2021-2022 Superintendent Messages

  • October 20: Proposed Board policy for extracurriculars, weekly testing, COVID flowcharts and more www.smuhsd.org/messages

    Spanish 

    Dear Families and Students:

    It was so wonderful to experience rain on Sunday night! When growing up on the east coast, I found rain to be a nuisance. Now few things make me happier than a good soaking. Here’s hoping for more during the rest of the week, especially if it’s not during lunchtime at school as we are really trying to eat outside!

    At the last School Board meeting, staff were directed to bring back for Board consideration the policy requiring students to be either fully vaccinated or participate in regular COVID testing in order to participate in extracurricular activities. A few key points in the draft policy we’ll bring back to the Board on October 28 - 

    The policy would require unvaccinated students participating in extracurricular activities to:

    • Test once weekly and ideally within 48 hours of a contest or activity. Visit the COVID testing webpage for a full list of free weekly opportunities on our campuses as well as other testing resources. 
    • Testing would be required for unvaccinated students participating in athletics or extracurricular events outside of the school day. Lunchtime club members who meet during the school day would not be required to be vaccinated or tested under this policy.
    • We are not proposing to test or check the vaccination status of spectators at athletic, performing arts or other school events whether they are adults, students, siblings or community members. We are opting to focus on students within our scope rather than the community at large. This aligns with what other large school districts are doing with regards to spectators. None of our events are “mega-events” (indoor events with greater than 1,000 people or outdoor events with greater than 10,000) for which the state of California recommends that attendees provide proof of vaccination or negative COVID test results.  
    • We are proposing that the policy take effect Monday, November 15. 

    We made some recent changes to our COVID exposure flowcharts to be in alignment with the updated SMCOE’s Pandemic Recovery Framework. These changes include recommended testing for all vaccinated individuals who are exposed to COVID-19. The flowcharts have also separated the seven-day (with testing) and the ten-day (without testing) quarantine guidelines for unvaccinated individuals. Remember, when a student is sick, they should stay home, and contact your school’s Health Aide for clearance to return to school. 

    Our District LGBTQ+ Advisory Committee is looking for additional student members. The group meets about once quarterly to support and discuss issues that are important to our LGBTQ+ community. If you are interested in joining this group please contact Kirk Black

    Over the past few weeks I’ve attended meetings with superintendents from other places and heard their horror stories of incivility and rudeness. I mentioned this at the October 14 Board meeting and complimented our school board for their ability to argue strongly about issues but then put aside their differences after votes and discussion are done. This commitment to be hard on issues and soft on people spills over to all parts of our organization, to our collective benefit.

    Thank you for continuing to entrust your student’s education to us.

     

    On we go!

    Kevin Skelly, Ph.D.

    Superintendent

  • September 21: Vaccination/testing policy, reasons to consider subbing in SMUHSD

    Spanish

    Dear Families and Students:

    On Thursday night staff will bring a revised policy (English | Spanish) to the Board regarding student COVID-19 vaccination or testing requirements for participating in extracurricular activities. If approved by the Board, the policy would require students participating in extracurricular activities to be fully vaccinated or submit weekly negative COVID test results as recommended by the CDC. The tests must take place within 48 hours of the contest or activity. Students can take part in free testing at our school sites, at venues within the community, through their private healthcare provider or using a home test. Staff are recommending the policy take effect on Monday, October 4. Parents may view the draft presentation (English | Spanish) regarding this topic and find the full agenda and zoom login information on our website

    We are seeing more and more students vaccinated!  In fact, our stats show that about 96% of the Mills student body is now protected from serious illness by the vaccine for example. Our community health is stronger when we have more people vaccinated, particularly for those who cannot be vaccinated because of serious health conditions. 

    A special note to parents and guardians - we are actively looking for substitutes in our District. When we don’t have enough subs, administrators and others are pulled from other tasks to take on this responsibility, and our effectiveness suffers.  There are lots of reasons to consider subbing, but here are the top six reasons to sub for SMUHSD. Learn more about how to get started. 

    At a recent PTO meeting there were so many comments from parents/guardians about how happy students are to be back at school in person. The same is definitely true for staff. Let’s keep having fun while being safe.

