Education

Local School Districts Provide More Detailed Plans for In-Person Learning

Courtesy photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

Originally posted March 5, 2021 / Updated March 11, 2021

Some school districts in the San Gabriel Valley have announced at least some reopening dates for the youngest of their pupils.

However, there is still an enormous amount of confusion and frustration with the logistics of the return to near-normal instruction, specifically with the use of existing infrastructure, ventilation and other safety concerns directly connected to the coronavirus.

Anger, confusion and frustration have been the buzzwords parents have been employing on social media, hoping their kids are able to get back to a relatively normal school routine.

That pent up anger took an unusual turn a few weeks ago when the entire Oakley School Board was forced to resign over a hot mic issue during a public Zoom meeting. The board members were caught disparaging parents and claimed that parents just wanted babysitters so they could smoke pot. After mocking the parents, and serious vulgar language, the entire board resigned in disgrace. The news rattled the education field in that Contra Costa County community.

However, locally, the various school boards have been considerably more diplomatic and respectful of their charges.

Arcadia

In a message to parents and teachers last week, the Arcadia Unified School District determined that April 12 will be the start date for in-person classes for transitional kindergarten through fifth grade. The district also included a video explaining the decision: youtu.be/cHebmU_6xPs

“We have set April 12 as our return date for our elementary students, transitional kindergarten through fifth grade. With COVID-19 case numbers continuing to decrease, and the opportunities for our staff to be vaccinated increasing, our goal is to open our elementary schools on April 12. As has been the case during the pandemic, should any information and conditions change, we may also need to change and adapt our reopening date,” AUSD Superintendent Dr. David Vannasdall told parents Tuesday afternoon. 

Pasadena

At a special meeting on Thursday, March 4, the Board of Education voted 5-2 to set a date for the “gradual and careful return” of students to Pasadena Unified School District campuses.

Students in prekindergarten through second grade will begin returning the week of March 29 (March 30 for pre-kindergarten through kindergarten and April 1 for first through second grade); students in third through fifth grade will return April 13. Schools will operate on a hybrid simultaneous learning model, with groups (or “stable cohorts”) of students physically in the classroom with their teacher while a group of their classmates participates via distance learning. Families can choose to keep their students in distance learning or return to school for in-person learning via the Return to Campus Survey.

PUSD reopening dates:

  • Monday, March 29 – all students remain on distance learning.
  • Tuesday, March 30 – prekindergarten, transitional kindergarten, and kindergarten in-person cohorts on campus.
  • Wednesday, March 31 – no school for the Cesar Chavez holiday.
  • Thursday, April 1 – first and second grade in-person cohorts on campus (with prekindergarten, transitional kindergarten, kindergarten).
  • Friday, April 2 – prekindergarten-through second grade in-person cohorts on campus.
  • April 5-9, 2021 – spring recess.
  • Monday, April 12 – all students on distance learning.
  • Tuesday, April 13 – third through fifth grade in-person cohorts on campus (with prekindergarten through second grade).

Early Childhood Education (ECE) programs are planning to open together with the District’s PreK-2 grades with in-person full and half-day programs.

“As we take this step, I want to recognize the hard work that our teachers and staff have put in over the past year to support our students, families, and community,” Superintendent Brian McDonald said in a message to parents.

“While I fully understand there may still be concerns, I want to stress that we are putting into place strong and rigorous measures to keep everyone safe and healthy. I also understand that parents must do what they think is best for their children, and can choose either to remain in distance learning or return in person,” McDonald reassured caregivers.

Nearly half of PUSD employees have now been vaccinated with first or second doses, according to the superintendent. PUSD, working with the Pasadena Public Health Department, will continue to make vaccination appointments available for all staff.

“I am very proud of what we as the PUSD community have accomplished together. The Board of Education and I thank you for your patience, understanding, and support through this extraordinary crisis,” McDonald said.

More information is available at pusd.us/reopening.

Monrovia

In late February, Monrovia Unified held a webinar to present and solicit feedback regarding the proposed hybrid instructional model, developed by the Elementary Task Force — a group of teachers, parents, and administrators. Following the webinar, the district received many inquiries from concerned parents for whom the model was not viable. Subsequently, no firm dates have yet been set to reopen.

At issue was the requirement to transport children at midday for a two-hour period of time on campus. Working parents found midday transportation an insurmountable impediment and those who were able to transport did not believe the time on campus was sufficient. The Monrovia Unified Board of Education, in response to this feedback, held a special Board Meeting on March 2 to discuss the model and address the community’s questions.

During the meeting, the Board asked the task force to incorporate the, at times competing, community interests into the model.

  • Maintaining current teacher/student relationships. 
  • Equity in instruction, especially when considering the needs of homeless and foster children, English learners, special education students, and other vulnerable groups.
  • Adequate planning time for teachers.
  • Additional in-person time with the classroom teacher daily.
  • Supervision of students from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.
  • Alignment with the district’s secondary schedule.
  • Dedicated time for those remaining in distance learning.

The Board received hundreds of questions and comments regarding the reopening of elementary schools and will complete individual responses to each while continuing to add to the Frequently Asked Questions tab on the district’s COVID-19 information page.

Updates from the elementary and secondary task forces and a recommended timeline for reopening was scheduled to be presented at a regular meeting Wednesday night.

As for higher grades like middle and high school, no immediate plans are immediately available.

March 11, 2021

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Terry Miller


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