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This week’s storm shouldn’t impact Truckee Tahoe Unified School District

From a release:

A storm is coming – what parents need to know!

Dear TTUSD Community,

As you may have heard, a storm is coming – the first significant one all winter! The National Weather Service has issued a winter storm warning in effect from 7:00 p.m. tonight, Tuesday, January 26, through 4:00 a.m. on Friday, January 29.

To limit the loss of instruction time for students, we have modified our snow day procedures for this school year. For the 2020-2021 school year only, we are implementing two distinct scenarios in response to inclement weather. We wanted to make sure you are aware of these scenarios as we reopen our schools next week. (Note: Because we are currently in distance learning, the weather should not affect instruction this week, and distance learning will continue as usual. If there are large power outages or connectivity issues, the district will call a normal snow day and cancel school.) Once we are back in hybrid, the following snow day scenarios will apply:

Scenario #1: Distance Learning in Lieu of a Snow Day

In this scenario, weather conditions or impending storms may impact travel and students and staff’s ability to arrive safely and timely at their school site. However, power and internet connectivity are still readily available to the majority of neighborhoods in our community. In this circumstance, the District would call a distance learning day in lieu of a snow day. Students and staff would conduct the instructional day virtually through the regularly established distance learning platforms. Parents and staff would be notified of a distance learning day in lieu of a snow day by 6:00 a.m. via a robocall and/or postings on the District website at ttusd.org/snow. Our snow phone, (530) 582-2510 and (530) 581-7020, would also be updated.

The message that parents and staff would receive:

Today is a distance learning day in lieu of a snow day due to inclement weather. All instruction will take place virtually today.

Scenario #2: A Snow Day

In circumstances where weather conditions impact safe travel, access to power and connectivity (i.e., major power outages), building operations, snow removal, and site access, and general safety of students and staff, the District will call a traditional snow day. In this scenario, the instructional day will be canceled and will be made up at the end of the school calendar. Parents would be notified via a robocall and a posting on the District website. Our snow phone would also be updated.

The message that parents and staff would receive:

Today is a snow day, all schools are closed; no instruction will take place today.

Click here to view our 2020-2021 Snow Day Policies and Procedures document. You can also find this information on our website at ttusd.org/snow

Note: If storms continue into next week, there is always the possibility of a snow day or a distance learning day.


Carmen Ghysels

Superintendent Chief Learning Officer

Source: Truckee Tahoe Unified School District

Students to return to hybrid Feb. 1

The Tahoe Truckee Unified School District this week announced schools will reopen, in hybrid, on Feb. 1.

The decision to reopen the district’s schools was announced during Wednesday’s board meeting.

“We realize that parents have different comfort levels regarding having their children on campus for in-person instruction, and we continue to offer our year-long distance learning option,” said Superintendent Chief Learning Officer Carmen Ghysels. “Last week our principals sent out a cohort change request form for any parent who wants to change their child’s cohort, from hybrid to year-long distance learning or vice versa.”

The district has options for three cohorts. Cohort A and B will each be on campus for in-person instruction. Cohort C, which is an option for students and parents, will continue to make use of distance learning.

“Not everyone is comfortable having kids — we know that — on campus, and we continue to offer our distance learning Cohort C option,” said Ghysels.

As of Wednesday, according to the district, there are six active cases within the community. As part of opening, the district said there is proper staffing to offer instruction, along with availability for timely testing and results for symptomatic staff and students. Ghysels also indicated that the district has expanded its capacity for contract tracing.

The school district will also continue its free meals for students, whether they are in hybrid or year-long distance learning.

Currently, the district does not intend to close its campuses unless there is a significant increase in COVID-19 cases, but Ghysels said positive COVID-19 cases could result in logistical challenges such as an entire bus route being canceled as the district seeks to find the source of exposure. Classrooms, grade levels, or school sites could also be closed due to positive COVID-19 cases.

Students and parents can find updates from the district and active cases within the community at TTUSD.org. There is also a vaccine update page, which can be found on the district’s website.

“We’re ready. We’re excited, and moving into hybrid will give us the opportunity to get our kids back, to get some familiarity … and we can plan for five-day,” said Ghysels.