    Sincerely,

    Kevin Skelly, Ph.D.
    Superintendent

  • September 3, 2021: Update on COVID notification process, vaccination requirements and testing for unvaccinated students

    Spanish

    Dear Families and Students: 

    In order to promote student and staff safety, we are making a change to how we identify and  notify close contacts within the classroom setting. Previously, we were only sending close contact messaging to those whom we could identify as being closer than six feet to the case for longer than 15 minutes. We will now notify all families, students and staff that they are a “likely close contact” if there is a positive case in their class, without trying to determine how close they were to the case. Using this criteria allows us to capture all potential close contacts regardless of length of time in class, movement in the classroom, group work by students, etc. An added benefit is that this will allow us to notify individuals who are potentially impacted more quickly. 

    Our Board requested that staff prepare a policy for their consideration that would require all students participating in extracurricular activities (athletics, clubs, and any other school activity that isn’t part of the school day) be vaccinated unless they have a religious or medical reason not to vaccinate. This will be discussed at the September 9 Board meeting. You can read the proposed policy on our website. View the full agenda and zoom information on our website.  

    We will begin weekly testing of unvaccinated students Wednesday, September 8 - Friday, September 10 at school sites. Students requiring testing will be excused from class to go to the onsite designated testing location. 

    If your student is vaccinated, and you did not upload their vaccination card through the data confirmation/school registration process, please share it with their School Health Aide

    We’re sending you many emails focusing on student and community health, as the pandemic continues to challenge us all. Please know, however, that there are so many wonderful things going on at our schools these days.  As I visit campuses I am elated by the spirit and energy.  Here’s hoping that your students’ reports are equally positive.

    On we go!

    Sincerely,

    Kevin Skelly, Ph.D.

    Superintendent

     

  • August 19, 2021: A Great Start, Responding to Positive Cases, and Employment Opportunities

    Spanish

    Dear Families and Students:

    I am so enjoying visiting schools, seeing students, and taking in some of the great energy our schools emit. 

    With the number of COVID cases in our community, we are going to have positive cases in our schools. Some of you have already gotten notifications of positive cases. As part of our contact tracing, staff members provide information such as seating charts, attendance and club rosters, etc. We issue appropriate guidance to all individuals as quickly as possible. As communicated earlier, vaccinated students can monitor for symptoms but in general, unvaccinated students must quarantine for at least seven days and cannot participate in extracurricular activities during that time. For specific information you can view our COVID Exposure Flow Chart on our website

    Students should not come to school if they are sick. This means don’t come if you have the sniffles, a cough, sore throat, congestion, etc. In the past many of us came to school with minor symptoms. We can’t do that in this environment. Please contact your school’s health office to report your illness and your school’s attendance office to report your absence. 

    About 90% of our staff have attested to being vaccinated, and 83% of students have been vaccinated. We will have opportunities for students to get vaccinated at clinics at Capuchino and Hillsdale HIgh Schools from 7:30 a.m.-3 p.m. on August 27. We will provide more information about appointments soon.

    With the exception of Peninsula High School, our Back to School Night will be held virtually this year on the evening of September 2. Your school will share more information with you shortly. 

    So far the air quality in the Bay Area has not suffered too much from the fires in California.  If this changes, we will be in contact with families. In the meantime, be assured that the ventilation in all classrooms meets or exceeds industry standards.

    We are in need of staff members to join us in various positions. You can find information about positions on our website

    In my travels, I’ve noted how many students and staff fill our quads and other outside spaces during lunch. We are so fortunate to live in a climate where we can count on mostly mild weather and very little rain until November (and then, we hope, lots of it!).  Lunchtime also reminds me how many students and their families count on our collective efforts. No matter the staff member’s role, they are mindful that they are contributing to work that is noble, and important.

    On we go, grateful to do what we do where we get to do it!

    Sincerely,

    Kevin Skelly, Ph.D.
    Superintendent

  • August 10, 2021: Recap of town hall, guidelines for vaccinated and unvaccinated students and more 

    Spanish

    Dear Families and Students:

    We hosted a District-wide Back to School Town Hall last night. Here are links to the slide deck in English and Spanish, and the YouTube recording of the meeting. Please note our slide decks have been updated to incorporate some of the questions families had.  

