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AUSD Plans Online Instruction in the Fall

Distance learning computer packages are prepared for each student. Photo by Helen Arase

Location

Alhambra , CA

The Alhambra Unified Board of Education heard partial plans for the district’s fall reopening at its meeting Tuesday night.

The meeting agenda focused on Alhambra’s 2020-2021 plans but only the learning and logistics of a virtual reopening. Health and safety meetings will be more site specific and come in August. Even though AUSD begins instruction Aug. 12, the board has until Sept. 30, the date mandated by the state, to approve the plan.

District superintendent Denise R. Jaramillo started the presentation saying the district had lengthy discussions about what information was the most important to convey to parents and the board.

“I bet you’d understand when I tell you that when we started this presentation it had over 80 slides,” she said.

Of the 16,000 families in the district, 14,000 have answered a survey asking their preference for their kids returning to a hybrid in-person/virtual instruction or entirely virtual learning experience – 55% preferred to keep their students at home, while 45% wanted them to return to school.

The survey was digitally sent to families at the end of June, asking for their input by July 7.

On July 17, the State of California mandated that all schools on the watch list, including L.A. County, will begin the year with distance learning.

“We are not going to talk about health and safety because we are not prepared to open yet,” Jaramillo said. When it’s nearer to the start of school, Aug. 12, breakout sessions for general safety and school-specific information will begin.

The district chose to address the logistics of reopening – schedules, attendance, technology and assistance – at the board meeting Tuesday.

Fall distance learning will streamline the use of online platforms and technology. Students, parents and staff will be given training on how to use the digital platforms and tools. Principals and administrators will lead online and on-site tech workshops.

The district is working to connect 500 families who self-reported the need for internet connectivity with hotspots or hard-wired home internet. They are preparing to do a second round of Chromebook distributions for elementary and high school students after purchasing more computers.

According to the material presented to the board, each school day is scheduled by grade-level and attendance is monitored. The first half of the day is divided into direct instruction, virtual face-to-face instruction and live interaction.

After the lunch break, afternoon hours are structured “office hours” to accommodate support or intervention, small breakout instruction, special needs and other individualized teaching and aid.

Sample schedules for elementary, middle and high school students can be found on pages 17 through 19 of the district’s presentation.

Even though school is beginning online, the district is anticipating in-person/hybrid instruction, looking to keep families on the same schedule and allow for flexibility of student needs.

Administrators and teachers are concerned with learning loss, the academic growth that generally declines over the summer from year to year. This year, the district is anticipating at least a 30% learning loss due to COVID-19 disruption and distance learning difficulties from March through June. Teachers are working to address learning plans to catch up and meet the coming year’s goals.

A credit recovery and independent study program are also in development to further accommodate student and family needs. It is unclear when those plans will have more information.

The presentation also covered the work of subcommittees on curriculum, social and emotional support, intervention, athletics and after school childcare.

The district is going to meet with the district’s after school care services, called ASES, and determine options for homework assistance or virtual programs.

“There is a need for a program,” Jaramillo said, “but maybe not ASES in the traditional sense.”

The board needs to adopt a comprehensive plan by Sept. 30 that addresses the impact of COVID-19 on learning, providing continuity of learning and plans for distance learning, mental health, social wellbeing and nutrition.

To offer the district input, comments or seek answers, email [email protected].

Other items on the agenda included $26,089 in financial grants from the Alhambra Day Nursery to seven AUSD teachers for various projects and the district was awarded an Action for Healthy Kids Emergency Meal Equipment Grant, providing funding for meal equipment to be used during the summer and fall.

The district school board also approved purchasing of emergency personal protective equipment (PPE) without advertising or inviting bids, as is usual protocol.

Craig Proffitt spoke on behalf of California School Employee Association (CSEA) – which covers classified workers, or school support staff – urging more communication from the district to calm fears of layoffs and health risks. Proffitt hoped the board would work with Jaramillo to “be creative when it comes to jobs” so if there are layoffs it will be minimal, if not at all.

This story was updated to reflect a name correction.

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