Justin Scacco is a reporter for the Sierra Sun. Contact him at jscacco@sierrasun.com or 530-550-2643.

Tahoe Truckee schools postpone classroom return

The Tahoe Truckee Unified School District provided an update on distance learning in the area during Wednesday’s board meeting.

Due to the increase in the amount of COVID-19 cases, in-school learning has been postponed, and the timeline for students returning to classrooms will again be discussed at the Jan. 20 board meeting.

“Nobody wants kids to be back in the classroom more than we do. That’s the best place they could possibly be,” said board President Kim Szczurek during Wednesday’s meeting.

“We’re going to take two more weeks to make this decision … I’m really struggling with the rate of spread and the rate of spread within our community, and I don’t know that I believe that the visitors are doing it to us. I think that that we’ve done it ourselves, and so, we have to work together as a community to make it safer.”

The region remains in a stay-at-home order.

“I was hoping to announce today the reopening of our schools in hybrid on January 19. Unfortunately, there was a huge surge of COVID cases in December, with another one expected this coming week, following the New Year’s holiday,” said Superintendent Carmen Ghysels in a letter to the community on Thursday.

“In December alone, the number of COVID cases represented 46% of all cases within Placer County since last March. This, coupled with the huge influx of visitors in Tahoe the past few weeks, gives me concern that the numbers of active cases of COVID could spike again. The last thing any of us want is to open and have to close schools again.”

Justin Scacco is a reporter for the Sierra Sun. Contact him at jscacco@sierrasun.com or 530-550-2643.

Excellence in education supports students in distance learning: Funds raised will go toward the purchase of new Chromebook computers

The Excellence in Education Foundation is thrilled to announce that through the generous financial support of local businesses, organizations, individual donors, and their own Board of Directors, they have successfully raised the $80,000 needed to support the purchase of 300 new Chromebook computers for Tahoe Truckee Unified School District.

The additional technology they are able to provide students, through their Step Up for Education Campaign, ensures that every student is supported through distance learning.

It is through strong community support that they are able to continue their mission of strengthening the learning experience for all students at TTUSD. They are grateful to everyone who donated! A special thanks is being extended to the following businesses and organizations for their incredible generosity:

Tahoe Mountain Resorts Foundation

Raley’s O-N-E

Truckee Tahoe Airport

Truckee Sunrise Rotary

Truckee Noon Rotary

Tahoe City Rotary

Tahoe Getaways

Tahoe Truckee Community Foundation

Soroptimist International of Truckee Donner

Lopez Excavating

Ryan Group Architects

Pacific Crest Wealth Planning

Tahoe Sierra Board of Realtors Foundation

The Excellence in Education Board of Directors

Excellence in Education 

Tahoe Truckee Excellence in Education Foundation is a non-profit foundation that enhances public education within the Tahoe Truckee Unified School District to strengthen the learning experience for students. Each year, Excellence in Education partners with local businesses and the community to raise money and provide over $250,000 in classroom grants, resources, and partnerships to benefit students and teachers in a school district that encompasses 12 schools in a geographic area of 720 square miles. 

You can support The Excellence in Education Foundation by becoming a Friend of Education and donating online at ExinEd.org or calling 530-550-7984.

Tahoe Truckee Unified to return to distance learning

The Tahoe Truckee Unified School District notified families Sunday night that its schools would shift back from hybrid instruction to full distance learning, effective Monday, Nov. 23.

The district, which had opened the doors of its campuses to students Oct. 29, announced the decision citing “a huge spike” in confirmed cases of COVID-19 in their students and staff.

Coordinator of District Communications Kelli Twomey confirmed that as of Monday evening, the district had 27 active cases of COVID-19 — 19 in students and eight in staff members, resulting in over 185 people quarantined due to exposure.

In a message to parents, the district informed that this presented issues in keeping campuses open not only with respect to safety, but staffing, as they experience “shortages of staffing due to quarantining a class” as well as in other areas such as food and transportation.

The return to distance learning, the message said, will remain in place at least until January, at which point the district will reevaluate whether it is safe to reopen their facilities.

