and the areas in question (as are all areas that are used each day on our campus) are disinfected nightly with Clorox 360 and #49 which are known to kill the Coronavirus effectively.

    We will continue to reflect on these cases and see what lessons we can learn. We know that COVID is in our community. It is incumbent upon us all to keep in mind we may have the virus and not know it, and that those around us may as well. And we need to act accordingly. To date we believe all members of our community are complying with expectations when on campus and we will expect this from each and every student and staff member.

    As always we ask that staff be mindful of possible COVID-19 symptoms and be diligent about filling out the health form before reporting to work. If you should experience any symptoms, please reach out to Sara Devaney for further direction. 

    If you have questions or concerns, please let me know.

    Kevin

     

    FAQs

    What if I used the same restroom as the infected person? What if I was in the same room as an infected person?

    Individuals are only considered to be at high risk if they have prolonged close contact with an infected person. Using the same restroom or being in the same room as an infected person is not considered to put an individual at high risk for contracting COVID-19. 

    Define close contact.

    Close contact is defined as being face-to-face with an infected individual during the infectious period of the virus (less than six feet and without a face covering) for more than 15 minutes. More information can be found on the CDC website: CDC Exposure Definition

    I’m feeling COVID-19 symptoms. What should I do?

    If you are feeling COVID-19 symptoms, you can contact your primary care provider for information on testing, or call our COVID information line at 650-558-2228. 

  • August 21 Update From Superintendent Skelly
    Spanish 

    Dear SMUHSD Families and Students:

    Week one of the 2020-21 school year is in the record books. Only 35 more to go!

    Our themes for the year are Equity, Flexibility, and Choice. It’s crucial that we continually reflect on our efforts and modify according to the feedback we receive. Toward that end, staff will host the first of our series of Virtual Parent Education Convenings on Tuesday, September 1 at 6 p.m. We look forward to a robust conversation on student success in Distance Learning. We ask parents, guardians and students to tell us what’s on top of your heart and mind using the Thoughtexchange Platform as soon as possible.

    This will inform the District on what issues families think are most important and drive the conversation toward providing information families need to help their students be successful. You can learn more by viewing this brief video. 

    Zoom login information for this meeting can be found in the Latest News section of our website

    On we go, with a commitment to exchange thoughts!

    Sincerely,

    Kevin Skelly, Ph.D.
    Superintendent

     



  • August 20 Update from Superintendent Skelly

    Spanish 

    Dear SMUHSD Families and Students:

    At nine o'clock Monday morning when school started I took a deep breath and thought about what was happening virtually all over our community. It felt akin to NASA engineers as they wait for word about landings and dockings in outer space.  

    In my many conversations with administrators and teachers about the start of the school year I heard comments like, “a remarkably successful start,” and “better than I expected” abound. I am relieved and overjoyed.  

    Thank you. The consistent and immense trust you place in District staff to do right by your student is humbling. You have done your part -- almost without exception you have made sure your student is online and ready for instruction.  Now we have to do ours -- provide our nine thousand students with the absolute best learning experience we can. We take this responsibility very, very seriously.  

    Here are four important announcements:

    • We are taking attendance in every class. If your student is going to be absent, please call the school or, ideally, complete an absence notification on line. You can find a link to this simple form on your school’s website.  We will be notifying families when students are “distance learning not engaged” (not attending and/or not participating), as we always have with traditional absences.

    • Being a parent/guardian during this time is hard! Over this semester we will be holding webinars on various topics ranging from parenting in a pandemic to college applications to supporting your student’s online experience. Please look for more information coming soon on our website.  

    • If you have any questions about technology or need technical support, please email help@smuhsd.org. Students can call 650-558-2480 or text 650-554-8431 for assistance. Phone and text support is available from 7:30 a.m.- 9 p.m. Monday through Friday.

    • Student Nutrition is providing meal service Monday -Friday  at our six comprehensive high school campuses, please see our website for more information. 

    Our Board meets tonight at 7 p.m. and will continue to discuss the status of our re-opening and hear reports from principals on the first days of school. As always, you are invited to attend and can find the information to join the Zoom meeting on our website

    We all realize that this semester will be a marathon not a sprint. Our collective work will be harder than ever.  That said, we’re glad we are off to a good start and aren’t stumbling out of the gate. Thank you for your tremendous support.

    On we go, together.

    Sincerely,

    Kevin Skelly, Ph.D.
    Superintendent

  • August 14, 2020 Update

    Spanish | Chinese

    Dear SMUHSD Families and Students:

    When I taught math in a program for middle school kids in Washington, D.C. during a college summer, the director would ring a bell to end recess and yell, "It's Learning Time!" with everything he had. Even though it was often in the nineties in heat and humidity, his energy was infectious. Off we'd trundle to rooms with fans and sweaty youngsters.

    Monday will be learning time in the District. Nine thousand students will be starting a year unlike any other. And while everyone has put their all into the launching, we know there'll be bumps and missteps all around. This won't be the smoothest opening in District history, but I'm confident it'll be pretty darn good. Please take the time to read all communications from your site while checking out your school's website for information and where to get help. 

    While looking at the website, please be aware of some changes we made around accepting courses from outside the District and how Community College courses grade point average is calculated. They can be found online.

    We’ve had far fewer families apply for the National School Lunch Program this year than in the past. In our District, families who qualify to receive reduced cost lunches, receive their meals for free. Families can apply for this benefit on the EZ Meal App Website. We will provide updates on times and places for students to receive meals on our website soon.  

    As parents/guardians, there's the temptation to hover over your student, and this is made far easier when we bring the instruction to your home. Can I gently suggest that your student needs the freedom and encouragement to be as independent as possible?  Further, your student and their peers are entitled to the privacy to learn in a safe place -- something we strive to create whether it is online or in person. Remember, you can always request a meeting with your student’s teacher or a school administrator if you have any questions or concerns.

    I have been saying, "This is my 39th year in education, and my first pandemic."  It will be learning time for all of us. 

    On we go, to where lessons abound. 

    Sincerely,

    Kevin Skelly, Ph.D.
    Superintendent

     

  • August 12 Superintendent Update

    Spanish | Chinese

    Dear SMUHSD Families and Students:

    This week two important things are happening to help us launch as smoothly as possible next Monday, August 17. First, teachers are engaged in activities to hone their instructional skills for the virtual environment. These include nuts and bolts such as attendance taking and collecting assignments to advanced features of various educational technology we will be using. The second major activity is the distribution of all the books, workbooks, class schedules, Chromebooks and other learning materials to all students. This is a mammoth undertaking as I have observed while helping out at San Mateo High. We really appreciate our classified staff’s work in this area.

    Tomorrow night, Thursday, August 13 at 6 p.m. athletic directors from our six comprehensive high schools and district administrators will host a Virtual Town Hall to discuss the athletic programs for the 2020-21 school year and answer questions. Login information for this meeting can be found on our website. Students and Parents can submit questions in advance of the meeting using this google form

    I hope you enjoy these last few days of summer. As I travel the district both virtually and via visiting sites, there’s excitement building. We will be ready to go on Monday and students should be ready to bring their growth mindset and enthusiasm to learn.

    On we go!

    Sincerely,


    Kevin Skelly, Ph.D. 
    Superintendent

  • August 7 Superintendent Update

    Spanish | Chinese

    Dear SMUHSD Students and Families:

    When counting down for rocket launches and hide and seek, one often starts with ten.  And so it is with the school year -- we’re counting down, starting today and at ten, to the start of school which is August 17 - a week from this coming Monday. Perhaps a rocket launch is more difficult than the logistics for this fall, but not by much.  

    Over the next week you should be hearing more from your particular school about orientation, student schedules, and the distribution of learning materials. Please pay particular attention to these notices as we are extremely dependent on your help and preparation to ensure a relatively smooth transition to learning and instruction this year. 

    As you may have heard, our plans for sports and athletic teams have also changed for this school year. A Districtwide athletics town hall is scheduled for next Thursday, August 13 at 6 p.m. Information and log-in details for the meeting can be found on the District website

    I have been constantly thinking about what it would be like to be a high school student during this unusual time. In my conversations with our students, I’m impressed with their resilience and positive attitude. We will all need to support and encourage them as they adjust to a coming semester like no other.  

    I appreciate your understanding and support of our work as well. 

    On we go, with masks in public!

    Sincerely,

    Kevin Skelly, Ph.D.

    Superintendent

  • August 3 Message

    Spanish | Chinese

    Dear Families, 

    As a way to support the unique needs of students during the Fall 2020 semester, we have partnered with the San Mateo Community College District to offer Concurrent Enrollment courses. We encourage any interested students and families to participate in either of the two informational sessions on Concurrent Enrollment offered this week on August 4 at 6 p.m. or August 6 at 6 p.m. We will offer simultaneous interpretation for both meetings. 

    Families can learn more about these opportunities on our website (EnglishSpanish, Chinese)

    Sincerely,

    Kevin Skelly, Ph.D. 
    Superintendent

  • July 29 Update from Superintendent Kevin Skelly

    Spanish | Chinese

    Dear SMUHSD Families:

    I hope this email finds you enjoying the last few weeks before school starts on August 17. As you and your family prepare for the fall semester, please know that we will start in distance learning for at least the first six weeks and that traditional A-F grades will be given for all classes.  In the coming weeks you will be seeing emails and other communications from your school. Be assured that staff are working full throttle to make sure the fall is the highest quality experience it can be for our students.

