Letters from John Carruth

September 4, 2020

Dear Parents,

Last week we were excited to announce that the health metrics surrounding COVID-19 in Pima County are improving. Assuming the metrics continue to improve, we are still targeting September 21st as the date when we will move to the next phase of opening schools – the hybrid phase.

The purpose of the hybrid phase is to welcome students on campus, but physically distanced as much as possible and/or keep them in the same groups throughout the day. This is made possible by the reassigning and restructuring of classes and teachers,.

Under the hybrid phase, parents who did NOT choose the Vail Innovation Center for the first semester will have two choices for their students:

Hybrid – Partially In-Person/Partially Remote (with modified schedules)
Brick to Click* – Remote Instruction Connected to Your School

These two options will look a little different at each level.

Vail Inclusive Preschool: See note below**

Elementary:
Hybrid: 4 days of on campus learning, a shortened school day, one hour of at-home learning each of the 4 days, and independent learning on Fridays
Brick to Click: teacher contact 3 days a week, including live lessons for Language Arts and Math on Fridays. Brick to Click is ideal for families who are not yet ready to come back to school on campus or who have the support at home to continue learning remotely.

Middle School:
Hybrid: 2 days of on campus learning, a shortened in-person school day, and one hour of at home learning each day. Students will follow their class schedule from home on the at-home learning days with Friday serving as an independent learning and office hours day.
Brick to Click: students will follow their class schedule from home 4 days a week with Friday serving as an independent learning and office hours day.

High School:
Hybrid: 2 days of on campus learning for a full day with 3 days of at-home learning.
Brick to Click: students will follow the same daily schedule as their peers. Fridays will serve as an independent learning and office hours day for all students.

Smaller schools of choice like Civano, Esmond Station, Pantano, VAHS, and Vail Blended may have different scenarios.

We will make every effort to keep students in the same family on the same schedule.

You will be receiving further communication about the specifics of each option from your students’ principals on Wednesday, September 9th. If you are ready to make your choice for the hybrid learning phase now, please feel free to do so here.

You will be able to make and/or change your selection through Sunday, September 13th when the survey closes. Please also visit School Opening – Hybrid Learning Information on our District website for more information.

If you have further questions, please feel free to contact us at: newschoolyear@vailschooldistrict.org

Again, thank you for your patience and support as we work to develop sustainable plans for each phase of learning. We are grateful for our community.

John Carruth
Superintendent

*During the hybrid phase students will not be able to move between Brick to Click and in-person learning unless in the case of illness or the need to quarantine. Further, students who choose Brick to Click will be asked to remain in Brick to Click for the duration of the hybrid phase. 

**This survey does not apply to students at Vail Inclusive Preschool. If you have not received a call from your child’s VIP teacher, please call the VIP office.