    We receive questions consistently about mandatory vaccinations.  It certainly feels that we’re moving toward a vaccine requirement soon, and this mandate push will only accelerate when and if the FDA gives full approval to the vaccines. Once again, I strongly urge all eligible individuals  to get vaccinated  as soon as possible.  We all need to be in this together.  

    The following guidelines apply to vaccinated vs. unvaccinated staff and students when exposed to a positive case:

    • Vaccinated individuals 
        • Staff and students who are not experiencing symptoms are cleared to attend school and are not required to quarantine
        • There may be testing requirements for staff or student between 3-5 days after exposure

    • Unvaccinated individuals 
      • Unmasked exposures (exposures where any of the individuals were unmasked) - require COVID testing at 5 days with a negative result by day 7 in order to return to work/school. In total this individual would quarantine for 7 days. 
      • Masked exposures (exposures where all individuals were wearing masks)- require two negative COVID tests within 10 days of the exposure. This individual may attend work/school as long as they do not develop symptoms. 
      • Unmasked/Masked - If the individual does not want to participate in testing they will be required to quarantine for a full 10 days.

    A special note about athletics and extracurriculars: unvaccinated students who are exposed to a positive case will not be permitted to participate in extracurricular activities including sports and clubs for a full 10 days. This has already been an issue for some athletes.

    If you completed the summer data confirmation process but did not upload your student’s COVID vaccine card, please reach out to your school’s Student Health Aide to share this record with them today. Contact information for Student Health Aides can be found on our website

    There are multiple opportunities for vaccinations. We’ll host the following at school sites: 

    • August 18 - Capuchino High - 10 a.m.- 5 p.m.
    • August 23 - Hillsdale High - 7:30 a.m.- 3:30 p.m.
    • August 31 - Peninsula High - 9:30 a.m - 12:30 p.m.

    We will provide additional information about how to make an appointment soon. 

    We will add more opportunities throughout the school year, and keep you updated. Please see our website for additional pop-up opportunities. 

    For your reference, the messages we have sent to families and students over the summer are on our website

    On we go, excited for a new year.

    Sincerely,

    Kevin Skelly, Ph.D.
    Superintendent

  • August 5, 2021: Back to School Town Hall is August 9 and More  

    Spanish

    Dear Families and Students:

    We’ve missed students so much!  This emotion rises up now as students return to campus in large numbers for orientations. Our school campuses are waking up and will be full of learners when school starts Thursday, August 12! 

    To the extent possible, we want to make the year as normal as we can while maximizing safety.   Even though there’s the requirement for universal masks indoors that fit well and cover both nose and mouth, most other elements of school should feel familiar. It has been our experience that students and staff follow this health directive faithfully. In fact, I can’t think of a single case where anyone, after a reminder, has failed to comply with this expectation. We have fantastic students in the District!  

    The District will host a virtual Town Hall for families and students on Monday, August 9 from 6:30-7:30 p.m. to share information on health and safety protocols and address questions and concerns you might have. Zoom login information can be found on our website. Questions in advance of the meeting may be sent to comments@smuhsd.org. Spanish interpretation will be provided. We will host a similar event for Spanish speaking families and students on Tuesday, August 10 from 6:30-7:45 p.m. Additional information can be found here.  

    Our Board will hold a special meeting tonight at 7 p.m. where staff will make a presentation on school reopening for the fall semester. The agenda, draft presentation material, and zoom information is available on our website

    Additionally, here’s another reminder about recent legislation which provides California school districts direction on repeating school years, requesting grade changes and independent study. You can learn more by visiting our website.

    As educators, we feel extra responsibilities to serve our community effectively this year. The pandemic has affected our sense of community.  Many of us have felt “unmoored” by the absence of a more traditional school experience in the past year and a half. You can count on our best efforts this year and invite you to “lean in” to your student’s school as we all rebuild and remoor ourselves.

    On we go, full of hope and passion for the challenges ahead.

    Sincerely,

    Kevin Skelly, Ph.D.

    Superintendent

     

  • July 30, 2021: Important information on repeating school years, grade changes and independent study

    Spanish

    Dear Families and Students: 

    The Governor recently signed legislation that provides California school districts direction on repeating school years, requesting grade changes and independent study. 