    Tonight at 5 p.m. the Board will receive another update on school reopening which can be found on our website. Topics include the results of the recent family survey about learning options, a modified instructional schedule for the first semester, individual school data and reopening plans, and outdoor learning centers for students who need them. Information on accessing the meeting can be found in the latest news section of our website

    I have appreciated the opportunity to learn about the concerns and hopes you have for the fall while participating in the Town Halls and other virtual meetings these past few months. My sense is that while we’re all frustrated and discouraged at times, there’s enough goodwill and determination to see us through this tough patch. 

    For whatever reason, I’m feeling more optimistic about the fall than ever. Perhaps it’s because I encounter staff and others making outsized contributions toward our collective efforts. These activities will surely enhance the experience of our students in a few short weeks.

    On we go, with optimism and determination.

    Sincerely,

    Kevin Skelly, Ph.D.
    Superintendent

Superintendent's Update

  •  July 23 Update - Surveys Due Tomorrow

    Spanish | Chinese

    Dear SMUHSD Families:

    Thank you to the hundreds of families  who attended our virtual Q&A last night to hear about educational choices for the fall. You asked lots of great questions!  I think you got an idea of how complicated and challenging the fall will be. A recording of the meeting and the presentation can be found on our website. You can also read the frequently asked questions on our website for additional information.  

    We also appreciate the thousands of families who have submitted the survey and look forward to hearing from the rest of you by Friday, July 24 at 6 p.m.. The link to the survey is on our website, and if you have changed your mind about your previous choice, you can resubmit using the same form. We will use your most recent submission to develop your student’s schedule. Those not submitting a survey will be placed into a Synchronous Online Learning schedule (option A). 

    Last night there were questions about choosing a combination of choices. If you have an interest in an option aside from Synchronous Online Learning (option A) or Independent Study (option B), please send an email to returntoschool@smuhsd.org with your student’s name, ID number, school, grade they are entering and all the details about their choices. Please be as specific as you can possibly be. Given all the logistical challenges and staffing limitations we face, we will not be able to give families advice on courses or choices.  We continue to believe that option A is the best option for most families. 

    It’s a little more than three weeks until school resumes.  We’re looking forward to a school year unlike any other! 

    Sincerely,

    Kevin Skelly, Ph.D.
    Superintendent

Superintendent's Update

  • July 21 Update from Superintendent Skelly

    Spanish | Chinese

    Dear SMUHSD Families:

    On Friday you should have received a mandatory survey asking for your choice on the educational delivery option for the fall semester. We know that some of you may not have received it. If that’s the case, you can go to the District website to access it. Thanks to the thousands of families who have already responded and please remember the deadline of Friday, July 24 at 6 p.m.

    As a District, we recommend that all families choose to have their students enroll in online synchronous learning and choose option A for a whole host of reasons. This option provides students with a regular daily schedule,  a credentialed teacher instructing the class, and allows for far more socialization and student support than independent study (option B). While there are a small percentage of students who can learn independently, our experience is that few students thrive without the structure of classes, teacher support, and ongoing learning expectations. We will be holding a virtual Q&A meeting to further explain options to families tomorrow, July 22  at 5 p.m. Spanish and Chinese interpretation will be available.  

    Zoom login information can be found on our website.  

    Finally, I don’t know about you, but I find myself embracing two truths that sometimes balance but are often out of kilter. The first is that we as a District are making more progress with more goodwill than that experienced by many of my superintendent colleagues. The other is that our challenges have never been greater, resulting in fewer tangible successes than any of us would like.

    Helping to center the scale has been a few days with family and efforts to find gratitude for the opportunity to work in our community. I hope you are finding ways to balance yourself as well.

    Sincerely,

    Kevin Skelly, Ph.D.
    Superintendent

  • July 17 Update: Mandatory Family Survey About Fall 2020 Educational Choices

    Spanish |  Chinese

    Dear Families:

    Our Board met on July 14 and discussed educational options for the Fall 2020 semester for students. Now, I am asking all families to complete a required survey to make a choice for how you want your student to receive their education this fall. To learn more about these options, please view the slidedeck on our website. 

    It is crucial that you consider these choices carefully as you will need to commit to your decision for the entire fall semester. The reason for this is so the District can plan for the semester, allocate staff and resources and provide the best possible learning experience for your student.

    You will need to fill out a separate questionnaire for each SMUHSD student in your household. Please submit the questionnaire by Friday, July 24 at 6 p.m.  

    If your family has questions please email returntoschool@smuhsd.org. Please include your student’s name, grade level and the school they attend.  

    No matter which choice your family makes for your student’s education we are committed to providing them with the best possible education in the Fall of 2020 and beyond

    Sincerely,

    Kevin Skelly, Ph.D. 
    Superintendent 

Updates from Superintendent Skelly

  • July 10 Update from Superintendent Skelly

    Spanish |  Chinese

    Dear SMUHSD Families, Students and Staff:

    We are in the middle of our summer holidays. The first day of instruction for students is Monday, August 17 which feels at times a long way away and, alternatively, just around the corner. We will be updating the Board and seeking input from them on Tuesday, July 14 at 1 p.m. (see the agenda and Zoom information on our website). Topics for discussion include:

    • Phases of reopening
    • Learning Schedule 
    • Physical Education
    • Special Education Services
    • English Learner Support
    • Coursework outside of District
    • Orientation
    • Questionnaire to Families
    • Middle College, Adult School and Peninsula High 

    Reopening Plans 

    In addition to the board meeting, I want to make sure you know about a mandatory questionnaire we will be sending to you electronically next week. This communication will ask you to indicate your choices about how your student will receive instruction in the fall. We must have this information from each and every family in order to effectively launch in the fall.

    While I know our staff will put everything they have into their efforts, the pandemic makes our work very different, and harder. Many parents and community members have an interest in and high anxiety around what school could look like if we were to progress beyond phase 2. I share these concerns and have thought of little else for the past several months. At this stage, our staff needs to focus on what phase 2 will look like so that we can make it the best possible experience for your student. We are also using this time to plan for phases 3, 4, and 5 should we be able to move in that direction.  

    Learning has always been dependent upon the desire and motivation of our students as well as the support of those who love them. This will be truer than ever this fall.

    John Lennon said, “Everything will be okay in the end. If it’s not okay, it’s not the end.”  This expression feels particularly apropos these days -- we hope that things will change soon, and we’re sure that they will eventually.

    I wish you a restful and rejuvenating July full of unexpected gifts.

    Sincerely,

    Kevin Skelly, Ph.D.
    Superintendent

    P.S. I asked some of our English teachers for recommendations on titles our students could read this summer. Here are two teacher’s thoughts:

    Bethany Li, district English coordinator uses this strategy when selecting a good book: When selecting a book to read for pleasure, I rely heavily on Good Reads reviews, so that my reading experience feels connected to a community of readers with rich perspectives on a wide range of texts. Their summer reading list includes recommendations from well-read celebrities like Trevor Noah and Ali Wong, along with the most read books of 2020 to date. One title that caught my attention recently is Big Friendship by Aminatou Sow and Ann Friedman, who describe the story of their friendship over the course of a decade. According to Good Reads: "Big Friendship will invite you to think about how your own bonds are formed, challenged, and preserved. It is a call to value your friendships in all of their complexity. Actively choose them. And, sometimes, fight for them." Since shelter in place has caused many of us to feel isolated or lonely, this story seems like a helpful reminder to lean on the people we love for support in trying times.

    Jim Burke, Middle College teacher and author offers the following thoughts on summer reading: During times like these, I find there are two types of readers: those who like to go toward the issues at hand and those who want to get away from what is going on and read something that takes their mind off of the current troubles for a bit. I tend to be the sort that wants to read about pandemics during a global pandemic! Here are a few books that I have found really interesting lately and well-written: Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel is set in the future during a global pandemic referred to as the “Georgian Flu” since it came from Georgia, Russia. The next book, just out, is fiction but written by Lawrene Wright who has won many awards for his reporting on the Middle East. His new book, a novel, is titled The End of October and follows a global pandemic from start to finish. A real page-turner, well-written but engaging. Perhaps my favorite book about epidemics is Blindness, by Jose Saramago, a Portugese writer who won the Nobel Prize for Literature years back. Very different from the other books as the epidemic is a mysterious “white blindness” that people pass on to each other without knowing it. If you want a more historical but excellent book about pandemics, I read and highly recommend John Barry’s The Great Influenza, which tells the story of the 1918 Spanish Influenza. Fascinating book. I found all these books interesting but not scary.

    P.P.S.: We experienced some technical difficulties when sending out my last message on July 2, and it did not reach all families. If you were one of those families you can read it on our websiteOur apologies. 

  • July 2 Update from Superintendent Skelly (PDF)

    SpanishChinese

    Dear SMUHSD Students and Families:

    I hope this note finds you healthy and doing your part to keep those around you in fine form as well. 

