Part 4 of The Rotary Club of Sierra Vista - People of Action in These COVID Times
PART 4 New member Dr. Eric Holmes, the new Superintendent of Sierra Vista Unified School District (SVUSD)                                                                                                                        Frank Gonzalez and City Manager Chuck Potucek 
PEOPLE OF ACTION – Rotary Club of Sierra Vista in These COVID Times – Dr. Eric Holmes
At their most recent meeting, the Rotary Club of Sierra Vista welcomed Dr. Eric Holmes, the Sierra Vista School District Superintendent, as the club’s newest member. He comes to the Sierra Vista School District having been a teacher, principal, and superintendent of schools in Pennsylvania.
Thinking he was ready for retirement, he retired in Pennsylvania but very soon he realized he had a need to continue to work with the local schools, volunteering his time to teach and provide counseling. Fortunately for Sierra Vista, he was willing to leave PA and accepted the position as the Sierra Vista Unified School District (SVUSD) Superintendent. 
As our featured speaker for the meeting, via our Club Zoom, Dr. Holmes gave us a comprehensive presentation on plans for reopening schools in Sierra Vista. He stressed that “conditions surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic are continually evolving, and SVUSD's Return to School plan and Safety Protocol will be constantly evaluated to adapt to the continuing trends of the COVID-19 virus, guided by local, state, and national authorities.” Eric also stated that “the Sierra Vista Unified School District strives to increase the educational performance of every student. We accomplish this through high quality teaching and learning in safe, supportive school environments. We believe education is the shared responsibility of students, parents, schools, and community.”
UPDATE – A Fluid Situation:
At our meeting, Dr. Holmes he stated that he intended to open schools on August 17 as Governor Ducey had proposed. However, after receiving new data and state guidance, Dr. Holmes requested a special meeting with the school board on Tuesday night, August 11. Based on the new data, the board voted to postpone in-person instruction until Sept.14. He said at the meeting that he wanted to follow the state regulations and that the September date “allows time to make sure the data is consistent.” Dr. Holmes also said that athletic “practices will not start until the week of Sept.7, if the data indicates it’s safe to do so.” 
This continues to be a fluid situation and public health restrictions may alter the District’s plans or prevent the District from opening in-person on September 14. To be ready, the District is outlining contingency plans to adjust quickly based upon the most up-to-date information from health, state, and national authorities.
Eric provided information on what was being done in the District to prepare for the opening of schools in SVUSD. (The information below is taken from SVUSD’s “Return to School”)
● Surveys were sent out to staff and families in May to gather information on how ready they felt with returning to school in August, and what supports were important to the families and staff as they return to school. Over 1,500 families and over 350 staff members participated in the survey.
● Focus team meetings have been held for parents and for staff members. These focus teams will continue throughout the summer.
● The District Emergency Response Team and Student Health and Safety Committee will be joining forces to review district plans.
● Training is being offered to teachers all summer long to support them if the schools ever must go to teaching online/virtually in the future. Approximately ⅓ of the teachers have taken the training offered. All new teachers hired by the district will take part in the training during our Teacher Induction Training July 15-17.
● A second parent and staff survey was sent out in July to gather additional information from stakeholders. (A third survey was just recently sent out to parents and staff)
● Sanitizing equipment and supplies have been ordered and most are in the district.
● The SVUSD has created positions to coordinate cleaning and sanitizing of schools, a lead nurse to organize health protocols, and a lead counselor to organize our Social Emotional Learning protocols
UPDATE – No In-Person Teaching Yet:
Since schools will not resume in-person on August 17th, SVUSD will begin offering online/virtual instruction for all students. “Distance Learning will provide two options for students. The first is the SchoolsPLP which is a self-paced option and the other is with SVUSD teachers. Students will log on at certain times to watch their teachers, who will be in their classrooms, live.”
  1. Distance Learning Plan – 5 Days at Home Using SchoolsPLP (Independent Self-Paced Curriculum)
  • Five days per week working from home
  • Students use the SchoolsPLP online program to work independently on their coursework.
  • Students will be expected to complete the entire semester once they start this program.
  1. Flexible Learning Plan – 5 Days at Home Using the Online Flexible Model (Online Learning created by SVUSD Educators, with opportunity to transition to in-person classroom learning when available)
  • Five days per week working from home
  • Students will be assigned work to do at home that connects to lessons being taught those days on campus, with curriculum aligned to SVUSD classroom learning.
  • Students may move to a hybrid or classroom learning plan when available.
SVUSD is committed to providing families with choices to make the decision that is best for their student’s learning. SVUSD recognizes that these are unprecedented times and each student and family has different needs. The District also recognizes that parents have a choice when it comes to education, and SVUSD parents have voiced a need for both classroom learning and online learning. SVUSD is planning to offer high-quality learning models in the 2020-2021 school year to provide choice for students and families.  The learning options for SVUSD will continue to be updated and modified as the situation dictates and as opportunities for in-person instruction are available. (See on-line resources for all current SVUSD options)
After taking questions about technology and equipment (SVSUD is providing Wi-Fi to students with poor Wi-Fi by use of School Buses that are positioned in the County to act as ‘Hot Spots’), sports programs (practice begins 17 August), and food options (breakfasts and luncheons), Eric ended his presentation by saying that better than ½ of the parents responding to the surveys have stated they want learning to be ‘face to face’ and the SVUSD has responded to these requests with the options provided.
President Candy announced that the Sierra Vista West Rotary Club is having a presentation August 20th at 11:30 a.m. via zoom from local Toastmasters about the new partnership with Rotary. If any of our members want to join in or do a makeup, contact Steve Johns ( who will send you the invitation.
President Candy reminded us that our “Happy Bucks” this week were again going to support the School Supply Drive, as we had done last week. With very generous contributions from our club members (a little friendly competition to match donations from our business owners), we again raised over $500 for the School Supply Drive. Rotarian Rebekah Tilley is putting together a short note on our total (more than $1,500) contributions to promote our community efforts in these COVID times.
Before closing the meeting, President Candy announced the programs for the rest of this month.
They are:
  • The speaker for Aug. 10 will be Col. Henry Beumler, Ret. on "How Tri-Care Came to Be."
  • August 17 is "Playing for Pizza," a presentation from Bob Logan on Italians playing American football.
  • The speakers for Aug. 24 will be a panel on racism--if you have questions/areas that you would like the panel to explore, please send them to Candy right away.   The panel will go over the questions and choose the areas that they will cover--this presentation will take approximately the full hour.
Respectfully submitted by John Spengler, Rotary Club Reporter.