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August 28, 2020
Dear Parents and Staff,
Two weeks ago, we wrote to let you know that the Vail School District would be using the recently established public health metrics as a guide for when our schools would transition between the three phases of delivering instruction during the pandemic. Those phases, as outlined by the Arizona Department of Health, are: Remote instruction, hybrid instruction, and in-person instruction.
We also communicated that it was likely that Vail schools would be able to move to the next phase of instruction sometime between September 14th and October 5th.
The good news is that the conditions are improving. The metrics indicate steady progress in the reduction of the spread of COVID-19 in Pima County.
As such, we are targeting September 21st as the date for when we will move to the next phase of opening schools. Like most things during this pandemic, this assumes that conditions continue to improve and do not get worse.
The next phase will allow for hybrid instruction during a time of moderate risk. The hybrid phase involves another shift in the way instruction is delivered, staff are utilized, and campuses operate. The purpose of the hybrid phase is to keep students physically distanced as much as possible and/or keep them in the same groups throughout the day.
Plans are being developed for what the hybrid phase will look like at the preschool, elementary school, middle school, and high school levels. We will communicate the details of these plans to you by Friday of next week.
Remote instruction will continue to be a choice for students during the hybrid phase. Brick to Click* will be available through each school, and the Vail Innovation Center will continue to provide full-time remote learning to students who have chosen this option.
Please send any questions you may have to: newschoolyear@vailschooldistrict.org
Thank you for your continued patience and support as we work to get students back to school safely.
John Carruth
*During the hybrid phase students will not be able to move between Brick to Click and in-person learning unless in the case of illness or the need to quarantine. Further, students who choose Brick to Click will be asked to remain in Brick to Click during the hybrid phase.
August 9, 2020
Dear Parents,
There is nothing more exciting or anticipated than the first day of school. Possibility, growth, friendship, and hope are all on the horizon as the journey of a new school year begins. For all of us, that journey will start a little differently Monday via remote instruction.
If there has been one constant since schools were closed by executive order this past March it has been frequent change. The past five months have taught us that adaptation, perseverance, sacrifice, and grace are necessary pursuits to navigate the ever changing dynamics of life in a pandemic.
This past Thursday brought more change. Under the direction of an executive order by Governor Ducey, the Arizona Department of Health (ADHS) released public health benchmarks that are intended to guide the safe return to in-person instruction. ADHS has created an online dashboard explaining these benchmarks and tracking progress toward meeting them. It can be viewed HERE.
The good news is that the benchmarks are trending in the right direction. The bad news is that they are currently above what will be required to open schools for in-person instruction on August 17th.
Further, Pima County issued a statement to school districts on July 28th, that included recommendations from Chief Medical Officer Dr. Francisco Garcia and Public Health Director Dr. Teresa Cullen. In short, the guidance stated that the earliest in-person instruction could safely be anticipated to resume would be after Labor Day, September 7th.
I will recommend to the Vail Governing Board that our district follow the public health data provided by ADHS and Pima County Health in determining when it is reasonably safe to resume in-person instruction.
Following these data points will likely mean that in-person instruction won’t be an option through at least Labor Day.
The Vail Governing Board will be meeting on Tuesday, August 11th at 7 p.m. to review the ADHS benchmarks and the Pima County Health data. They will also review adjustments to instructional options that may need to be put in place in order to reopen schools.
We recognize that COVID-19 is creating challenges beyond just the physical safe return to school. The social, emotional, and academic well-being of our children is of utmost importance to all of us. As we plan to open schools as soon as possible, we are also dedicated to connecting with your children, welcoming them back to learning, and providing them with the best learning experience possible starting Monday, August 10th.
As we start this school year, we will likely make some mistakes along the way. Operating in a pandemic is historic and unfamiliar for all of us. When we fall, we will do so with every intent of falling forward in the pursuit of creating high quality, safe learning environments for your children. We will get up together. We will adapt. We will persevere. We will sacrifice. And, we will offer grace. Perhaps these are the most important lessons presented to all of us this year.
I wish everyone a safe and blessed school year.
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John Carruth

July 27, 2020

Dear Parents,
We value parent choice in Vail. In order to best meet the needs of each family, the Vail School District is providing multiple educational options this year. 
Below you will find the link to choose an educational option for your child(ren). This survey will ask you to choose between two options – Remote Learning through your child’s school and Remote Learning through the Vail Innovation Center (VIC). Both options will begin August 10th.
For families who choose Remote Learning through your child’s school, once schools are able to open campuses, you will be asked to make a second choice – whether your child will attend On Campus or through Brick to Click. Your child will be able to transition between On Campus and Brick to Click at any time during the first semester.
If you choose remote learning through the VIC, your child will remain in this educational setting throughout the first semester. 
The survey will remain open until Friday, August 7th at 5:00 p.m. You may change your choice at any time up to this date and time.
Please feel free to email newschoolyear@vailschooldistrict.com if you have any further questions.
Click HERE to select an educational option for your child(ren).
John Carruth
Superintendent
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July 24, 2020
Dear Vail Families and Staff,
We have wrapped up our virtual town halls this week. It was wonderful to connect with so many families. We miss you and your children and look forward to the time when we can be together again. I was again reminded just how strong our community is. Vail is most certainly a place where education is a community effort. I know that we will get through every challenge we face in the coming months together.
So, what’s the update for this week?
Yesterday, Governor Ducey held a press conference and issued a new executive order regarding the opening of schools. We are working to unwrap what the order means for the Vail School District and will inform you once we have a clear understanding. This morning a small group of superintendents met with Pima County and Pima County Health Department leaders to determine what metrics should be used to determine when schools can safely re-open, as referenced in the Governor’s order and press conference.
As we anticipated the executive order would make changes to reopening schools, we have delayed sending out the survey for parents to choose an educational option for their child(ren). Our intent is to open up the survey for parents in the next week after ensuring that our plans are in compliance with the new instruction from the State.
In the meantime, please review the graphic below to see what our options currently look like, and get more details around each educational option on the district website at vailschooldistrict.org.