    Even though this is a week where many administrators and others are taking time off, planning for the fall is underway. The logistical challenges associated with the upcoming semester are daunting. However, I am pleased with the direction the school board gave us at their June 25 Board meeting. A summary of the important steps taken are included in my message from June 26 that can be found on our website (below).

    I’ve received a lot of questions about what synchronous learning is and what it will look like. The best way I have heard it described is that, no matter where you are, the instruction is happening in real time and all students are receiving it together. The District is committed to providing synchronous learning for all students almost every day, regardless of what phase of opening we are in.

    In the coming weeks each District family will be asked to complete a questionnaire choosing important elements of your student’s educational experiences for the coming semester. This will help the District to gauge your interest in distance learning with scheduled time for instruction vs. fully independent study; classes your student might plan to take outside of the District, and their need for a Chromebook and/or Internet access. For ninth and tenth graders, we will also ask about your choice for physical education classes. As we build the logistics around this we may ask whether or not your student wants to take Physical Education in person on campus or would prefer to meet this graduation requirement in another way. Students with IEPs and English Learners will also have questions that pertain to their experience. More information will be forthcoming. Stay tuned for this.

    There have been questions about the fall sports season. The California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) has a state-wide meeting on July 20, and they will provide some direction to schools with respect to this important topic. No matter what they decide, our District plans to offer some sports in the fall depending on our ability to have students participate safely. As soon as we know more information we will share it.

    I hope your student reads this summer. Something. Anything! I have found upbeat stories of success and redemption to be a tonic for our troubled times. See our school websites for a few ideas. Here is one list of suggestions from the Hillsdale High website. Escaping the world for a few hours and developing empathy through a piece of literature can be very helpful. 

    I invite you to join the next board meeting on July 14 at 1 p.m. Next week I’ll share the agenda. Look for weekly updates from me and news from your principals later this month. 

    On we go!

    Sincerely,

    Kevin Skelly, Ph.D.
    Superintendent

     

June 26 Update

  • Update from Superintendent Skelly - Planning for Fall 2020

    Spanish | Chinese

    Dear Families, Students and Staff:

    I want to share some outcomes of last night’s School Board meeting as well as thoughts about how we move forward to provide the very best education we can for our students this fall.

    The major takeaways from the Board meeting are that the Board endorsed the following:

    1. An instructional schedule that builds a basic seven period class schedule for all six comprehensive high schools. This schedule outlined in the presentation to the Board which can be found on our website provides about 187 minutes per week  per class of synchronous, teacher led instruction time with attendance taken and students engaged in learning. This instructional schedule (on slides 4-6) works whether classes meet in person or are virtual and we can move from virtual to in-person instruction seamlessly as health conditions permit.

    2. Beginning the school year in Phase 2 if public health conditions continue to allow. The presentation to the Board included a phased approach (see slide 8). Phase 2, would allow for small groups of students to receive outdoor instruction (this includes Physical Education and potentially classes like performing arts).  However, with respect to phases that would open up in person instruction further, the Board asked staff to continue to refine the phases and report back at the next board meeting on July 14 at 1 p.m.

    3. A robust orientation schedule for all students in August. Schools will begin planning these activities and we expect them to take place mostly on campus. As part of this orientation the District will provide students who need a computer right away for school work with Chromebooks, any textbooks needed, hotspots, and health protocols around face coverings, social distancing, handwashing and the like.

    4. The establishment of locations on each of our campuses where students who have Internet access issues, or lack a place at home to participate in virtual classes  can work safely and effectively. We are looking at other options to bring students to outdoor locations as well where students can access the Internet for online learning.

    5. The District will continue to provide nutritious breakfasts and lunches to students eligible for the Federal Free and Reduced Lunch Program. These students will get nutritious meals every day school is in session. 

    Everyone is eager to have students safely back in school experiencing on campus learning. Students, teachers, staff and administrators long for a return to the in-person learning we had before March 13. The Board directed staff to report back at every fall meeting about the success of the instructional program and indicated a desire to adjust phase movement based on health directives and program efficacy. Further, the Board shared its view that whatever phased approach to bringing students on campus they adopt should be mindful of the particular needs of students at each grade level -- for example seniors needing support with college and other postsecondary planning to freshman making the transition from middle school. 

    Fall will be far better instructionally than the spring was, of this I have no doubt. The Board has budgeted ample time and money for teachers to plan, improve skills, and collaborate. Our teachers have the talent and commitment to doing this work right. As a community, we need to acknowledge and accept that the first semester will very likely start with much of instruction being virtual, synchronous teaching and learning.

    COVID-19 has "brought this nation to its knees," Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said last Tuesday. Even if we disagree with the direction of the District, we must put aside our differences, get on our feet, join together, and work to give our students the education and support they deserve despite the enormous challenges we face.

    As always, thank you for your support of our students.

    Sincerely,

    Kevin Skelly, Ph.D.
    Superintendent

Superintendent's Update

  • June 25 Board Meeting

    Spanish | Chinese

    Dear Families and Students:

    At their June 11 meeting, the Board of Trustees reviewed staff safety protocols and heard a report from the Return to School Committee. The Board directed staff to return with a plan for instruction in the fall. The presentation posted on our website includes a basic class schedule (with at least three hours of synchronous learning per class per week). On Thursday, June 25 the Board will review the proposal, give further direction and consider approval of a plan for how the District will deliver instruction in the Fall.

    I’m sharing some frequently asked questions which help illustrate the proposal for parents and students more thoroughly.  

    Those wishing to share their thoughts with the Board may do so by sending an email to returntoschool@smuhsd.org.  Please copy me at kskelly@smuhsd.org if you’d like. Those wishing to make a public comment on the topic may email comments@smuhsd.org with your name, email address, and your zoom name (if different) and the item under which you would like to comment. 

    Zoom Meeting login information is available on our website.

    I realize that there are concerns and some anxiety about school opening and the process we are following to come up with a plan. It is a messy time, but we are making progress and I’m increasingly confident that, despite the challenges, we can do right by our students and families this fall. Thanks for your interest and support.

    Sincerely,

    Kevin Skelly, Ph.D.
    Superintendent 

Superintendent Update

  • June 11 Board Meeting Update

    Spanish
     | Chinese

    Dear Families and Students:

    After hearing comments from parents and staff members about the proposed quarter system as a possible plan for return to school, we will not be recommending this option to the  Board tonight. The updated proposal is posted on our website. It includes two possible models with opportunities for both in-person and distance learning. 

    In addition to discussing the plan tonight, we have tentatively scheduled a Special Board meeting on Tuesday, June 16 at 5 p.m. to further discuss our plans for the 2020-21 school year. I invite you to attend both meetings. Information to attend tonight’s meeting can be found on our website.   

    I hope you will read over the material carefully, and observe the Board discussion and deliberation. If you wish to make a comment about an agenda item or during the public comments section at the beginning of the agenda, please send an email to comments@smuhsd.org with your name, email address, and your zoom name (if different) and the item under which you would like to comment. 

    Nearly every school across the nation is struggling with these very issues. I appreciate your patience as we grapple with all the educational challenges we are experiencing in relation to this public crisis.

    Sincerely,

    Kevin Skelly, Ph.D.
    Superintendent  

Superintendent's Update

  • June 8 Update

    Spanish | Chinese

    Dear Families and Students:

    On Thursday night, June 11, the SMUHSD School Board will meet at 5:30 p.m.  At this meeting they will receive the first report from the Return to School Committee. Specifically they will be asked to give staff guidance on the following recommendations: 

    1. To the extent that it is practicable and safe, schools in the District will open for in-person learning on August 17.
    2. Discussion of the bell schedule recommendation for the first semester with review of its success at a board meeting in October or November.

    The state has recently published its guidance on school openings that can be found on the California Department of Education website.  According to our recent survey, the vast majority of our students and families want and even need us to provide in-person learning. We believe we can meet the guidance from the state and county officials. Of course we can’t eliminate all risk but we can manage risk.

    The other recommendation is that the Board endorse a bell schedule for the first semester. We believe this bell schedule meets the four pillars of school opening - health and hygiene, face coverings, physical distancing and limiting gatherings.   

    We believe the bell schedule being recommended to the board for the beginning of the year also allows for the most safety in stable cohorts; reduces lunch contacts, allows for targeted student support; extends learning options and creates more opportunities for college classes, clubs, activities, counseling, and the potential for athletics. You can see presentation materials, and a screencast summarizing the bell schedule recommendation and discussion here.

    If you have comments, you can send them to returntoschool@smuhsd.org. The agenda and Zoom link to attend the meeting can be found on our website.  The meeting begins at 5:30 this Thursday.  

    We will continue to travel on this journey together into the new school year. Until then, I hope you enjoy your summer.

    Sincerely,

    Kevin Skelly, Ph.D.

    Superintendent




Superintendent's Update

  • Thoughts After Marching for Justice
    Spanish | Chinese

    Dear Families and Students: 

    Since last Friday we have struggled to make sense of the death of Mr. George Floyd. 