Victoria Penate is a staff writer for The Union. She can be reached at vpenate@theunion.com.

Excellence In Education will match donations to support local students

The Excellence in Education Foundation’s Board of Directors has committed to matching donations up to $10,000 as part of their Step Up for Education Campaign. The goal of Step Up for Education is to raise money to meet the immediate needs of local students, including the purchase of more Chromebook computers.

As Tahoe Truckee Unified School District responds to the demands of distance and hybrid learning structures, the need for technological resources is greater than ever. Consistent with the Excellence in Education mission to enhance public education by strengthening the learning experience for students within the District, these fundraising tactics will help address immediate educational needs and keep students connected.

Excellence in Education is asking the community to join efforts and help provide additional educational resources for local students. Funds donated will positively impact students who are learning at school and at home.

Donate by Oct. 31 to have your contribution doubled with the Foundation’s financial match. Learn more at exined.org.

Excellence in Education 

Tahoe Truckee Excellence in Education Foundation is a nonprofit foundation that enhances public education within the Tahoe Truckee Unified School District to strengthen the learning experience for students. Each year, Excellence in Education partners with local businesses and the community to raise money and provide over $250,000 in classroom grants, resources, and partnerships to benefit students and teachers in a school district that encompasses 12 schools in a geographic area of 720 square miles. 

You can support The Excellence in Education Foundation by becoming a Friend of Education and donating online at ExinEd.org or calling 530-550-7984.

Source: Tahoe Truckee Excellence in Education Foundation

Truckee students get critical connection for distance learning

So many people in our community are working together to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic and help those hit hardest by the crisis. Significant challenges facing our local schools, students and families continue as Tahoe Truckee Unified School District (TTUSD) navigates the complexities of distance learning and now a partial re-opening. TTUSD’s leadership and staff have been working to effectively serve the needs of every student despite the challenges posed by distance learning.

One critical issue in our community has been a lack of internet service or poor connectivity issues for some of our families. TTUSD had identified several communities within Truckee, with significant student populations, where access to the internet was a barrier for the student to access the high-quality education they deserve. Truckee Donner Public Utility District (TDPUD) became aware of this critical community need and reached out to the school district to collaborate on a solution.

“TTUSD is committed to serving the needs of all of our students; especially as we deliver quality distance learning in response to COVID-19,” said Carmen Ghysels, TTUSD superintendent and chief learning officer. “We are so appreciative of TDPUD’s quick response and collaboration in addressing a critical gap in everyone having the same access to learning.”

TDPUD, as Truckee’s local public utility, has existing communication technology – including operating a fiber optic network and expertise in deploying networks to over 30,000 IOT devices – along with the means to provide wireless internet access. TDPUD determined that it was possible to repurpose existing equipment to set up temporary free WiFi hotspots for student access at critical locations in Truckee.

“Truckee Donner PUD is dedicated to maintaining critical utility services during the COVID-19 pandemic but we understand that the community needs more help,” said Remleh Scherzinger, TDPUD general manager and chief executive officer. “Our staff took the initiative to build upon our existing infrastructure and strong partnership with the schools to quickly deliver quality WiFi to families identified by TTUSD.”

The first location for the temporary free WiFi hotspots will serve houses consisting of approximately 25 families with students attending TTUSD. The free WiFi hotspot installations are using TDPUD equipment mounted on TDPUD’s electric poles. Each student is given a password unique to their school-issued Chromebook. In addition to this first location, TDPUD has equipment on-hand to serve up to 100 families in need and is exploring creative ways to serve every student without access to the internet.

Source: Tahoe Truckee Unified School District and Truckee Donner Public Utility District

Creekside Charter first to reopen to students for in-person class

While schools and academies from around the Truckee-Tahoe area have started the year off with distance learning, Creekside Charter has been able to work with county and health officials to reopen its doors to students this week.

Students attending the transitional kindergarten through eighth grade school in Olympic Valley were welcomed back to their classrooms on Tuesday with extensive safety and health protocol measures in place.

