On Thursday, July 23 and Friday, July 24, the Coronado School District held a series of town hall meetings on Zoom to discuss the safe reopening of local schools for the 2020-2021 school year. District leaders unveiled plans and sample schedules for online virtual learning to begin in August, as well as logistics on a future safe return to campus, including PPE, staggered schedules, and testing. This also included discussion of hybrid learning options, a blend of the two.
Superintendent Karl Mueller opened the first meeting for Village Elementary School thanking parents and community leaders for “embracing the uncertainty” with the district during the global pandemic. The schools, as stated by Mr. Mueller, will follow health and safety guidelines as outlined by Governor Newsom in his statewide address last week. As it stands, CUSD will be opening the year with a virtual learning program, until San Diego County is off the watch list for 14 consecutive days.
“As a state, as a nation, we’ve been asked to embark on new experiences in a time of unknown,” said Mueller. “Our commitment is to provide as close to a parallel experience as possible to our students, understanding that we can’t recreate the experience of an on-campus school, but we are committed to aligning our efforts and trying to make this time of distance learning as valuable and productive for your child as possible.”
Mueller went on to say that his personal experience with children experiencing remote learning in the spring was “challenging” and the district is working hard to get students back on campus as quickly and as safely as possible. Mueller also shared that Governor Newsom had mentioned a waiver that could potentially allow an early return for elementary students. Mueller said the district is monitoring this closely.
“The details and the process of submitting that waiver have not been published to date, but we are anticipating their release shortly,” said Mueller. “As our responsibility to keep all options open to our students, we will be submitting that waiver and we will continue to update our elementary school parents as to the status of that process when more information is made available from the County of Public Health.”
District leaders also revealed that they are looking into the option of outdoor classrooms when schools are able to safely reopen.
When it comes to virtual learning, Dr. Megan Battle, Director of Learning for CUSD, said that teachers have already developed and submitted lesson plans for virtual learning.
“Teachers are ready to hit the ground running,” said Dr. Battle. “When your child returns in August, it will look very different than it looked when we were thrown into emergency distance learning in the spring. You will have a daily learning schedule, daily contact with teachers, a rigorous curriculum. Grades and assessments will be given, and daily attendance will be taken.”
At the elementary school level, students and teachers will use the Google Classroom and Seesaw platforms. For secondary learning, they will use PowerSchool exclusively. Parents will be provided training sessions to help children navigate these platforms, and all students will have access to school-loaned devices if needed. Students can pick up devices as early as mid-August, provided they have registered for the device online. (Parents are urged to keep their eye out for an email on devices.)
Dr. Battle shared sample slides of what a schedule would look like for secondary learning. Guidelines require 180 minutes of learning a day for kindergarten, 230 minutes a day for grades 1-3, and 240 minutes a day for grades 4-12. This includes live, virtual learning in addition to work that students do independently.
When it comes to a potential safe in-person reopening, Coronado school leaders said they will have all safety protocols in place. Temperatures will be taken for staff and students, schedules will be staggered, and markers will indicate safe distancing protocols. (The schools are required to engage in physical distancing whenever feasible.)
The district has purchased PPE equipment including masks for all students, transparent tri-fold desk barriers, proper sanitation materials such as electrostatic cleaners, water refill stations–as opposed to drinking fountains–and more. Per state health mandates, all children in third grade and up will be required to wear masks. Younger learners are encouraged but not required to do so.
Dr. Battle also addressed one of the enduring, big questions: what happens if schools reopen and the virus permeates? According to Governor Newsom’s announcement, the schools would consult with their public health officers, and any classroom cohort would go home if a case was detected. The entire school would go home if there are multiple cohorts infected, or if more than 5% of the school is positive. The entire district would go home if 25% of the schools are closed to quarantine for 14 days (that would be just one school closure for Coronado.) Schools and public health officials will then make a determination to reopening schools.
The hybrid option is a blend of both virtual and in-person learning scenarios. Students would be engaged in learning each school day, but will only attend school in person on specified days of the week. The school leaders did not outline under what circumstances a hybrid learning scenario would be put into play.
Understandably, Coronado parents had many questions for district leaders. Several asked about accommodations for students with I.E.P.s and learning disabilities and asked for in-person support. Leaders shared that the current order does not allow staff to serve students in person, or in their homes, but that individual student services will be provided virtually. Students receiving services during the last school year will be automatically be re-enrolled.
Other questions centered on the feasibility of virtual learning when both parents are essential workers and are not home to oversee education. District leaders shared that an outside source—Champions Childcare–will be providing childcare, and has indicated that they will support kids in their learning programs.
Parents also asked about the virtual learning program at CUSD vs. other, proven virtual learning programs available to parents. Leaders assured that CUSD will offer a robust virtual learning program that will be available for the duration of the school year. The program will be in line with current standards and will mimic in-person learning as much as possible. Leaders shared that they have looked at college online learning programs and schools over the bridge, and have compiled “best practices” to guarantee a rewarding virtual learning experience for CUSD students, for as long as it is needed.
Stay tuned for more specifics in August as plans roll out.