    We write this note after returning from the peaceful march Wednesday night in San Mateo where thousands marched to remember Mr. Floyd, Ms. Breonna Taylor, Mr. Ahmaud Arbery and countless others before them. This event, organized in no small part by our students, allowed our community the chance to grieve and share our collective outrage at the crimes perpetrated against our African-American brothers and sisters. We were joined at this event by many District leaders including teachers, board members, administrators and other staff.

    This past school year our District redoubled its efforts around equity, justice, and meeting the needs of those students who need us most. For example, the Board of Trustees identified implicit bias training to be their collective goal and directed me and District leaders to make sure that this training was part of the professional development plan for all District staff. The Board carefully considered and then approved an Equity Vision and Mission Statement to guide the work of staff and community. Staffing at our schools was also adjusted to more fully recognize differences in resources and needs of students, with an eye toward justice.  And Ethnic Studies will move from being a pilot at some of our schools to a District graduation requirement.  But we need to do more. Far more.

    We don’t have answers as we move forward from this day to make our schools, community, our state, and our country match our ideals. However, last night we found inspiration in the collective expression of this march and its youthful leadership. There are wise people on this subject; we need to open our hearts and minds, to overcome our fear, listen and be changed.  

    We live in a broken, divided time. If we wish to heal and unite, we must work for justice! It is more important than ever.

    Sincerely,

    Robert Griffin
    SMUHSD Board Vice President

    Kevin Skelly, Ph.D.
    Superintendent

Superintendent's Update

  • May 29 Update

    Spanish | Chinese

    Dear Families and Students:

    A most strange, exhausting, and challenging year came to an end for all our students yesterday. We are grateful for the confidence and trust in us you demonstrate by sending your students to our schools. I’m proud of the collective work that went into what was a successful year. My fervent hope is that as you reflect as a family on the year, you can recount multiple moments of learning, growth and fun.  

    As we turn to the summer, I hope students find ways to be healthy in mind, body and soul.  For many of us, being healthy is inextricably linked to getting exercise -- without that, I struggle! Toward that end, we are pleased to announce that the District has opened stadium track facilities for the entire community’s use at Aragon, Burlingame, Hillsdale and San Mateo High Schools. Stadium tracks, not fields, will be available for use from 6 a.m. - 1 p.m., daily. Please note, the stadium tracks will be closed daily from 10-11 a.m. for lunch and will not be accessible during this time. At this time bathroom facilities will remain closed. For individuals interested in reserving time to use the stadium track, please visit our facilities use platform, Facilitron, which can be found on the home page of our website, under Latest News. Staff from the Facilities Use Department will be on site to ensure that community members are practicing appropriate social distancing protocols and to assist community members in general. 

    Besides these opportunities, there will be time available for students only to use the stadium fields after 1 p.m.  Please contact your school’s athletic director for more information.  This opportunity will start on Monday, June 8. In addition the Burlingame Aquatic Center at Burlingame High will be opening soon. Stay tuned.

    While we have discontinued food service for the summer months, there are a number of other school and community agencies providing free food throughout the summer months. To learn more please visit the Latest News section of our website

    As we head into the summer families and students can access  our website for information on the mental health resources our District provides. This page includes a form students and families can use for a Summer School Wellness Appointment. 

    As a reminder, we sent a survey to parents and students on Tuesday to learn more about your thoughts and opinions about returning to school. We will be guided by safety and directives from public health officials, but your feedback is invaluable in informing of planning efforts. Please complete the survey by Monday, June 1 at 6 p.m. 

    Parent Survey: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/CH3L8QQ

    Student Survey: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/CNXW7RM

    Here’s to a great summer.   

    Sincerely,

    Kevin Skelly, Ph.D.
    Superintendent

  • May 28 Update from Superintendent Skelly

    Spanish | Chinese

    Dear SMUHSD Students and Families:

    Here are a few things about which I have been ruminating:

    • My inbox resembles the discussion we are having as a nation about reopening. There are people who don’t think we can do anything in the fall except virtual learning and others who will be angry if we do anything differently from pre-pandemic times. 

    • In my discussions with the School Board, we agree that we should make decisions carefully, guided by the public safety directives we receive. The Return to School Committee is doing their work in an atmosphere of changing guidelines. As time goes on, we learn more about the virus and its spread. This will inform the policies and practices we put in place. There will be a time where we have to make a decision, but for the moment we do have time to plan for multiple options before deciding on a course forward. 

    • The time since March 13 has been really hard. But the advantage we’ve had was that almost every teacher had built relationships with their students. Going into the fall, most teachers will be teaching students about whom they know very little, and one-quarter of our students will be brand new to our District. While we will be better trained technically, the relationships will be far weaker. My hope is that this period has strengthened our capacity for empathy and our desire for authentic connection. 

    • We will have all virtual learning for some students. I have heard from some parents that this is what they want, for various reasons. We will have an idea of the numbers after folks complete the survey due next Monday.

    • We will not please everyone. Just like our politics these days, folks are polarized on these decisions. Gentleness, civility, disagreeing agreeably, and assuming good intentions will be needed by the bushel basket. 

    Finally, thanks to those of you who have sent me nice notes, shared reactions to messages, offered suggestions, disagreed agreeably, and, in myriad ways, just been helpful.

    Sincerely,

    Kevin Skelly, Ph.D.
    Superintendent

  • May 26 Update

    Spanish | Chinese

    Dear Families and Students including families of rising 9th graders whom we look forward to welcoming in our District this fall: 

    We are in the process of planning for how we will reopen schools and/or deliver virtual learning as we receive directives from the County on what is possible for Fall Semester 2020. Public health conditions may evolve rapidly and it is our intention to reopen schools and provide in-person learning as soon as it is safe to do so. Members of the Return to School Committee have developed and our Board has affirmed the following Guiding Principles for reopening schools and delivering high quality instruction for the fall of 2020 and beyond. As a District we will:

    • Safeguard the health and safety of students and staff
    • Comply with the State and County Health Department directives and guidelines
    • Consider feedback from diverse and multiple sources
    • Ensure equitable access to teaching and learning:
      • Prioritize the needs of our most vulnerable students
      • Ensure students have individualized check-ins at least once a week
      • Provide consistent online experiences 
    • Leverage resources to address achievement/opportunity gaps
    • Build flexibility into return to school plans with “in-school” and “at-home” learning strategies
    • Create metrics to measure the effectiveness of return to school plans
    • Use data to revise the return to school plans as needed
    • Leverage community resources to enhance return to school plans
    • Prioritize student connections with an adult 

    As one of our first steps, we would like to hear from you, our District families and students, as your feedback is instrumental to our Return to School Committee, and we ask you to share your opinions through the survey below. The survey is anonymous. Please complete it by Monday, June 1.

    While we know opinions may change as public health conditions evolve, we feel that your feedback, however preliminary it may be, allows us to have your input as we do this complex work. Thank you for taking the time to complete the survey.  

    Sincerely,

    Kevin Skelly, Ph.D.
    Superintendent

    Parent Survey: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/CH3L8QQ
    Student Survey: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/CNXW7RM

Superintendent's Updates

  • May 20 Update

    Spanish
     | Chinese

    Dear Families and Students: 

    Some years back, I spent a Thanksgiving break with my brother-in-law’s family. The patriarch of the house was Tom Adams, a wonderful man of infinite routine. Every morning he would go through the house and say, “I’m going to the store to get the newspaper. Does anyone need anything?”  I was younger and a bit of a wise guy. On the fourth day of his asking, I lied and said, “No, Tom, I already went to the store and picked up the paper and everything people needed.”  Tom was enraged. My family and I were almost tossed out of the house on the spot.

    While we may not all be like the great Mr. Adams, we all love our routines, and we count on them to give our lives structure and often, a sense of purpose. For some time after the Shelter in Place directives, it felt like there was a collective adrenaline that carried us through. But then we began to miss our routines.

    Not only do our routines give us structure, but they also save us time. We just completed a survey of staff members and a common refrain was how everything takes so much more time these days. They reported working harder than ever but accomplishing a lot less. Perhaps you’ve had the same feeling.

    As we start to wind down the school year, I would be interested in sharing with other parents your ideas for keeping your student learning over the summer. When my kids were young we used the website sporcle.com, that I have mentioned before, to find out who knew more about subjects from Pokemon to the countries of Europe. If you have websites or activities you use or have used to reduce what is often called “summer slide,” send me an email and I’ll share them out.

    Finally, we have a regular Board Meeting tomorrow night (Thursday, May 21) at 7 p.m. which will include an update on District operations during shelter in place. Please see the presentation posted on our website. Our hope is that this presentation will provide the Board and public a fairly comprehensive summary of where we are as a District and what we are thinking about for the fall across multiple dimensions.  Members of the public are welcome to join the meeting via Zoom. Instructions can be found on our website

    On we go, finding the energy outside our routines.

    Sincerely,

    Kevin Skelly, Ph.D.

    Superintendent

     

  • May 18 Update

    Spanish | Chinese

    Dear Families and Students: 

    In my message Friday, I mentioned that Catholic Charities is the community agency in the Bay Area to distribute relief funds to undocumented immigrant families who did not receive a stimulus check. Families can begin requesting funds starting today by calling 866-490-3899. Families should call as soon as possible as funds will be limited to 150,000 families in California. Lines are open from 8 a.m to 8 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays.  More information can be found on the Catholic Charities website or families can call their school’s Family Engagement Coordinator. 

