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When San Diego Unified officials announced Monday that the district would only offer online learning in the fall, families across the region expressed overwhelming concern about how it all might work and what it would mean for them. Meanwhile, some North County schools are expected to physically reopen as soon as next month.
Many school boards across the region have yet to make a final decision on what education will look like in the coming weeks and months. The current public health order still allows schools to physically reopen with the California Department of Public Health guidelines in place.
Some, in the meantime, have outlined plans for a potential learning model that is completely online — commonly known as “distance learning” — while others are considering plans to reopen facilities either fully or partially in the fall. For those families who don’t feel comfortable sending their child back into a school, some districts are offering the option to transfer into a fully distance-learning program.
Each district and charter school will make its own plans based on its particular situation and what it feels is best, said Music Watson, chief of staff at the County Office of Education. The governing boards of school districts, county boards of education and charter schools must adopt a learning continuity and attendance plan to the state by Sept. 30, according to a budget trailer bill.
I’ve started gathering up those plans to see whether other school districts will follow San Diego Unified’s lead or offer some combination of distance- and in-person learning.
At Vista Unified, for instance, officials were already considering going fully online before San Diego Unified and Los Angeles Unified made similar announcements, said Superintendent Matt Doyle.
In the district’s reopening plans, school officials outlined different options for a completely virtual or in-person learning plan. Vista Unified’s school board will make a final determination at its July 23 meeting, Doyle said.
The district’s proposal also promises to distribute electronic devices to families in need, implement online learning platform Canvas at all grade levels and provide training and resources to teachers, students and parents.
If the Vista Unified’s board chooses to open school in a more traditional classroom setting, officials are promising to do all the things they’ve done before plus health and safety precautions. The early draft of its reopening plan notes that community and staff members are concerned about what happens if an employee contracts COVID-19 and goes on leave or how students might continue to share items like books, gym equipment and classroom supplies.
The Oceanside Unified School District Board of Education is asking itself similar questions and considering different models of learning ahead of a July 21 meeting.
The current staff recommendations at Oceanside Unified are for elementary schools to run with a hybrid-learning model that includes safety precautions, including smaller class sizes and furniture adjustments. On the other hand, the district’s board is also being asked to consider what a fully online model of learning will look like. Both options include technical support for student devices and online grading at elementary school and pre-schools as well as in-person sessions in small groups. Officials are also vowing to clean and monitor any items that groups need to share with one another.
In middle and high schools in Oceanside, officials are recommending a hybrid-learning model with students divided into two groups that appear on campus on alternate days. Those students are also being offered technical support for devices and online grading. Families who are interested in a fully remote learning option or hybrid model have the option to enroll in the district’s Surfside Educational Academy by July 26, said Matthew Jennings, a spokesman for the district.
In an email, Jennings added that while the district does not know what restrictions will be in place in August — because the board hasn’t decided yet — the various options on the table are based on current guidance from the California Department of Public Health, California Department of Education and San Diego County Health and Human Services, as well as input from staff and families through a districtwide survey and meetings.
“Our priority remains to ensure that our students and staff members can confidently return to a safe and healthy environment that is conducive to learning and work,” Jennings wrote.
Carlsbad Unified School District’s school reopening plan also outlines scenarios for in-person learning, online learning or some combination of the two, but it all depends on local health conditions, said Rick Grove, an assistant superintendent of personnel services for the district. Any of the three scenarios could play out during different parts of the school year.
For now, if the district moves to in-person learning, instruction in Carlsbad will take place on campus five days per week and students may engage in additional independent practices and other assignments at home. In a modified in-person scenario, instruction will take place on campus part of the week and at home part of the week and students will engage in online instruction, interaction with teachers and independent learning activities while at home. If the district moves to full distance learning, instruction will take place at home five days per week and students will engage in online instruction, daily live interactions with their teachers and independent learning activities at home.
Families with students enrolled in kindergarten to 12th grade will also have the option of transferring into an independent study model with a combination of online instruction, learning activities and independent work by July 24.
If instruction moves to full in-person learning during the school year, there will be daily symptom screening of all students and staff, protocols when a student or staff member contracts coronavirus, restricted campus access to visitors, hand-washing routines, face coverings for students and staff, limited sharing of equipment and other educational materials, additional personal protective for staff as appropriate, physical distancing and other safety and transmission mitigation factors.
Poway Unified plans to offer two learning models for the new school year: daily in-person classroom learning or daily virtual learning from home.