Schools within Placer County were able to reopen Sept. 1 if safety measures and opening day plans were in place. With 212 students enrolled at Creekside Charter and other factors like outside learning, no offered standard school bus, and outdoor lunches brought from home, the school, which is not part of the Tahoe Truckee Unified School District, was able to quickly transition to a model were officials felt comfortable allowing students to reenter its classrooms.

“We are following all of the guidelines that are put out by California Department of Public Health as well as Placer County,” said Executive Director Jeff Kraunz. “We’re really proud of what we’re doing here. We’re really proud that we’re opening and are doing it as safely as possible.”

As part of safety precautions, the school started the year this week under a cohort model where half the students are attending every other day.

“We did that to work out many of the logistics that are associated with so many of the different rules,” said Kraunz.

The non-classroom based charter school normally offers four full days of classroom study a week, allowing students flexibility in their pursuit of other passions. Kraunz said the school hopes to be able to open without the cohort model on Sept. 21.

The school also purchased Plexiglas partitions, new filtration systems, sinks, and had tents erected outside as a way to move students from classrooms to outside.

“We’re really emphasizing outdoor learning right now,” added Kraunz. “I’m really proud of the community that has rallied together to put these tents up for kids.”

All students and faculty at the school are required to wear face coverings while indoors. Students in second grade and below aren’t required to wear face masks while outside, but their older peers are.

As far as testing and screening, students are required to fill out daily health screening forms and if they are flagged with a symptom they can only return to the school if they have a negative COVID-19 test result and are symptom free for 72 hours. Kraunz said the school has partnered with Tahoe Forest Health System for testing, adding that students and faculty members should get back test results within the 72-hour window. A positive COVID-19 result by a student will also result in their entire grade being quarantined for 14 days.

The school, which is provided land by Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows at an annual rate of $1, is also providing other options for families and students that don’t wish to return to in-school learning. Kraunz said some students have transitioned to home school, some are doing independent study full time, but the bulk of students have returned to campus.

While stressing the importance of safety, Kraunz said the decision to reopen the school came down to concerns about mental well being of students and need for classroom-based interactions.

“We know that students need to be back at school and so when we were giving the clearance by the county, we went and did that as fast as possible but in a safe way,” said Kraunz.

“We’re opening in a safe way and if we have to close, we’ll close. In the meantime, we’re excited to see kids back on campus.”

Justin Scacco is a reporter for the Sierra Sun. Contact him at jscacco@sierrasun.com or 530-550-2643.

Tahoe Truckee Unified to open school year with distance learning

In a letter to Tahoe Truckee Unified School District families Thursday, newly named Superintendent Chief Learning Officer Carmen Ghysels announced the district will open on Sept. 2 through distance learning due to COVID-19:

“Ever since the temporary closure of our school facilities in March, we have explored a wide range of options to return to on-site instruction,” Ghysels wrote. “The safety and health of our students, staff, and families have guided all of our work. 

“Unfortunately, the number of cases of COVID-19 within our school district boundaries far exceeds the threshold deemed safe by the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) ) to reopen schools for the start of the new school year. Based on this data, and the directives of our local county health officers, last night our board made the very tough decision to open our schools in distance learning on September 2, 2020. 

“We are heartbroken to have to announce this. We want to be on campus, engaging with our students with in-person instruction. None of us chose this pandemic and its repercussions, and we certainly never imagined COVID-19 would still be with us now. Our goal is to return to in-person instruction as soon as it is safe to do so and under the guidance and direction of CDPH and our local county health officers. (Note: while CDPH did issue guidance late on Monday regarding applying for waivers for in-person instruction for elementary schools under specific conditions, based on the number of COVID cases in our school district boundaries, and a lack of access to timely testing and results, TTUSD does not meet the criteria to be approved for a waiver.) 

“Our intent is to transition into a hybrid model with students on campus a minimum of two days per week and the balance in a virtual setting with a year-long distance learning option for families who don’t feel comfortable having their child return to campus. 

“Back in March, we all quickly pivoted and adjusted to remote instruction and learning. While we did much better than many other school districts in California, we recognize there are many opportunities for improvements. We’ve learned a great deal since last spring, and we’ve been planning for months for a variety of contingencies to best serve the needs of our students in these challenging and unique times. 