Thank you again for your continued patience and support as we work to provide you with the most accurate and up to date information. Please let us know if you have any further questions at newschoolyear@vailschooldistrict.org.

John Carruth
Superintendent
Vail Unified School District
(520) 879-2004

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July 17, 2020
Dear Vail Parents,
Our virtual town halls with parents this week have been going very well. They have given us an opportunity to answer questions, listen to feedback, and connect with Vail families. Because of the high level of interest in attending the virtual town halls, I have added three additional town halls to accommodate the requests we received.
A common question we have been hearing surrounds the difference between Remote Learning, Brick to Click Learning, and full time virtual learning through the Vail Innovation Center (VIC).
We have created the following videos to help clarify the differences. The first video shows what Remote Learning and Brick to Click in K-8 will look like and explains the difference between them. A written description for 9-12 is also attached. The second video explains what full time virtual learning through the VIC will look like. (See Attachments)
Click HERE to watch video on Remote Learning and Brick to Click in K-8.
Click HERE to watch video on what virtual learning through the VIC.
Many of the other questions we have been hearing are specific to individual schools. In order to help parents find important information we have added site specific information to the Vail School District website.
To find it please go to vailschooldistrict.org. Click on the purple “School Opening and COVID-19 Information” box. Then click on the “School Day” tab and the “Communications from Schools” tabs.
We know this is not anyone’s ideal start to school. It isn’t ours either. However, as the Vail community continues along the path of reopening schools in these uncertain times, we are committed to continuing to serve parents.
Again, we appreciate your patience and support as we work to re-open schools. Please let us know if you have any further questions or concerns at newschoolyear@vailschooldistrict.org.
John Carruth
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July 10, 2020
Dear Parents and Staff,
I’d like to provide you a quick update regarding our plans for the upcoming school year.
School Start Date: Vail schools will open remotely on August 10th.
Governor Ducey has delayed the start of in-person school until August 17th. However, schools are able to open remotely prior to that date. The Governor also stated they would, “continuously re-evaluate that date.” If a decrease in COVID-19 rates are not seen, it is possible that the Governor may delay in-person classes beyond August 17th. VUSD will open in-person as soon as the State allows.
School Choices:
Once our campuses are able to open for in-person classes, there will be three options from which parents must choose:
  • On Campus Learning (begins when campuses re-open)
  • Brick to Click Learning (begins when campuses re-open)
  • Full Time Digital Learning through the Vail Innovation Center (begins August 10th)
Because in-person classes are delayed, the On Campus and Brick to Click options will not begin until campuses are allowed to open. It is important to note that remote learning before our campuses open may look different from the Brick to Click option.
For more information regarding these three distinct options and other school opening information, please visit vailschooldistrict.org.
When school begins on August 10th, all Vail students will be taught remotely by their classroom teacher(s). Elementary school students will be provided with instruction and lessons to be completed daily. Middle and high school students will follow their course schedules.
We know parents have many questions regarding the three educational options and the remote start. We will be hosting a series of Virtual Town Halls over the next two weeks to answer questions that parents have. Please see the dates and times below.
Parents will receive a link the week of July 20th to an online portal where they will be asked to select the option that works best for their child(ren) and family.
School Calendar:
