Prior to addressing the business of the Coronado Unified School District (CUSD) at the Jan. 21 CUSD Governing Board meeting, the participants took a pause of silence to acknowledge the recent passing of three district employees. Silver Strand Elementary teacher Susan Larson, and custodians Donald ‘Donnie’ Walton and Jorge ‘George’ Supnet. Superintendent Karl Mueller shared, “They have touched the lives of so many of our students. We have amazing people working with our students, people who love them.”
The most pressing issue in public education right now is the return of students to in person learning, and the majority of the meeting discussion focused on the plan to reopen schools. District administrators shared details of the plan, which they hope will have students back on campus at all four school sites to start the second semester on Monday, Feb. 1.
Director of Curriculum Dr. Megan Battle presented information that included daily schedules, safety elements, and the use of live streaming technology. Per state requirements, the CUSD reopening plan, demonstrating compliance with all state and county regulations, has been submitted to the County Public Health Office for review and approval.
At the elementary level, students will resume the a.m./p.m. cohort schedule that was in place in the fall.
At the secondary level, the middle and high schools will open with a hybrid schedule that includes students on campus for in person learning two days per week, for three classes per day, (8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.). Half of Coronado Middles School and Coronado High School (CHS) students will attend Tuesday/Wednesday and the other half Thursday/Friday. Campuses will be closed on Mondays.
High school students will gradually phase into the new schedule, beginning with one day per week.
At all levels, students will still have the option to remain in full distance learning through the district’s BRIDGE program.
Battle also introduced a new term in education phraseology: Concurrent Curriculum Delivery (CCD), formerly known as live streaming. The district has convened a seven member CCD task force which will work with the district’s technology team to provide teacher training and information on best practices. Battle assured the Board that staff will be given “the opportunity to engage in group training and individualized support in the area of CCD.” She also said that CCD would be utilized for students who have opted for on campus learning but are required by the district to temporarily quarantine. CCD will also be used during the phased transition to the hybrid schedule at CHS.
Other than a few medical exemptions for special needs, everyone on campus will be required to wear a mask and social distance according to state guidelines.
Student Board Member Kelli Morris commented that she has been hearing from students hoping to be back on campus with friends and teachers before the school year is over. “Hopefully we can make it happen. That would be really exciting for everyone!” she said.
Board President Lee Pontes summed up the discussion saying, “Mr. Mueller and his staff have done the utmost, bent over backwards, doing everything within our power to get us open on the first of February. Whether the county lets us do that or not is to be seen, but it won’t be for lack of effort.”
In other business, the Board reviewed its Board Policy [BP 6161] addressing supplemental instruction and materials. The policy encourages the use of supplementary materials to enrich and enhance student learning provided the materials directly relate to the course of study and align with district goals, curriculum objectives, and academic standards.
Mueller introduced the subject as being agendized for review as a result of recent community discussion about classroom content. “I attribute much of that [concern] to parents’ access to what is happening daily in the classroom; and I think that’s a very healthy thing.”
Mueller recommended not making any changes to BP6161, and added that he believes that fostering critical thinking in students requires more than just the basic curriculum, and that “the essence of teaching is embedding current events, poetry, song lyrics, real life experiences into instruction.”
Student board member Morris participated in the discussion, sharing examples of effective supplemental materials that inspired discussion and deeper learning. She commented that, “watching ‘Schindler’s List’ in studying the holocaust was probably the most impactful experience I have ever had in a classroom.” She added, “Learning the information from a textbook was not nearly the same experience as watching the horror unfold on the screen.”
Trustee Stacy Keszei commented that she supported the use of creative supplemental material but cautioned against personal opinions and emotional based reasoning being used in the classroom. She added that the appropriate guidance for teachers was already covered in CUSD policy and said that adherence to the current policy would benefit both the community and teachers.
Trustee Vales-Clayton also supported the policy as written but asked for clarification from Superintendent Mueller on what the procedure was for when there was a policy violation, and also what parents should do when they have concerns.
Mueller responded, “We have had experiences where we have had to redirect our teaching staff around their discretion of introducing supplementary materials.” He added that when lines are blurred or questions about appropriateness occurs it can result in a reprimand or other disciplinary measures, but the primary goal is to understand the context and relevance of materials and redirect as needed.
As for parent recourse, Mueller said that, “Parents are encouraged to go directly to the teacher to make sure there is a mutual understanding of the context of the material being used.” He added that if that was not satisfactory then a parent should contact the site administrator.
Trustee Valdes-Clayton reiterated that parents need “agency and voice” in being able to present any objection to supplementary materials.”
Trustees Anderson-Cruz and Antrim both added their concurrence with finding a balance between trusting the professional judgement of teachers and giving parents and students a voice.
The discussion concluded with unanimous consensus to make no changes to BP6161; but to annually review the policy with teachers, and to communicate relevant information to parents via the district newsletter.
The next CUSD Governing Board meeting is scheduled for Thursday, Feb. 18, at 4 p.m.