    Sincerely,

    Kevin Skelly, Ph.D.
    Superintendent

School Closure Updates from Superintendent Skelly

  • May 15 Update

    Spanish | Chinese

    Dear Families and Students:

    On Wednesday, I took a bike ride with my 24-year-old son. As we rode, I shared with him that what we are experiencing now may be the most disruptive event in at least the past seventy-five years. As we navigate this time together and individually, here are a few thoughts:

    • We need to be gentle with ourselves and others. Far more than COVID-19, our energy and thoughts are contagious. 
    • We can only do our best. More than ever, much is out of our hands. Sometimes, and particularly now, it is a world of intentions rather than results.
    • Exercise, being outdoors and practicing mindfulness are all more important than ever.

    Concerns over mental health are paramount at this time, for the communities we serve. As we head into the summer, I’d like to share a few resources with you. At their last meeting, our Board approved a contract with Care Solace. Care Solace is a concierge mental health service that makes it easier for families to connect with mental healthcare resources and providers in their communities. You can learn more about Care Solace by visiting our website. Additionally, our wellness team will offer limited access over the summer to virtual counseling appointments. For more information see our website or, reach out to District Mental Health Manager, April Torres at 650-558-2273.

    Catholic Charities has been designated as the core agency in the Bay Area to distribute relief funds to undocumented immigrant families who did not receive a stimulus check. Families can begin requesting funds on May 18, and they shouldn’t delay in applying as funds will be limited to 150,000 families in California. More information can be found on the California Department of Social Services website, or families can call their school’s family engagement coordinator for assistance.  

    My son left yesterday to return to Michigan where he works. Despite his age and maturity, it still feels like he’s leaving at a rough time. And then I am reminded of a line from the prose poem Desiderata: “With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world.”

    For those of you with seniors, my feelings may resonate with you.

    On we go, with hope for those coming after us.

    Sincerely,

    Kevin Skelly, Ph.D.
    Superintendent

  • May 13 Update

    Spanish | Chinese

    Dear Families and Students: 

    This is Superintendent Kevin Skelly with a message for families and students of the San Mateo Union High School District.

    As I talk to parents and read the emails I receive, it’s clear we are all missing connections and engagement that we once took for granted. One parent described their senior as floating, as they wonder what comes next while lacking a moment of finality that graduation ceremonies typically represent. Virtual instruction, social distancing, and disconnection from others leave us unsatisfied, unsettled, and unsure. I can imagine that some students could feel we have forgotten them, when nothing is further from the truth.

    We are preparing surveys for students and families we hope to send out in the coming week. In particular, we are interested in hearing from the Class of 2020 and their families about what future event would be most appealing to celebrate their graduation in person when that’s possible. Given the size of our graduating classes and the restrictions of the County’s car-based celebrations order, that’s not possible now.

    Our District-level school reopening committee met yesterday and heard reports from several of the subcommittees that have already begun their work. At this point, we have more questions than answers. I’m sure you can imagine all the logistical, safety, and instructional issues associated with this work. And while the California State University system just announced instruction will be on-line for  the fall semester, we remain hopeful that we can have students back on campuses in the fall in some form. Stay tuned. 

    During my life there have been occasions where I poured everything I had into a situation. At the end of the day, however, my results failed to match my desire or my efforts. I continue to believe that hard work, grit, and determination are rewarded even though there are times when events can overwhelm these positive attributes . While this  is the case with so many parts of our lives these days, this time  will pass. Of this I am sure.

    On we go, with gentle determination.

    Sincerely,

    Kevin Skelly, Ph.D.
    Superintendent

    P.S. I need to offer a correction to the message I sent out on Monday. The Pandemic EBT program allows for students who are eligible to receive free and reduced priced meals through the National School Lunch Program to receive up to $365 in benefits across a four-month period from March to June 2020, NOT $365 per month through the summer. For more information please see the Pandemic EBT websiteor call your school’s Family Engagement Coordinator. 

  • May 11 Update 

    Spanish | Chinese

    Dear SMUHSD Families and Students:


    The COVID-19 Pandemic has magnified the existing problem of food insecurity for many families in our region. Our District will continue to provide free breakfasts and lunches to anyone 18 and under at Mills and San Mateo High Schools between 11 a.m.-1 p.m. on weekdays through the remainder of the school year. Families who are eligible for the federal free and reduced lunch program can get $365 per month through the Pandemic EBT Program, and the California Department of Education provides information about free summer feeding sites. Please visit our website for updated information. Families may also reach out to your school’s Family Engagement Coordinator or Elsa Pulido at 650-558-2226 for additional information. 

    Last week I stopped by San Mateo High as they were collecting books and distributing caps and gowns. We never expected the year to end this way, but I’m appreciative that our families are handling this end-of-the-year business with patience and acceptance.   

    We haven’t made a firm decision, but there’s growing consensus that we should start the next school year a bit later than its scheduled Wednesday, August 12 start. You can plan on the new year starting no earlier than Monday, August 17, and it may be later than that. Stay tuned for more information.

    Finally, I’d like to wish all of our mothers a belated happy Mother’s Day!  This year was particularly emotive when I thought about my mom, who is back in our family home in Virginia sheltering in place.

    When I’m discouraged, my mom is one of the first people I call.  She grew up in Ireland, her dad was Master Martin, the head of a school in Kilnaleck, County Cavan.  My mom’s mother was also a teacher.  One time I called home and my dad said she was down at the main library -- she'd read all the books in the branch next to our home.  He exaggerated, but not much.

    Almost invariably, the first words out of her mouth are "Hope" is a Thing with Feathers."  It comes from this beautiful poem by Emily Dickinson shared below. Good tonic for our times. 

    On we go, with hope.

    Kevin

     

    “Hope” is the thing with feathers - (314)

    BY EMILY DICKINSON

    “Hope” is the thing with feathers -
    That perches in the soul -
    And sings the tune without the words -
    And never stops - at all -

    And sweetest - in the Gale - is heard -
    And sore must be the storm -
    That could abash the little Bird
    That kept so many warm -

    I’ve heard it in the chillest land -
    And on the strangest Sea -
    Yet - never - in Extremity,
    It asked a crumb - of me.

  • May 6 Update from Superintendent Skelly

    Spanish | Chinese

    Dear Families and Students:

    This first full week of May marks staff appreciation week in SMUHSD. Missing this year is our staff members being feted by parent groups with coffee carts, goodies and delicious lunches. Instead, we have teachers and other staff coming right into your home with virtual lessons on all manner of topics!  You are literally seeing teachers in a whole new light! Please try to take a moment to share your appreciation with staff members who make a difference with their uncommon efforts during this time. 

    As the world starts to reopen, the District is planning for reopening as well. The San Mateo County Office of Education formed a Pandemic Recovery Plan Committee, in conjunction with the Coalition for Safe and Supportive Schools.This group began meeting in April and will continue to meet this month with a target of May 11 to release a guidance document. Our District is well represented on that committee.

    We also formed a District-Level School Reopening Committee, headed by Deputy Superintendent Kirk Black. The group made up of administrators, staff, students and parents met on May 4 to plan the District's reopening. The group will meet weekly and has formed twenty-two subcommittees to tackle the various details associated with bringing students and staff back to our sites. We will be posting updates on our website and sharing information through my communications.

    While I can’t see the future, two things I do know -- reopening Schools will be much more complicated than virtual learning has been, and we will be guided by science and safety in our process.

    So on we go, with optimism and confidence!

    Sincerely,

    Kevin Skelly, Ph.D.
    Superintendent

  • April 28 Update from Superintendent Skelly

    Spanish | Chinese

    Dear SMUHSD Families and Students:

    Now that decisions have been made about grading and graduation, it’s time to start focusing on re-opening schools and summer school. This work is taking place at the state, county, and district level.  Deputy superintendent Kirk Black will be leading the District reopening committee and including folks from various departments with parent representation. We obviously do not yet know whether or not this will mean teachers and staff in buildings with students. Stay tuned for more on this.

    A wise person sent me this article on how we need to change our metrics and focus only on arriving in this time of Covid. It would have resonated with me when my own children were back in high school and I had to-do lists for them that were longer than my own.

    I don’t know about you, but I feel like the weather these past few days has been just fantastic. We are so fortunate to live in this most breathtakingly beautiful corner of the world. I hope you have a chance to enjoy some element of our world’s beauty today.

    Sincerely,

    Kevin Skelly, Ph.D.
    Superintendent

  • April 24 Update from Superintendent Skelly

    Spanish | Chinese

    Dear Families and Students:

    This week school leadership teams have been thinking a lot about graduation. After hours of discussion, the consensus of our principals and District leadership is that, for this year, in terms of graduation celebrations, we’re looking at graduating soon and celebrating later. The uncertainty, lingering public health concerns about mass gatherings, and the need to plan something all necessitate honoring our graduates virtually. Each school is working on the specifics of how these virtual events will take place, and you will hear from your principal soon regarding the details. I know this probably does not come as a surprise, but that doesn’t diminish the disappointment we feel for seniors and those who love them. Each of our schools are also investigating ways to celebrate graduates at a later date, perhaps with an event over winter break next school year. Again, your principals will be in touch about proposed opportunities.