“What Distance Teaching and Learning will look like this fall:

  • We will provide rigorous instruction that matches the quality of in-person instruction.
  • We will have daily live instruction at all grade levels with a schedule that matches our students’ in-person/traditional schedule. 
  • We will incorporate social-emotional learning into our school days at every grade level.
  • Teachers will connect with their students each school day through online instruction and check-ins. 
  • Teachers will hold “office hours” and be available to students and parents on an as-needed basis to maximize learning through responsive instruction, re-teaching, and establishing and maintaining positive connections. 
  • We will provide meaningful assessment and feedback for each student.
  • Grading and accountability will return to normal expectations, and daily student attendance will be documented in Aeries. 
  • The content for every grade level will be aligned to grade-level standards. 
  • Additional support will be provided to address the needs of scholars who are performing below grade level,  and those who need support in other areas.
  • The district will continue to provide professional development and training for our staff so they can provide our students with the best education possible in these new learning environments. (Note: school will start one day later than planned – on September 2 – to allow for an additional day of staff training for distance  learning   

“We are putting together a comprehensive “TTUSD school reopening and safety guidebook for families” that is chock full of important information on what to expect for the 2020-2021 school year for both distance learning and our hybrid model. This document will evolve throughout the school year as the needs of our students and families evolve. It will include information about our teaching and learning models, social-emotional wellness, home to school transportation services, support for students with disabilities,  support for English Learners, and much more. 

“For this school year, we are also offering a full-time, TK-12 distance learning program called Cold Stream Alternative (CSA) Distance Learning Program. This is different from our Cold Stream Alternative Independent Study option and is for families who do not want their students to attend school in-person this school year for health reasons or other concerns under COVID-19. 

“So we can meet the staffing needs for all of our families, we ask parents who want their child to be in our CSA Distance Learning program all year long to reserve your child’s spot by completing this short form by August 12, 2020. (Please note, if you chose the CSA Distance Learning Program, it would be a commitment through the end of the semester in January 2021. Click here for FAQs on the CSA Distance Learning Program.)

“We will continue to communicate with you regularly, and we’ll have another update for you next week with more information on the data confirmation process and support, school bus passes (currently on hold) and food service offerings.

“Thank you for your patience, support, and partnership in educating our children as we navigate the ongoing and unpredictable challenges this pandemic presents. We appreciate you.”

Tahoe Truckee schools receive update on reopening guidelines

Gov. Gavin Newsom on Friday announced outlines for school reopenings, laying out guidelines and requirements for districts to return to in-person school days.

In order to have school doors open and resume live learning a county must first be off the state’s COVID-19 watch list for 14 consecutive days. As of Friday, Placer County is currently one of 33 counties currently on the list.

“Learning remains non-negotiable,” said Newsom. “But neither is the safety of all of our cohorts of support staff as well as our children.”

As part of guidelines announced, districts will be allowed to have students in classrooms based on local health data, masks will be required for staff and students in third grade and above, physical distancing measures will be in place, and symptom checks will take place regularly. Masks are also recommended for students in second grade and lower.

Newsom also announced new rules regarding school closures. A classroom cohort will be sent home when there is a confirmed COVID-19 case.  A school will close when multiple cohorts have cases or more then 5% of all teachers and students test positive. An entire district will close if 25% of their schools have to close within a 14-day period.

Placer County was placed on the California County Monitoring List on July 9. Tahoe Truckee Unified School District is based in Placer County and will follow county guidelines, according to Coordinator of District Communication Kelli Twomey, meaning the district’s schools in Nevada County and El Dorado County would begin the year with distance learning if Placer County remains on the state’s watch list ahead of the planned Sept. 1 start of the school year. The district said they will let all families know plans for the start of the school year by Aug. 5 or before.

“We recognize the significant impact school closures have on our entire community, students, families, and staff,” said the district in a message sent out to families on Friday. “We will continue to work diligently and collaboratively towards a safe reopening of our schools when health conditions allow. As Governor Newsom reiterated today, safety (for our students, staff, and families) is non-negotiable. 

“We will continue to keep you updated as we know more and once a decision is made. Thank you for your patience and understanding.”