Starting school on August 10th requires that a few adjustments be made to the school calendar for next year. This issue is currently being studied by the Governing Board, but the current plan is to have a two-week fall break for all students from October 12th – 23rd and a one week spring break from March 15th – 19th. A draft of the school calendar is attached to this email.
I intend to continue sending a weekly email until school begins on August 10th. We are working out the details on issues like Senior Exit Projects and student travel. I hope to have updates on these issues as well as any new developments that may occur over the course of the week.
Thank you for your continued support.
John Carruth
Superintendent
Virtual Town Hall Schedule
Wednesday, 7/15 – 12:00pm
Thursday, 7/16 – 6:00pm
Friday, 7/17 – 11:30am
Monday, 7/20 – 6:00pm
Please RSVP to Cindy Petersen at petersenc@vailschooldistrict.org if you would like to attend. You will be sent log-in information at that time. Spots are limited to ensure quality discussions via zoom. Additional sessions will be added if needed.
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July 3, 2020
Dear Parents and Staff,
Earlier this week I sent an email explaining what Governor Ducey’s June 29th Executive Order means for the Vail School District.
During the press conference Governor Ducey reviewed the upward trajectory of COVID-19 in Arizona. “Our numbers continue to increase. They are going in the wrong direction. We are going to take additional actions to contain this virus and get back on track.”- Governor Doug Ducey.
For this reason the Governor ordered that in- person learning cannot begin until August 17, 2020. The Governor also said that Arizona will, “continuously re-evaluate this target date.” So, we want to acknowledge the possibility that the order to delay could be extended.
The executive order allows schools to open remotely prior to August 17th. Last week the Vail Governing Board voted to delay the start of school until August 10th.  In light of the executive order, we are planning for schools to open remotely on August 10th and starting in-person learning on August 17th, or when the order is lifted. Information on what a remote start will look like is currently being developed and will be shared with you as soon as it is available.
The Arizona Interscholastic Association (AIA), which governs all high school athletics, has also made a decision to delay the start of fall sports. The fall sports season, which was scheduled to begin on August 21st, has been postponed. The AIA Board will be meeting to determine the start date for the fall season. More information about AIA can be found here.
In the meantime please take some time to familiarize yourself with the information in the School Opening section of the VUSD website. School Opening and COVID-19 Information
New information is being added daily. As we receive questions from parents, staff, and students, we are adding the answers to the FAQ section of the website. You can also expect regular email updates from me as the situation evolves between now and the start of the school year.
Please be safe and enjoy the holiday weekend!
John Carruth
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June 29, 2020

Dear Parents and Staff,

Friday evening the Vail School District Governing Board voted unanimously to postpone the start of the 2020/2021 school year to August 10th for the following reasons:

• Additional time is needed to plan and execute the work necessary to address three distinct instructional models as well as develop and execute specific plans for health and safety needs at each school site.

• Arizona and Pima County are currently experiencing record rates of spread of the COVID-19 virus. Additional time will allow for statewide measures, including the Pima County Resolution requiring the use of face coverings, to take effect to help slow the spread.

Today, Monday June 29th, Governor Ducey announced at a press conference that schools will be required to delay the start of in-person classes until August 17th. However, the order allows schools to open remotely through distance learning prior to August 17th.

Over the next few days we will be unwrapping the details in today’s executive order and what they mean for opening schools in Vail. We anticipate being able to communicate our next steps with you by early next week.

In the meantime, please take a moment to review the new section of VUSD’s website. Information regarding educational options, health and safety, and much more can be found at vailschooldistrict.org.