    We have received questions regarding online learning and grading. Parents and students can visit our website to see answers to frequently asked questions.

    Progress report grades have been posted in the Aeries Parent Portal. These grades represent students’ letter grades from February 18 - April 17. As with all progress report grades, these grades represent a moment in time and will be used along with the first six weeks and final five weeks to determine Credit/No Credit as the final mark for the transcript. Students will NOT receive a letter grade for their final grade - even if one is reported in Canvas at any point for the remainder of the semester. Progress Report grades and final grades/transcripts can always be accessed using the District’s Student Information System, Aeries. Instructions for how to set up and use Aeries can be found on our website.

    A final thought. Graduation, like grades, are more symbols than accomplishments. They represent and honor what students have done and the obstacles they have overcome through perseverance and hard work. Like almost all things, it is the journey and the effort that shape who we are and how we tackle life’s challenges. I hope you and your family have the chance to reflect on this over the dinner table or in moments where computers are shut and the television is off.

    On we go, with confidence and optimism.

    Sincerely,

    Kevin Skelly, Ph.D. 
    Superintendent

     

School Closure Updates

  • April 23 Update from Superintendent Skelly

    Spanish | Chinese 

    Dear Families and Students:

    We are keenly and painfully aware that the adjustment to virtual teaching and learning has been jarring and difficult. What we thought would be a brief period of disruption now extends through the school year. Some students have adjusted and even thrived under present circumstances while others have really struggled. The same can be said of the adults in our community. We have been working on collective expectations of staff members. Over the next few days, your student should receive communications about office hours for all their teachers starting next week, if these have not yet been in place. 

    I also want to offer some thoughts on concerns we have been hearing about a diminution in student motivation because grades will be credit/no credit this semester. I acknowledge that this grading regime is disappointing to many students and families. I urge all students to use this time to focus on learning. Schools are, rightfully, places where LEARNING AND KNOWLEDGE are prized, much more so than high grades. Nobody has asked me about my grades in high school or college, but they have judged me on my ability to write, to think, and to make connections. And it will surely be that way for our students as they go forward. 

    This is a hard time. I mourn for the losses across multiple dimensions and the real hardship many are enduring. 

    A good friend of mine wrote recently about the connection between suffering and love. Even though he is not an educator, it struck me as particularly apropos for our community. He notes that out of our collective suffering seems to spring an unusual amount of 

    …”Appreciation, at least, but more like admiration, fondness, respect, and caring have surfaced in places heretofore unnoticed.”

    I am coming to think we are all enrolled inescapably in this COVID-19 “School of Suffering.” However, what if this School of Suffering is also a School of Love? The curriculum, of course, is Love, something we all know about, each from our own stories and dreams. Nonetheless, we may still be stymied about this course we are in, afraid of how to get through it. In this sweet and bitter experience called life, we are all enrolled in this course and we will pass it -  not just with credit, but with distinction! 

    Indeed.

    Kevin Skelly, Ph.D.
    Superintendent

  • April 17 Update from Superintendent Skelly

    Spanish | Chinese

    Dear Families and Students:

    As you may have heard or observed, last night our Board of Trustees voted to adopt Credit/No Credit grading for this Spring 2020 semester. Details and the rationale for this change are available on our website. For students who receive No-Credit at the end of the semester, opportunities will be provided in the summer to help the student acquire the knowledge needed to master the subject. As always, it is our goal to make sure every student completes their courses successfully, despite the obvious challenges our present situation creates. The designation of Credit or No-Credit does not affect a student’s GPA.

    We will not mail six week progress reports at this time. Given the timing of Board direction, teachers will be providing letter grades through April 17 on progress reports available on the Aeries Portal, even though semester grades will be Credit/No-Credit. Parents will be informed when these grades are available. As we transition to Credit/No-Credit, teachers will work on establishing expectations for the rest of the semester on Monday. Students can use the day to catch up on assignments and meet their teachers back in the virtual realm on Tuesday, April 21. I acknowledge that all of this is far messier than any of us would like.

    There will be lots more to share, and I will do so early next week.

    All my best,

    Kevin Skelly, Ph.D.
    Superintendent 

  • April 16 Update

    Spanish | Chinese

    Dear Families and Students:

     

    During your busy days, I hope you have a chance to spend a bit of time outside. Not only is nature good for the soul, but it also can give us perspective -- a sense that the things that seem super-important are, over time, not as important as they can feel in the moment. I am fortunate to have a back porch which  I share for zoom calls with the other adults in my house. This affords me the chance to notice the buds on the trees, the seemingly cleaner and clearer air, and the sounds of the birds.  

    Today at 4 p.m. we will host our regular Board Meeting with our special meeting to discuss grading for the remainder of the school year at 5 p.m. Both meetings can be attended via the same Zoom login or dial in information in the latest news section of our website. Please note that this login and password has been updated from my last message to accommodate both meetings. We will also post an option for members of the public to watch the meeting via a live stream accessible from the website. The presentation staff will share with the Board and can be viewed on our website  along with additional information about the various options the Board will be considering. As I have said in the past, the Board will have to make a decision that is the least bad option.  And we have been assured that grades this semester will havevirtually no impact on a student's prospects for postsecondary study. 

    I will provide an update to families and students on the Board’s direction for grading this Friday, April 17. Monday, April 20 will be another work day for teachers to refine their plans for the end of the school year. Students can use the day to catch up on work they have not completed, or just relax. 

    Principals and I have received a number of questions about graduation. Key staff are discussing this intently, and we will share information with you as soon as it is available. 

    We don’t know when this period of Shelter in Place will end, but we do know that like winter, this quiet, lonely period will give way to a new Spring time. Our challenges are  to be at peace with not knowing the end time and to be ready to embrace the possibilities our restarting will offer. It is our great privilege to be engaged in the work to prepare your student for the promise and possibility that the future has, and always will, represent.

    Sincerely,

    Kevin Skelly, Ph.D.
    Superintendent  

School Closure Updates from Superintendent Skelly

  • April 8 Update

    Please note, we have moved our Special Board Meeting from 5 p.m on Thursday, April 9 to 5 p.m. on Thursday, April 16.

    Visit the Latest News section of the District website for Zoom login information. Please note this information has been updated from previous messages sent to families. 


    April 7 - Update from Superintendent Skelly

    Spanish | Chinese

    Dear Families and Students:

    I learned today that the decision has been made by County Superintendents and Bay Area Health Officers in six Bay Area counties including San Mateo County to officially declare that school campuses will remain closed for the remainder of the school year. Read more in this press release from the San Mateo County Office of Education. While this is hardly a surprise, I know it is disappointing. Our District remains committed to providing the highest quality virtual learning possible to all of our students during this time. 

    The Board and I have received considerable feedback regarding the credit/no-credit grading proposal staff was scheduled to share with our Board of Trustees at a special meeting at 5 p.m. tonight. In the interest of carefully considering this input, we have decided to postpone this meeting until this Thursday, April 9 at 5 p.m. 

    Additional information will be added to the agenda as soon as it is available. 

    Members of the public who have an interest in this meeting can join via Zoom using the following directions:

    • Online: https://zoom.us/join  
    • By Phone: Dial: US : +1 669 900 9128
    • Webinar ID: 196 736 925
    • Password: 592998

    We continue to welcome your comments on this topic which may be forwarded to comments@smuhsd.org to be shared with our Board.  

    Thank you for your support of our District, and enjoy your spring break.

    Sincerely,

    Kevin Skelly, Ph.D.

    Superintendent 

  • April 3 Update from Superintendent Skelly

    Spanish | Chinese 

    Dear Families and Students:

    It’s clear that we are headed for closure for the rest of the year. I wish I could find a positive spin for this, but I am devastated for families, particularly our seniors, that their high school experience will be marred like this. The four years of high school are often the most formative and important in a young person’s life. I feel sad that this year’s graduates will miss out on the rites of passage and experiences of every other class before and hopefully after the Class of 2020. That said, I know schools are thinking about ways to make the end of the year special, even if it is vastly different. Stay tuned for that discussion

    This week various teachers’ groups, principals, and other District leaders have reached the collective recommendation that Credit/No Credit is the least bad of all the suboptimal grading options we have for work this semester. My memo to the Board, available on our website,  outlines our thinking and recommendation to the Board. On Tuesday, April 7 at 5 p.m. we will have a Special Board Meeting to discuss the issue further. I look forward to this community discussion, hearing the Board’s wisdom and receiving direction. 

