The Coronado Unified School District’s Governing Board held a special meeting July 9 to receive report 4.1: CUSD Fall Reopening. The report outlined reopening safety guidelines and presented an overview of on-campus and virtual learning options.
The meeting opened with the presentation of public comments that had been submitted beforehand. These comments focussed largely upon concerns for the safety and health of students, teachers and parents if on-campus learning were to resume (or not resume) in the fall.
One comment, signed by 13 teachers of CUSD read, in part: “What we value the most is the safety of each and every staff member, student and family who is part of CUSD. We ask that the plan for the 2020-21 school year be one that strictly adheres to the lower student numbers, proper PPE, and minimum of 6’ of physical distancing for staff and students as put forth by the State and County.” This letter concluded: “If guidelines will not be followed and strictly enforced, we ask that full distance learning be implemented for the foreseeable future for the health and safety of all.”
One parent submission commented: “Priority #1 is the health of students and teachers - having students in school full-time is the safest option for everyone … Distance learning was difficult - placing undue stress on students, teachers and parents, requiring extra hours, and failed to hold the interest of younger students who thrive in the classroom … I ask that we reopen the schools on a full-time basis, with proper protocols (hand washing, limit parents on campus, cleaning, teacher health checks) to put the safety of our children and teachers at the forefront while balancing social and emotional needs of our children.”
CUSD Superintendent Karl Mueller addressed the board after public comments were entered into the record. “I think that our public comment speaks to the discussion at hand and the complexities, the evolving and ever-changing nature of the situation that public schools, not just in California, but across the United States, are faced with right now. … The news continues to change and evolve, and we are positioning ourselves to be as responsive to these shifts as possible,” said Mueller. “If there is one take away, for the Governing Board, our efforts have been intentional and will be relevant in whichever setting we find ourselves in on Aug. 27.”
Mueller shared with the Governing Board an infographic providing guidance on reopening that highlighted four main areas of focus. These areas are: temperature and symptom screenings; physical distancing; face coverings; and increased sanitation.
Mueller explained that many of the plans and guidance coming down to the local schools are filled with vague language. “Physical distancing, on bullet No. 1, is recommended that six feet of distance is allowed between individuals where feasible. They are presenting us with guidelines in some cases that are very proscriptive and they’re mandates. In other areas they create conditions with some flexibility, provided we include some other safety measures to mitigate our inability to reach some [of the guidelines].”
Mueller continued with comments on requirements brought about through AB-77 (trailer bill to 2020-21 CA Budget). This fall, schools are being told to “offer in-person instruction to the greatest extent possible.” These strictures highlight the considerations that CUSD must make when making plans for on-campus or distance learning for the fall.
From AB 77:
43501: For the 2020–21 school year, the minimum school day for a local educational agency is as follows:(c) 240 instructional minutes in grades 4 to 12, inclusive.
43502 (e): For the 2020–21 school year, instructional minutes shall be determined as follows:
For in-person instruction, instructional minutes shall be based on time scheduled under the immediate physical supervision and control of an employee of the local educational agency who possesses a valid certification document, registered as required by law.
For distance learning, instructional time shall be based on the time value of assignments as determined, and certified to, by an employee of the local educational agency who possesses a valid certification document, registered as required by law.
For a combined day of instruction delivered through both in-person instruction and distance learning, time scheduled under the immediate supervision of an employee of the local educational agency who possesses a valid certification document can be combined with assignments made under the general supervision of an employee of the local educational agency who possesses a valid certification document as registered by law to meet the equivalent of a minimum day of instruction.
43503 (a) (1): For the 2020–21 school year, a local educational agency that offers distance learning shall comply with the requirements of subdivision (b).
(b) Distance learning shall include all of the following:
Confirmation or provision of access for all pupils to connectivity and devices adequate to participate in the educational program and complete assigned work.
Content aligned to grade level standards that is provided at a level of quality and intellectual challenge substantially equivalent to in-person instruction.