John Carruth
Superintendent
Vail Unified School District

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June 12, 2020
Dear Parents,
I hope that you and your family are healthy and are enjoying your summer. I’d like to provide you with an update on plans for next school year.
Our primary focus since the end of the school year has been planning for our return to school. Thank you for your feedback through the parent survey and other correspondence. It has helped shape the decision making.
We are planning to open schools on-time in July.
We are working closely with Governor Ducey’s office, the Arizona Department of Education, and state and county health officials. As of this writing, Governor Ducey has stated that schools will be allowed to open on time.
The reality is that conditions around COVID-19 are fluid and will likely remain so through much of this next school year. As such we are planning for flexibility and parent choice.
We are developing three primary choices for you and your family.
  1. School as close to normal as possible with reasonable health and safety precautions in place.
A list of logistics and safety precautions being considered is attached to this letter.
  1. A “Brick to Click” option that allows students to learn remotely for short intervals of time while remaining connected to their regular schools.
A student or group of students may want to remain connected to their regular school but may need to learn remotely due to health concerns, illness, or personal reasons.
  1. On-line school with the Vail Innovation Center delivered by Vail teachers to provide virtual learning in your home for a full semester or school year.
For over 15 years, Vail has offered on-line learning to support parents who choose to home school their children or need them to learn remotely. This program is offered through our Vail Innovation Center. Information about this program can be found here.
Our desire is to provide you with information about your family’s options for the start of the new school year. We are not asking you to choose right now. As more details develop around each plan, we will share them with you and let you know how to indicate your choice. If you have any questions, please contact newschoolyear@vailschooldistrict.org or me directly.
Vail’s Mission Statement reads: We seek to provide parents with safe and nurturing school communities, where their children can obtain a quality education. As we plan for next school year, it is our deep desire to execute all three of these core values.
Thank you for your continued support as we navigate this uncharted territory together.
Respectfully,
John Carruth

Help guide our planning for the next school year!

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Dear Parents,

I’d like to speak with you today about our upcoming school year, but before I do so, I’d like to pause and take a moment to simply say thank you. So much has occurred since we closed schools in March, and frankly, you have been our partners in that process in unprecedented ways. In a very short period of time, we pivoted to provide high-quality educational opportunities to home for you and your children; together we have served almost 200,000 meals to young people in our community, and we have found meaningful ways to honor our graduating seniors. We say that education is a partnership with you, and we know that we have leaned on that partnership in unusual ways over this time. So simply, thank you.

Like you, I think we’re all looking to the future and some semblance of normal. As we look to the future, we intend to use our time-honored Vail values to guide our path. We are a place “where education is a community effort,” and we seek to provide you, parents, with safe nurturing school communities where your children can receive a high-quality education.

Opening school in July is now our primary focus. We recognize, however, that public health restrictions at that time may alter our plans or restrict us from doing so. However, we must be prepared, and we must have a plan. Our primary goal is to return to school as normal as possible given the health restrictions at that time. We know how to do traditional school really well, and we’re proud of that. To that end, we are working on implementing precautions at our schools that will allow the safe return for students and staff.

We also understand that restrictions may prevent us from doing this for a period of time, or simply, that this model won’t work for you or your family for a period of time. Therefore, we are working on a hybrid option that will allow your child to remain connected to their school, their teachers, and their friends. We are also expanding our current virtual option that is offered through our Vail Innovation Center and delivered by our Vail teachers if you feel that that might be a better option to meet your needs.

As we look to next year, we also are looking to you for guidance to help in our planning. Attached to this video is a short, three question survey that when you fill it out, it will give us information that will help us better meet your family’s needs.

Help guide our planning for the next school year!

We recognize that this is an unprecedented time for everyone, and we long for the day when we can all be together again. Education, after all, is a social endeavor, and we really miss your kids.

I know in a short video, I’m not able to answer all your questions or address all of your concerns. To that end, we have created an email address that you can reach out to at NewSchoolYear@VailSchoolDistrict.org, or simply reach out to me, and I’ll do my best to address your concerns. Thank you for your time, and take care.