    State Assembly Bill 104 

    Repeating School Years 

    AB 104, signed into law on July 1, 2021, created a process for parents and guardians to request that their students repeat a grade level from the 2020-21 school year. Parents/guardians or students 18 or older must complete this form in order for the request to be considered. The request should only be made for students who received a D, F or No Pass for more than half their courses in the 2020-2021 school year.  Staff from student services will review the student’s records from the 2020-21 school year in order to determine eligibility. If eligible, student services will coordinate a consultation meeting within 30 days with the parent/guardian, student, counselor/administrator and Director of Student Services.

    Requesting Grade Changes

    AB 104 also allows parents/guardians or students 18 years old or older to request a grade change from a letter grade to a pass/no pass mark for any high school course on a student’s transcript for coursework taken during the 2020-21 school year.  Parents/Guardians must complete the grade change form by Monday, August 16, 2021. For the 2020–21 through 2023–24 school year, postsecondary institutions listed on the California Department of Education’s Website will accept, for admission purposes, a transcript with a pass or no pass grade instead of a letter grade for an applicant pursuant to Education Code Section 49066.5(b). Institutions not on this list and/or out of state may not accept the pass/no pass mark. For the purposes of participating in athletics, the CIF requires a minimum unweighted GPA of 2.0. A “Pass” mark is weighted as a 2.0. If you need additional guidance on the grade change, and potential impact, please contact your student's counselor.  

    State Assembly Bill 130

    Independent Study

    AB 130, calls for new independent study guidelines in the 2021-22 school year providing individualized study for students whose health would be at risk by receiving in-person instruction as determined by the student’s parent or guardian. Independent study courses are conducted through Edgenuity, and supervised by a district teacher. Course content meets the same A-G graduation requirements as in-person instruction. Families and students can learn more about courses by visiting Edgenuity’s Course List. Please note that only courses offered through SMUHSD are offered to our students through Edgenuity. Additional information may be found on the District’s Independent Studies webpage.  If interested, contact your student’s counselor.

    Additional information about AB 104 and AB 130 may be found on the District’s website

    While this information is not relevant for most students, we stand ready to help those students and families who need our assistance.

    See you soon.

    Sincerely,

    Kevin Skelly, Ph.D.
    Superintendent

     

  • July 21, 2021: Update on Health and Safety Protocols in Schools

    Spanish

    Dear Families and Students:

    The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) issued guidance for schools for the 2021-22 school year last week. The foundational principle of this guidance is that all students must have access to safe and full in-person instruction and as much instructional time as possible.

    A few highlights include:

    • Masking - The guidelines call for universal masking indoors at schools (except when eating or drinking). Masks are one of the most effective and simplest safety measures to prevent in-school transmission of COVID-19 infections and to support full time in-person instruction in schools. Masks are not required outdoors. The CDPH has outlined exemptions for certain individuals with specific medical conditions. Students who do not wish to wear a mask at school will be enrolled in independent study. 
    • Physical Distancing - Universal masking allows schools to eliminate the requirement for physical distancing for the most part. Students should still practice distancing when they must eat indoors, though eating outdoors will be encouraged whenever possible. 
    • Vaccinations - The COVID-19 vaccine is strongly recommended for all eligible individuals. Around 80% of our students are vaccinated according to our summer data confirmation, we’d love to see even more of our students get the vaccine. 
    • Quarantine Requirements - Fully vaccinated individuals are not required to quarantine after being exposed to an individual with COVID-19. Unvaccinated individuals may continue to attend school if they continue to have no symptoms and must undergo at least twice weekly COVID tests in ten days following exposure. Unvaccinated students will not be permitted to participate in extracurricular activities including sports and clubs during modified quarantine. 
    • Staying Home When Sick - Students and staff are strongly encouraged to stay home  when they are sick. 

    Vaccination appointments and walk up clinics are widely available to everyone 12 and older in San Mateo County regardless of immigration status. For more information, please visit the San Mateo County Health website or go directly to the MyTurn website to find an appointment near you today.

    San Mateo County youth leaders are hosting a youth vaccine clinic on July 24 with music and hourly drawings for prizes. A list of clinics is on the San Mateo County Health website.