Academic and other supports designed to address the needs of pupils who are not performing at grade level, or need support in other areas.
Daily live interaction with certificated employees and peers for purposes of instruction, progress monitoring, and maintaining school connectedness.
In his address to the board, Mueller also brought attention to the results of both a parent and staff survey. The survey responses indicated that 89% of parents are hoping for a return to on-campus learning, 10% were aiming for off-campus learning, while 1% had other plans. In the staff survey, 65% of staff responding preferred on-campus learning, with these numbers closely reflecting the comfort levels of the staff respondents.
In reference to the survey results, Mueller noted the following: “In acknowledgement of how rapidly information is changing in this environment, in both our parent and our staff survey, I would argue that those survey results would be different if we surveyed our community today, and most likely be different if we did so again in the next two weeks,” said Mueller.
CUSD Director of Learning, Dr. Megan Battle, then addressed the work of the Fall Task Force Committee. Utilizing the SDCOE Reopening checklist, their work has been focussed around two primary options: an on-campus learning option and an online virtual learning option, with contingency plans in between these two options.
“We wanted to flesh out details with the Fall Task Force. If all kids are returning, what would that look like? If we’re having to use this checklist to put health and safety precautions in order, temperature checks, sharing of materials, how we sanitize between classes, how we might cohort groups, how to navigate campus, how to stagger schedules, so we felt that with the on campus learning option we could flesh out a lot of those details and logistics and that would help us then plan for a possible contingency of a hybrid option and then all the way to the other end of the spectrum which is the 100% distance learning or virtual learning option,” said Battle.
The guiding principles for any learning option consist of eight points that the option must include: rigorous, standards-aligned, engaging teaching and learning; equity and access; social emotional learning; connection, belonging and opportunities for collaboration; health and safety protocols and procedures; meaningful assessment and feedback; supports for students with disabilities; communication and shareholders as partners.
“Online virtual learning in the fall, will not be what it was in the spring of this year,” said Battle. “It will be more robust, daily teacher interactions with students is a requirement via the trailer bill (AB77), attendance will be required, and student engagement will be monitored on a daily basis.”
At the end of the presentation, the school board members offered their own questions and comments.
“I don’t want this meeting sold as the plan for reopening. I see no plan for reopening here,” said Lee Pontes. “I see concepts of operations of how we intend to operate the schools come the fall, but if I’m a parent, and I’m watching this, I don’t really see any plan for reopening. The sooner we can get that plan together, the parents will be satisfied.”
Pontes continued, “We have to overcome the huge problem of, if 89% of students want to come but a much smaller percent of teachers want to come teach, I don’t see how we are going to honor those positions. I have complete compassion for the teachers, they are going into an environment that is different than anything we’ve asked them to teach in before, that is a threatening environment to them.”
“A kindergartner and a first grader, they’re not going to wear a mask all day. I cannot see that happening. How are we going to make that happen? I don’t know what the answer there is, but the teachers that are going to teach in that environment are going to have to take that into consideration. There’s no way to make everybody happy here. But, the sooner we can figure some of these things out, and publish them with a real plan the better things will be,” concluded Pontes.
Trustee Esther Valdes-Clayton stated, “I think my main concern as a school board trustee is the learning options, the instructional minutes. The 240 minutes per day, what is that really going to look like? Everything is staggered, everything is taking double the amount of time.”
Trustee Maria Simon commented, “I want all of us to remember, the premise of this whole meeting was to get an update, it wasn’t to have a final plan in place. I’m concerned that we don’t force the issue of making a plan too early with so many changes going on. I caution all of us against foreseeing a plan too early. Let staff do their job, let’s take the emotion out of it.”
A special town hall meeting is planned for July 23, where parents can ask questions about this reopening plan once more logistical details are flushed out. The district will also ask for parent commitment to on-campus or virtual learning soon after.