San Juan Unified School District

The SJUSD Approach

As San Juan Unified School District was closing out its spring of distance learning, it began planning for the 2020-21 school year to build off of the lessons learned and offer to its families a variety of learning models, including in-person instruction through hybrid and traditional learning models. However, like all school districts within Sacramento County, San Juan USD received a notification in mid-July from the county office of education and county department of health services that schools would begin the year with distance learning, due to the increase in COVID-19 cases.  

A long-standing partnership between SJUSD and  labor, in particular its teachers union, the San Juan Teachers Association (SJTA), made the last-minute shift manageable. The SJUSD school board called  an emergency meeting July 16 so  San Juan staff, students, and families could review and discuss planning to safely provide quality instructional choices to families and approve implementation of a continuum of instructional options designed to meet changing community health conditions. 

Expectations for Increased Rigor

With higher expectations for increased rigor in distance learning in ways that were not possible during the spring, many school district and teacher union leaders were working through the challenging circumstances of negotiations, with some school districts initiating the school year without agreements in place. 

Through ongoing discussions, collaborations, and negotiations, the SJUSD and SJTA continued through the summer months to refine their proposal for starting the 2020-21 school year through the summer months and came to an agreement on distance learning that met the most immediate needs of the district’s educators, students, and families. 

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A Foundation of Trust

Collectively, these groups have come together over many years to build a foundation of trust and systemic processes that support high-quality teaching and learning in the district. This collaborative relationship operates from a theory of action and a core set of shared beliefs. The origins of these beliefs stem from the San Juan Unified community-developed strategic plan, which identifies a core set of shared beliefs that unite and guide efforts to serve students and families: 

  • Every person is unique and has equal worth. 
  • Diversity is a valuable asset that strengthens and enriches our community. 
  • Everyone benefits when people willingly contribute to the well-being of others.

Expanding upon this theory of action and shared set of beliefs, SJUSD first introduced its strategic priorities for reopening schools at its June 9 board meeting. These priorities were identified to provide SJUSD, SJTA, and community stakeholders with a framework to plan for the 2020-21 school year. These priorities are presented to the board and members of the public at every board meeting to provide greater transparency on the planning process and to allow for continual stakeholder input. 

Continuing to use the strategic priorities as a guide, SJUSD presented an update in September to its board and members of the community on planning for in-person services through small group format (cohorts) and applying for TK-6 Waiver(s). In October, SJUSD provided an update to the community because the county risk level has improved, allowing for further discussion and planning for reopening schools. The information shared with the community provides a review of the current health conditions and COVID-19 cases in San Juan Unified, the ongoing efforts to strengthen distance learning, and the next steps in preparation for the eventual return to in-person instruction when it is safe for students, staff, and community.

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The SJUSD Approach