    For those who wish to attend please use the following Zoom meeting link or dial in:

    Online: https://zoom.us/join  
    By Phone: Dial: US : +1 669 900 9128
    Webinar ID: 196 736 925
    Password: 592998

    On Monday, April 13, the day after spring break, staff will be working on planning for the remainder of the year based on the direction we get from the Board. If we go to Credit/No Credit it does not mean that students will get a free pass on schoolwork for the rest of the year. Instead, it will be incumbent upon students to meet the subject matter expectations of their teachers to earn credit for the class. Since so many subjects build upon the previous learning, our staff need to have high expectations so students are prepared for future study. We recognize all this will be messy, and we are preparing compensatory educational opportunities including summer school and other learning opportunities outside the regular school day and year for those who don’t complete courses successfully

    Our District will continue to serve free food to anyone 18 and under at Mills and San Mateo High Schools from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday-Friday. Learn more about other free food locations on our website 

    Once again, thank you for supporting your student’s physical and emotional health, and thank you for your patience and decency during this unprecedented time. I wish you a relaxing spring break. Remember, no schoolwork is expected of students from April 4-13. Virtual instruction will resume on Tuesday, April 14. 

    Be well, 

    Kevin Skelly, Ph.D.
    Superintendent

School Closure Information

  • March 30 Update from Superintendent Skelly

    Spanish | Chinese

    Dear Families

    Today marks the start of week three of at-home learning. I hope you are finding ways to be gentle and kind to those with whom you are cohabitating.

    In this environment of unexpected virtual learning, our teaching staff will use the Monday after Spring Break, April 13 for online professional development to discuss plans to best serve our students for the remainder of school closures. There will be no assignments given and no schoolwork expected from students on this day. Online learning will resume for students on Tuesday, April 14.

    On March 24, 2020 the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors adopted a temporary Countywide moratorium on evictions from residential units for non-payment of rent by tenants directly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

    The emergency regulation takes effect immediately, and unless extended by the Board of Supervisors, expires May 31, 2020. Tenants will have up to 180 days after the expiration of the emergency regulation to pay delayed rents that were not paid while the emergency regulation was in effect. 

    For more details about the regulation, please visit the San Mateo County Department of Housing website.

    Students living in San Bruno needing internet access can receive in-home modems from San Bruno Cable free of charge. San Bruno students may call 650-558-2480, to request a modem. Students who have hotspots who no longer need them are encouraged to call 650-558-2480 to return them to the District. 

    For more information, or to request a Chromebook, please please fill out  the Google form on our website, or call 650-558-2480. 

    Sending positive thoughts!

    Kevin Skelly, Ph.D.

    Superintendent

School Closure Update

  • March 27 Update from Superintendent Skelly and Assistant Superintendent Kempkey

    Spanish | Chinese

    Dear Families:

    With the extension of school closures, families, students and staff have many questions about what this means for students’ grades and their future educational plans. As a result, we are refining our instructional guidelines. Part of this work is to gain wisdom from our community. Yesterday, we sent out a survey to our students; over 2,500 students have already responded. Students are describing a range of experiences. The major themes that arise will help inform us how to make the online learning experience more manageable and meaningful for our students. 

    We are also eager to hear from you, our parents and caretakers, on your perspective of how online learning is going for your student. Please take a moment to take this survey to help inform the refinement of the online learning experience for students thus far. 

    One thing that we know supports students in their experience in the online learning environment is having some virtual facetime with their teachers. Our teachers will redouble their efforts to make office hours a regular part of their practice. However, many teachers are not able to keep to the regular school schedule as they have additional personal and family obligations associated with the shelter in place directive. Additionally, we are working on developing some choices for students as it relates to their grades. We are in contact with universities and colleges to understand how they will adjust their expectations due to school closures and the impact on students' education.

    Please do not hesitate to reach out to your students’ school counselor. Your students’ counselor is responding to questions via email and students and parents may email counselors to request a meeting via phone or video conference. They are currently scheduling next year’s courses for students across the District, including incoming 9th graders. They are also working closely with Seniors on completing graduation requirements and transition plans to post-secondary options, including community college enrollment and finalizing four-year college selection. 

    The best resource for information about Advanced Placement courses and exams for families is the College Board’s website, Your student’s AP teacher is the best resource for subject specific questions. 

    This time of virtual school has laid bare how much we all count on in-person experiences to accomplish so many things. There will be a diminution of students’ experiences, despite all our best efforts. That said, we are committed to doing our best. And we know you and your students are as well.

    Sincerely,

    Kevin Skelly, Ph.D.
    Superintendent

    Julia Kempkey, Ed.D.
    Assistant Superintendent, Curriculum and Instruction

School Closure Information

  • March 25 Update from Superintendent Skelly - School Closure Extended to Monday, May 4

    Spanish | Chinese

    Dear Families: 

    The San Mateo County Office of Education just released information regarding a regional decision to extend school closures and dismiss students from regular attendance through May 1 to slow the spread of COVID-19 to the maximum extent possible. This means that SMUHSD students will tentatively return to school on Monday, May 4. 

    This is disappointing, of course. We all crave a return to our normal lives. That said, I trust that our public health leaders have the wisdom and expertise to make these important decisions and we will follow them as a district community.

    District teachers and administrators are working to extend our plan to provide online/virtual learning for our students. We are also formulating guidelines for teachers for the assignment of grades in a way that is fair and equitable. This is complicated as we try to balance giving students every benefit of the doubt while motivating students to stay deeply connected with their learning. We hope to share these guidelines next week. Stay tuned.

    While we do have a significant portion of students whose engagement in learning hasn’t been visible to staff, the vast majority of our students are meeting the learning expectations set by their teachers. We are grateful to you for creating high expectations in your household and appreciate your support in this and myriad other ways.

    Families who are still in need of WiFi can now access free, public connections through Xfinity, except for those who live in San Bruno who have different providers. I will provide more details in my next update to families tomorrow or Friday. 

    Finally, I hope you are finding a silver lining somewhere in this time. As a parent of four high school graduates, there are some wonderful aspects to this teenage season that you will miss, trust me! In any case, some rich discussion and reflection during family time might be valuable.

    On we go!

    Sincerely,

    Kevin Skelly, Ph.D.
    Superintendent

School Closure Information

  • March 24 Update from Superintendent Skelly

    Spanish | Chinese

    Dear Families: 

    I participate in a near daily conversation with the other superintendents in the county. The plan right now is for the San Mateo County Office of Education and superintendents from across the county and Bay Area to work with the Bay Area Health Directors to make a joint decision about schools reopening. As soon as I know anything I will share it. Here’s hoping we are back in session after spring break.

    I heard a politician describing the “unnatural” time in which we are living. Social distancing is not natural. We crave community and a connection to others. I saw the results of a teacher’s survey of students and the one thing consistently mentioned was how much they missed seeing their friends. As you think about how you support your student, consider ways you can nudge them to have virtual interactions and reach out to each other to form learning groups or simply go over material, with a particular emphasis on bringing in students on the fringes. On that note, we will be sending a survey out to our students in order to better understand their experiences and support them.

    Speaking of social distancing, I’ve received numerous communications about this topic as it relates to our schools' fields. As I visit these during walks, it’s hard to tell how well social distancing is going as one cannot tell who is a “family.” It’s healthy to be outside, but let’s all do our part in these situations. The science on this is clear -- if we have fewer interactions we’ll bend the infection curve. Read our County Health Officer Dr. Scott Morrow’s March 23 statement if you need a reminder of just how important it is that we follow the directions set forth by public health experts. 

    Take good care of yourself and your loved ones.

    Sincerely,

    Kevin Skelly, Ph.D.
    Superintendent

  • March 20 Update from Superintendent Skelly

    Spanish | Chinese

    Dear Families:

    These are stressful times!  No family expected to have their teenagers at home 24/7 for these three weeks -- or more!  I hope you are finding some unexpected blessings from this family time.

    One possible source of angst is the loss of instructional time in the classroom. Keep in mind, however, that if your child has been in California schools, they have likely NEVER missed school for bad weather (except the smoke last year). And they’ve had 180 days of instruction -- far more than young people in some private schools and many other states. Further, their less structured time now can be the source of curiosity, deeper social connections, and space to reflect on their place in the universe. If we have to go beyond the scheduled three week closure, we’ll keep the learning going!

    If you are looking for a fun, family activity, check out the Sporcle website. Challenge the young people in your house to see who knows the most about various topics. We’ve had ferocious fun at our house over the years competing while learning. And there are always board games that offer learning hidden within competition. 

    Here’s a recap of the first week:

    Mental Health

    Our wellness counselors continue to offer virtual appointments to our students. Please visit our website to learn more about this and other resources available to your family. 

    Free Food 

    We continue to provide free breakfasts and lunches to anyone 18 and under at Mills and San Mateo High Schools from 11 a.m -1 p.m. Monday-Friday. On Thursday we provided 550 meals. A number of our partner districts as well as Primrose and Samaritan House are offering food. View comprehensive information about food services on our website. The California Department of Education has also created a free California Meals for Kids mobile app to help families find free meals. 

    Technology

    Our District continues to provide Chromebooks and hotspots to students who need them in order to complete their schoolwork. To request a device, please fill out this Google form, email techrequest@smuhsd.org or call 650-558-2485. We will be able to distribute hotspots toward the end of next week and can distribute Chromebooks within 48 hours of new requests (Monday-Friday). 