    Students who haven’t completed the student data confirmation in Aeries must do so before Friday, July 30. Learn more on our website. Students who are vaccinated and who have already completed the summer data confirmation, but did not upload their vaccination card as part of this process, should contact their health aide to share their vaccination card. 

    Make sure you check for communications from your school on important topics like orientation, schedules for the first few days, and sports/activities. You can also visit your school’s website.

    The District will host a virtual Town Hall for Families and students on Monday, August 9 from 6:30-7:30 p.m. to share the latest information on health and safety protocols. Zoom login information can be found on our website. Questions in advance of the meeting may be sent to comments@smuhsd.org. Spanish interpretation will be provided. 

    So much to be excited about! 

    Sincerely,

    Kevin Skelly, Ph.D. 
    Superintendent

  • July 12: Ramping up for the 2021-22 School Year

    Spanish

    Dear San Mateo Union High School District Families and Students: 

    I hope you are enjoying this summer and engaged in activities that will help you to recharge for a successful school year ahead. 

    Returning to Campus in August

    The first day of school is Thursday, August 12, and our District has all systems go for a school year of full-time, in-person instruction. We will continue to follow California Department of Public Health’s safety guidelines and will keep our community informed about new developments. We’ll also provide updates on our Fall 2021 webpage. For your student’s safety and the safety of our entire District community, I hope you will make sure they are vaccinated if they can be.

    Vaccine Update

    The COVID-19 vaccine is free and widely available to anyone aged 12 and older regardless of immigration status in San Mateo County. For more information, please visit the San Mateo County Health website or go directly to the MyTurn website to find an appointment near you today. 

    Free Summer Enrichment Programs

    We want students to start coming back on campus over the summer, whether it is just to walk around the campus, or to participate in the many Summer Enrichment activities. There is still time for students to enroll in free Summer Enrichment programs. You can learn more by visiting our website. Programs are open to all SMUHSD students no matter the student’s home campus.

    Athletics

    There are few better ways to jump into high school than joining a sport in the fall.  Athletics in the fall semester will include: girls golf, girls volleyball, water polo, girls tennis, cross country and football. Sideline Cheer will also be participating in the fall. Please contact your school’s athletic director for information about tryouts and practice and see our website for information about athletic medical clearance. Note that many sports have started summer conditioning.

    Transportation 

    The Transportation Department provides bus service for students living in Foster City from general pick up locations to Aragon, Hillsdale and San Mateo High Schools. Bus passes will be available for purchase online starting July 26, and walk-up service will be available on August 2. Families who wish to take advantage of this service may visit our website for more information on transportation.

    Transportation provides service for students with an Individualized Education Plan (IEP), and in many cases this is offered at no cost to the family. Families can contact the Special Education Department at 650-558-2260 to confirm your student's transportation availability. 

    Students attending Peninsula High School can take advantage of two morning and afternoon routes to and from school. Peninsula families will receive more information from the school soon to indicate their transportation request for the year. 

    Please note that transportation services (other than routes serving students with IEPs) may have limited availability due to COVID-19 protocols limiting bus capacity from the County and State. We will keep families updated as we learn more. 

    SMUHSD encourages all students who don’t use District Transportation to consider alternative modes of transportation. Getting to school via SamTrans, a carpool, biking, walking, or using one of the many newfangled inventions for short travel are all great modes of transportation that remove cars from our roadways and help the environment. 

    Student Nutrition

    During the 2021-2022 school year the District will provide free meals and snacks before school, during brunch, and lunch service to ALL SMUHSD students. Families who previously qualified for the federal free and reduced National School Lunch Program or who believe they may qualify now are still strongly encouraged to complete a program application in order to benefit from medical, housing, utilities and transportation programs. Schools also collect this confidential data in order to receive federal funding for programs that help our schools, students, their families and staff. For more information or to complete an application, please visit the EZ Meal App website.  

    District Communications

    As mentioned in my last email, we’ve changed the interface we use to send emails. This product, ParentSquare, is designed to keep parents informed and participating in school life. Families may download the app for a better user experience. In the app you can set preferences to email, text or voicemail. You can also set your notifications to receive alerts on the app. Learn more at www.smuhsd.org/parentsquare.

    I can’t wait to see all our students back on campus on August 12. It’s less than half a summer away!

    Sincerely,

    Kevin Skelly, Ph.D.
    Superintendent