Resilience, gratitude, and patience. 

So much has happened since my last column in June, I don’t even know where to begin. This time last year, we were dealing with PSPS power outages that we thought were very disruptive and challenging. Little did we know… A year later we’ve dealt with so much more, yet through it all our teachers, staff, students and parents have demonstrated remarkable dedication and resilience to continue to educate our students no matter what happens.

Because of the evacuation of the City of Scotts Valley in August, our schools delayed the start of the new school year by two weeks to give our teachers, parents, and students time to get settled and ready. We began fully remote learning on Sept. 8. 

Using what we learned in the spring, and taking time over the summer to improve our techniques, remote learning this fall is far more robust. Students have a more rigorous and predictable routine, and teachers have found new ways to help them learn and measure progress. We remain engaged with parents through periodic surveys, and are now offering monthly webinars to provide resources to support mental health for the whole family at home. 

We’ve heard from many families that need and want their students back in school for the best chance at learning. We want nothing more than to bring students back on campus as well, but we must do so in a way that complies with new State and County health protocols, so we can ensure the health and safety of our students, teachers and staff. We also hear from families who want to keep their students home for the full year. As a small District with limited staff, we’re looking for creative ways to serve both student populations in the best way possible. As with every challenge we’ve faced this year, we will figure this out, and we appreciate the community’s support and patience. 

As we prepare for returning to our school campuses we’re facing another challenge—the physical condition of our schools. With the completion of the Scotts Valley Middle School remodel in 2019, we knew it was time to review our facility needs on our other campuses.  While facilities have been well-maintained, Brook Knoll Elementary, Vine Hill Elementary and Scotts Valley High have not received significant renovations or upgrades in over 20 years. The Covid-19 pandemic has added urgency to meet higher health standards for ventilation, and social distancing; and upgrade electrical and technology systems to support hybrid and distance learning.

We must address both critical short-term needs and long-term improvements that are past due to meet 21st century education and technology standards. Unfortunately, the state education budget does not provide adequate funding to support maintenance, let alone the renovations and upgrades our schools need. The accompanying map shows that since 2004 nearly every County in California has used facility bonds to renovate or upgrade their schools. Most recently, our neighbors in San Lorenzo Valley passed Measure S in March to raise $75 million for their campuses.

As is a tradition in Scotts Valley, we can do more with less. We’ve placed Measure A on the Nov. 3 ballot to raise $49 million to renovate and upgrade our two elementary schools and our high school. For an average parcel with an assessed value of $700,000, the cost is only $66/year for the first three years, with costs dropping to below current rates starting in 2024. To see the project list for each site, and to learn more please visit www.SOSSV.net. I urge you to join our entire City Council, and all of our local elected officials to vote YES on Measure A. Here are just two thoughts from other community members:

“No one wants to pay more taxes, especially at this time, however we feel the needs are justified and hope others feel the same way and show it by voting ‘YES’ on Measure A.” 

- Darshana and Willie Croskrey

“I may not have kids in the school system anymore but I understand I have an obligation to support the system that is supporting us, our children and our future generations. I hope all home owners will stop to appreciate what we have and why it is so important to support Measure A for our local school system. The cost per resident of Measure A is well covered in the increased property values we have all benefited from. Vote Yes on Measure A!”

- Ray Gorski

One more thing. We were very proud of current and former students in our District organizing a very peaceful march and thoughtful discussion this summer on incidents of racism in our community and schools. In response, we’ve begun a multi-layered Cultural Responsiveness effort that includes professional development, a review of our curriculum, and a review of practices so that staff and students can better respond to behaviors, speech, and actions that are hurtful. A District committee of teachers, counselors and administration has been formed to drive this effort, and will engage more widely with the community over the course of this year.

Our mission has been and always will be to provide the highest quality educational program to all students, no matter what it takes. Your students' safety and wellbeing, as well as their education, matters deeply to all of us. We appreciate the community’s support through everything we’ve faced together.

You can always read the latest information about what’s happening with your Scotts Valley schools at https://www.scottsvalleyusd.org/.

Roger Snyder has served on the Board of Trustees of Scotts Valley Unified School District since 2016 and currently serves as Board President. His views are his own and not necessarily those of the Press Banner. Email Roger with any feedback or ideas about this column at rsnyder@scottsvalleyusd.org.

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