    Teaching and Learning

    Teachers across the District are using the Canvas Learning Management System and other digital tools to conduct online learning with students in all courses each week. It is our expectation that students should have between 2-5 hours of work per week for each class in which they are enrolled. You should ask your student how it is going and support them with creating some structured time every day to do some of their work. If you would like to find out what your student is up to just ask them!  Information is also available through installation of the Canvas Parent App or by visiting the Canvas Parent Account page of our website.

    Testing

    Finally, the state will not require schools to administer the California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress (CAASPP) this year. Visit the Governor’s website for more detailed information from the State of California.

    The Advanced Placement (AP) Program released some new information today about its plan for the spring assessments which will allow students to take the tests from home. The College Board has also made all of its online resources available to students to support preparation for the assessments. Please see the AP website for more information. 

    March and May administrations of the SAT have been cancelled. In the coming days, the College Board will share additional information and details directly with registered students and test centers. The June testing date will be decided at a later date. 

    Additional Questions & Resources

    If you have additional questions about community resources that are available to support you and your family during this time, please feel free to reach out to our District Family Engagement coordinator, Elsa Pulido at 650-558-2226.

    Enjoy your weekend!

    Sincerely,

    Kevin Skelly, Ph.D.

    Superintendent

School Closure Information

  • March 18 Update from Superintendent Skelly

    Spanish | Chinese

    Dear Families:

    Over the years, as colleges and other post-secondary institutions shift more instruction to on-line platforms, district administrators have often mused about creating opportunities for our students to have that experience. Chalk our present times up as making this experience happen!

    In some ways the first few days of this unexpected school closure could have the feeling of winter break. However, unlike that break, students need to stay on top of assignments and current with the expectations from teachers. While teachers will undoubtedly be flexible about assignments, since most learning builds upon itself, keeping up is key.

    Many of you heard the governor’s comments yesterday about the possibility of schools being closed through the school year. We certainly hope it doesn’t come to that!  In any case, our teachers will continue to do all they can to maintain instruction. I welcome any comments and feedback you might have at kskelly@smuhsd.org.

    A few updates for families:

    Food Services
    Free meals are available to anyone 18 and under at a number of locations throughout the area including Mills and San Mateo High schools on Monday-Friday from 11 a.m.-1 p.m. Please visit our www.smuhsd.org/school-closures website for times and locations of sites being operated by our K-8 partner districts that may be closer to your home. 

    Chromebooks and Hotspots 
    If a student needs technology support to complete online learning during the period of school closure, please fill out this Google doc or email techrequest@smuhsd.org or call 650-558-2480. We are in the process of delivering these items to students and will continue to do so as we are able. Please allow at least 48 hours for new requests.  

    Additional Questions & Resources
    If you have additional questions about community resources that are available to support you and your family during this time, please feel free to reach out to our District Family Engagement coordinator, Elsa Pulido, 650-558-2226.

    Thank you for supporting your student’s health and learning. I will continue to send regular updates. 

    Sincerely,

    Kevin Skelly, Ph.D.
    Superintendent 

  • March 16 Update from Superintendent Skelly

    Dear Families: 

    This afternoon seven Bay Area jurisdictions have issued a “shelter in place” order. This order directs San Mateo County residents to stay inside their homes and away from others as much as possible until April 7 as public health officials aim to curb the spread of Coronavirus. 

    All of our schools and facilities will be closed until April 7 at the earliest. We will re-evaluate our ability to reopen the District at that time.  

    Unfortunately after today we will not be able to continue to distribute Chromebooks or hot spots to students. 

    We will continue to provide grab and go breakfasts and lunches at Mills and San Mateo High Schools from 11 a.m.-1 p.m. from Monday-Friday. This service is available to anyone 18 and under, and participants do not need to show their ID or any type of paperwork. 

    Please take care of yourself during these unprecedented times. We will provide updates as needed.

    Sincerely,

    Kevin Skelly, Ph.D. 
    Superintendent

  • March 13, 2020 Update from Superintendent Skelly

    Dear Families: 

    Last night you received an email from me informing you that schools and school-related activities will be closed for students effective after today’s minimum day. Today, the San Mateo County Health Officer issued a School Operations Modification Order through Friday, April 3. This order requires schools to dismiss students from regular attendance and encourages school districts to implement at-home (online) learning models. This means that our schools will tentatively open on Monday, April 13 after the week of spring break from April 6-12.

     

    Social Distancing and Preventing the Spread of COVID-19

    One of the main reasons for closing schools is to allow for a period of social distancing to halt community spread of COVID-19. I encourage families to follow the guidelines of the CDC during school closures to take advantage of this opportunity to allow social interactions to diminish and prevent the spread of the virus. While I know how difficult it may feel for families to stay at home and “self-quarantine,” this may be the only way to prevent the spread of the virus. None of this is easy, but every little bit helps.  


    Nutrition Services: March 16 - April 3

    During the school closure, all students and anyone 18 and under can receive grab and go breakfast and lunch Monday through Friday at Mills High School and San Mateo High School. Nutrition services employees will staff a cart offering a variety of healthy options between 11 a.m. - 1 p.m. Please visit this webpage for detailed information on locations and how to pick up food. 

    The San Mateo-Foster City School District will also offer free meals for all children and teens 18 and under at various locations. No paperwork is needed to take advantage of either of these services please see more information in this flyer. 


    All School Activities are Cancelled through April 3

    All school-related activities including extracurricular activities, athletics, parent or student meetings and activities planned by outside providers (including the SAT) between now and April 3 at each of our school sites have been cancelled. With the exception of food services detailed above, only authorized staff will be in our facilities after March 16 until we reopen. This will allow our maintenance and operations staff the opportunity to thoroughly sanitize our facilities. 


    Mental Health 

    Some students may feel additional stress and anxiety during this period of uncertainty. Students can request to speak with a Wellness Counselor while schools are closed by filling out a form specific to their school site - find the form on our website along with other mental health resources. Virtual appointments are available during regular school hours, Monday-Friday from 8 a.m. - 3:30 p.m.

    If this is a medical or mental health emergency, please do not fill out the form, and contact the following sources immediately: 

    • Crisis Text Line: text "home" to 741-741
    • National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-8255
    • StarVista Crisis Hotline: 650-579-0350
    • 911 or visit your nearest hospital emergency room if you can get there safely 

    Additionally, please see this resource produced by the National Association of School Psychologists about talking to children about COVID-19. 


    Loaner Technology Devices 

    Chromebooks and a limited number of hotspots are available for loan out of our school libraries through 3 p.m. on March 16. If your student needs a chromebook to complete online learning during this period of school closure, please contact your school administrator, fill out this google doc or email techrequest@smuhsd.org. After March 16, chromebooks and hot spots may be requested through the District by contacting 650-558-2485 or emailing techrequest@smuhsd.org. Our staff will respond to this request and reach out to you to arrange a pickup time at our District Office at 650 N. Delaware, San Mateo. 

     

    Health

    If a member of your family is confirmed positive for COVID-19, please reach out to our District Student Health Coordinator at studenthealthservices@smuhsd.org. Additionally, if your child is sick during this time, please report their absence as you normally do through your school’s website.  

     

    Thank you for your support of your student’s health and learning during this period of school closure.

     

    Sincerely,

    Kevin Skelly, Ph.D. 
    Superintendent

     

SMUHSD School Closure Information

  • March 12, 2020 Coronavirus Update from Superintendent Skelly - School Closure Notice

    Dear Families:

    At tonight’s Board meeting, the decision was made to close the schools of the San Mateo Union High School District effective Monday, March 16 and enter a phase where we will deliver at-home learning to our students. After tomorrow’s minimum day, Friday March 13, all schools, including the San Mateo Adult School, will be closed to students through at least Friday, March 27. While it may not be possible to open on March 30, we want to hold out hope that health conditions are better by then. If the decision is made NOT to reopen on the 30th, then school will be closed through spring break (April 6 to 10). We will advise families of school reopening by Wednesday, March 25.

    Our staff will help your students on Friday to prepare for this phase of at-home learning and will report to work on Monday, March 16 to further refine our plans to serve your students. Neither teachers nor students will be permitted to return to school sites after March 16 until we reopen, so that staff may sanitize our campuses. 

    All extracurricular activities will also be cancelled effective tomorrow.

    While it is not possible to match the instructional conditions present in classrooms, our teachers and staff are dedicated to doing what they can to make sure learning continues. Teachers will be using Canvas, our learning management system, and other electronic methods to give students assignments and guide learning. Your student will be hearing directly from teachers about the expectations during this time. If your student needs a device and/or internet access, please let the school office know immediately, or email techrequest@smuhsd.org.

    We are also working on ways we can provide breakfast and lunch to students who count on schools for food. At this point we plan to provide food at San Mateo and Mills High Schools. Stay tuned for specifics in an upcoming communication. In addition, if your student has an Individualized Educational Program (IEP), look for a separate communication.

    I know I speak for the School Board and staff when I say that we are doing the best we can during these challenging times. Thank you for your support and flexibility as we navigate this uncharted territory. 

    If you have any questions, please email studenthealthservices@smuhsd.org.

    Sincerely,

    Kevin Skelly, Ph.D.
    Superintendent 

     

More Information

Wellness Resources for Parents and Guardians