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AUSD to Stay Online Through January

An enthusiastic group of fourth and fifth graders offer their suggestions during a workshop in February, 2020. Photo by Helen Arase


Alhambra , CA

The Alhambra Unified School District superintendent Denise Jaramillo recommended schools stay in distance learning through January 2021 at this week’s school board meeting. District administration explained the rationale, supported by state and county health restrictions.

The administration also updated the 2020-2021 distance learning plan, coming back to the board with the Los Angeles County Office of Education’s recommended changes to be more specific in action. Previously AUSD provided a “narrative” that was more of an overview.

The state’s mandate that districts employ a specific 2020-2021 distance learning plan is actually a two-step process at the local level. The district lays out plans for its board to pass and the county must then approve it. LACOE will approve the district’s plan with the recommended changes.

These changes dig into each section of the plan, detailing fiscal allocation and whether the action targets the needs of low-income, English language learners and foster youth students.

The plan on which the board voted and passed at the end of September has not changed, assistant superintendent Janet Lees explained, but was updated under the four categories of general distance learning plan, learning loss, in-person instruction and additional actions, including mental and emotional wellbeing, outreach and nutrition.

See the first presentation of the distance learning plan. See the overview of the distance learning plan from the September meeting. See the newest additions.

The in-person instruction actions were either broad – applicable in current specialized groups and future general population instruction – or were specific to possible scenarios of hybrid, in-person teaching.

When it comes to distance learning versus in-person learning, the county is only allowing consideration of some in-person services for specialized groups of students like English language learners or special education. These services include testing, therapy and support programs.

The state has a four-tier system to track the spread of COVID-19. By its metrics, Los Angeles County is in the “widespread” tier with the most restrictions, including educational delivery options.

Those districts which apply to the county for reopening of specialized services apply for each school, not the entire district. Alhambra Unified has submitted applications for 18 schools as of Friday, Oct. 23. The county and state health departments evaluate each application and county officials inspect each site. Lees said the last time she checked the district had evaluated over 700 English learners since the start of school.

Until the county moves into a less restrictive tier the district cannot begin to consider any kind of in-person instruction of general population, which is why the superintendent asked the board to approve the extension to January, at which point there will be an evaluation of health and safety, learning progress and feasibility of a transition to in-person instruction.

Following this information, Jaramillo said she is constantly asked when the district will be returning to in-person classes.

“The real answer is I don’t know. I don’t think anybody knows. But we do believe that giving some form of answer goes a long way.” Jaramillo said. “We have to help people understand why we’re making decisions.”

“Every time there’s a switch there’s an interruption,” Board of Education member Wing Ho said, and asked if the district has a plan for if the county has another surge of COVID-19 infections and is required to go back to more restrictions.

“I don’t want to have to rely on a backup plan. I think we owe it to our students, parents and staff to get it right the first time,” Jaramillo answered.

She said it is the position of the district that it is best for the students to receive quality education by having predictability, and for parents and teachers to anticipate a schedule.

When the district is confident it can maintain in-person instruction for those who wish to return to campus it will make a move, though some in-person support is needed before that time, Jaramillo said.

Both teacher and staff labor organizations, the Alhambra Teachers Association and the California School Employee Association, gave their total support for the superintendent’s recommendation when they made their comments to the board.

The next board meeting is on Nov. 17.

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