Superintendent Marian Kim Phelps wrote in a letter to the school community on July 13 that any plans are subject to change due to public health orders and over the next two weeks, school principals will be meeting to further refine and organize details of site-specific plans. Families will then choose whether they want a distance learning-only option.
For high school students choosing on-campus learning, officials are looking into expanding and leveraging some of their online courses such as civics, health, economics, chemistry, some math courses , U.S. and world history – allowing for a high school student to potentially take some of their class periods on campus and some online, according to the letter.
“We cannot predict what will happen; we can only prepare for as many scenarios in our planning as possible. Every set of changes comes with an additional ripple effect of considerations that need to be applied across our system and negotiated with our employee union groups. That is why I continue to ask for your patience as we encounter conflicting information from our medical and scientific communities as well as ever-evolving guidelines and health orders,” Kim Phelps wrote.
At Escondido Union High School District, the Board of Education approved two learning models for the fall semester: a two-day blended model with two days of on-campus instruction and three days of distance learning instruction per week and a fully online independent study model. Families will have until July 22 to decide if they want the distance-learning model for their child in the fall.
But instruction will be completely online for all students from Aug. 25 to Sept. 25, said Olga West, a spokeswoman for the district.
Escondido Union School District officials are still considering three options: a full-distance learning model, a hybrid-learning model with two full days on campus and three days of distance learning and a modified opening with four half-days on campus and one full day of distance learning, according to a letter to families on July 10 on the district’s website.
In a letter to the campus community on July 13, Del Mar Union School District Superintendent Holly McClurg wrote that the district is committed to developing plans to resume in-person instruction at all school campuses at the start of the school year on Aug. 24, and is planning for a separate distance learning program.
“We are doing everything we can so that all students have the opportunity to safely resume in-person learning, and so that we will have the safe return of students, teachers, and staff to our schools. In addition, preparations for Launch (distance learning program) are in full swing and the program will be ready to begin at the start of the school year,” McClurg wrote. The district is planning to hold a live webinar next week with specific information regarding in-person and distance learning, she wrote.
The Solana Beach School District is also planning to reopen schools for five days a week on-site and a more structured learning distance learning model online, according to the Del Mar Times.
Cardiff School District Superintendent Jill Vinson announced in a letter to the community on July 14 the district is prepared to begin the new school year with a return to classroom instruction, but could pivot to a staggered start hybrid learning or distance-learning model if necessary but that depends on state and county health guidance. The district will also create a virtual academy for families who do not prefer on-campus instruction. The deadline for parents to choose that option is Aug. 3.
“Our intent is to finalize start up plans by the end of July in order to allow time for staff and families to prepare,” Vinson wrote.
It’s still unclear what schools will look like in parts of coastal North County come August because the Encinitas Union School District and San Dieguito Union High School District have not offered very detailed plans. Encinitas Union Superintendent Andree Grey wrote in an email to Voice of San Diego the district anticipates being able to provide final plans by the end of July and will communicate with families and staff at that time. The district’s team has continued to plan extensively for a variety of scenarios and learning models, she said.
“We recognize we must be flexible in our planning, as health conditions and health orders continue to change. Our priority continues to be ensuring the safety of students and staff,” she wrote. Grey also noted that parents have inquired about adding their kids to a district learning-only model and she plans to share the process for anyone interested when the district communicates the final reopening plan at the end of the month.
San Dieguito Union High School District Superintendent Robert Haley wrote to the school community on July 14 that district officials are developing learning models for the next year that will align with all of the possible pandemic scenarios. He said the district will continue to survey parents and students to ensure they are hearing from all voices in order to address concerns and adjust their plans.
“All planning is grounded in what is actually viable for our schools and classrooms, enrollment projections, facility resources, staffing availability, budget and foremost the welfare and safety of our students and staff,” Haley wrote in the letter. Haley also said the district is planning on offering a full-time distance learning program for those students who are unable to attend on-campus instruction.
Many questions are still unanswered in San Marcos, too. The San Marcos Unified School District sent out a new questionnaire to parents Tuesday asking to choose whether they prefer a modified traditional model with safety mitigation strategies, a hybrid learning model or a completely virtual school.
The district is continuing to develop and refine its reopening plans and are carefully monitoring state and local health and safety guidelines along with recommendations from the California Department of Education as it finalizes its reopening model, said Tiffany Campbell, a director of secondary education at the district, in an email to VOSD.
We’ll be keeping track of those school reopening plans and others in the coming days and weeks.