July 10, 2020
Dear SPUSD Community,
During the last several weeks South Pasadena Unified School District administrators, School Board, and staff teams have been evaluating a continuous cycle of data, new laws, state and local advocacy efforts, debates, disagreements, case law reviews, negotiations, and so much more. SPUSD is in the midst of determining what the next school year will look like for our students.
I realize the following letter is lengthy but also believe it is important to summarize information that was shared during the Special School Board meeting on July 9, 2020. Please note that this letter is not a reopening plan. The letter includes information that will help define our reopening plan.
BACKGROUND & CURRENT SITUATION
Feedback and data from numerous SPUSD stakeholder surveys, focus groups, meetings, collaboration with other school districts, phone calls, and emails have presented various considerations that informed our day-to-day work on multiple matters and will help guide the School Board’s decision about the 2020-2021 academic year, likely in the next few weeks.
Recently approved California bills AB 77 and SB 98 detailed expectations of public school districts like ours. SPUSD is required to follow revised Education codes that were born from these approved bills. Specifically worth noting are the following:
- SB 98 (Education Code §43502) contains a statement that LEAs shall offer in-person instruction and may offer distance learning, pursuant to Education Code 43503 (below).
- SB 98 (Education Code §43503) expressly states that distance learning is allowed in either of the following circumstances:
- On a local educational agency or school-wide level as a result of an order or guidance from a state public health officer or local public health officer.
- For students who are: (1) medically fragile; or (2) would be put at risk; or (3) self-quarantining.
- SB 98 (Education Code §43503(b)) places a strong emphasis on teacher-student engagement in distance learning and further states that distance learning must include daily, live interaction with certificated employees and peers for the purpose of instruction, progress monitoring, and maintaining school connectedness.
- SB 98 (Education Code §43504) contains a statement that LEAs “shall offer in-person instruction to the greatest extent possible.”
In addition to these Education Codes, safety guidelines from the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health are expected soon but have been delayed for weeks. These guidelines provide the standard level of care which all school districts must follow. Student and staff safety remains our highest priority and will continue to dictate our plan for the fall.
Current trends show that we will be living with Coronavirus for a long period of time. Our planning must continuously evolve with changing situations. We are at the point in time when our Board of Education must approve an instructional plan so that we may move forward for this fall. The effects and impacts of the approved plans are subject to negotiations with the respective bargaining units. We thank both TASP and CSEA for their contributions and support during this very unpredictable time.
Up to this point, the laws and the guidance being provided has changed as quickly as we conclude a day-long discussion or develop a new plan. It’s been extremely challenging to provide answers to very basic questions. I apologize for the uncertainty and stress that this causes.
It is imperative that we remain focused on our objectives, remain supportive of each other regardless of our opinions or feelings, and know that SPUSD always puts student well-being and safety at the front of our decision-making process. Given all this background information, the good news is that we are able to share some of our current planning considerations as a guide for our next steps.
WHAT TO EXPECT - SPUSD INSTRUCTIONAL PROGRAM
The proposed instructional model is being designed to meet three overarching principles – Health and Safety; Academic Quality and Equity; Social and Emotional Supports.
The Board will consider a model that allows us to seamlessly transition from a hybrid model to an all-in distance learning model and back again throughout the school year as conditions change. According to the law, school closures will be directed by the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health. We will be prepared for any and all possibilities.
As previously mentioned, State law mandates schools to physically reopen to the greatest extent possible and provide live interactions with teachers five days a week. Daily attendance is required and grades will be based on traditional grading systems.
The law provides exceptions for students and families who request a full-time distance learning program. The proposed South Pasadena instructional model will include livestreaming and an option for students to participate in distance learning with a direct connection to a South Pasadena teacher. All students, including kindergarteners, will receive a Chromebook the week prior to school to facilitate the approved instructional plan.
Edgenuity will not be part of the instructional model. It will continue to serve as a credit recovery program for high school students. We understand that it does not and cannot replace a learning environment facilitated by a highly qualified, SPUSD teacher.
SPUSD will provide extensive training for teachers to further their skills and knowledge about the technology tools and software needed before school starts and throughout the fall term regardless of the instructional program.
We expect to provide more details about the proposed instructional program, including student schedules, next week during the tentatively scheduled July 16 Special Board meeting.
GENERAL SAFETY PRECAUTIONS AT SCHOOL
Thank you for your donations to the PTA fundraiser for personal protective equipment (PPE). They have nearly reached the goal, and we are so thankful for all of the support. Donations for PPE equipment will allow the district to hire additional health staff such as Licensed Vocational Nurses (LVNs) who will support the school health clerks and the district nurse in the event that schools physically reopen.
We have purchased extensive amounts of PPE equipment for every learning space on every campus, including but not limited to: face coverings and shields; hand sanitizer; disinfectant; upgraded HVAC filters; and much more. Equipment will provide a standard level of care consistent with the health guidelines provided by the County Health Department.
If schools physically reopen, protocols for healthy and ill students and employees will be strictly followed and based on the county directives. Students and employees with symptoms will be required to quarantine and close contacts of those students and employees will be traced and will also be sent home for quarantine. As shared by the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, we should anticipate that all schools will experience positive cases regardless of mitigation efforts. Schools will not be Covid-19 testing centers and will not be provided equipment for testing. Testing must occur at a certified facility or center.
ADDITIONAL HEALTH & SAFETY CONSIDERATIONS
Many of the recurring questions and concerns about health and safety at school have been addressed. We are constantly reviewing guidelines, making adjustments and adding details. Following are some additional health and safety considerations:
- Face coverings will be required for all students and employees.
- Social distancing will be expected and the norm.
- Desks will be six feet apart with no more than half of the students attending school in person.
- Circulation routes have been designed for all school campuses.
- Bell schedules may be modified to reduce students’ level of screen time and provide opportunities for intervention, enrichment, club meetings, school culture/connectedness, counseling support for students, and much more.
- Lunch time may be modified and might be a grab-and-go style to limit groups of students gathering. More details will be developed once the instructional model is finalized.
- Access to campus by volunteers will be prohibited. However, we do anticipate ample opportunities for volunteer support in a variety of ways off campus or in a livestreaming/distance learning environment.
- Access to campus by parents will be granted for very specific purposes and upon approval.
- Congregating outside of schools will not be permitted.
ATHLETICS AND DAYCARE
Athletics at this time are not permissible. Any team in any other school district engaging in team training is in violation of the State order. Decisions on high school athletics will be based on further guidance from Los Angeles County Department of Public Health. Athletics are a “wait and see” situation for the foreseeable future.
In either a 100% distance learning model or a hybrid model, daycare/extended care services will be provided if permissible by the county health department. Once the instructional model is finalized, staff will design a program to complement the instructional program. We will be using all schools as daycare locations to increase capacity where space is safely available. Daycare is a fee based program because the State does not require or provide funding for our program. The program is financially self-sustaining and the fees pay for the direct cost of the program.
No matter what decision is made, we understand that not everyone will agree or be pleased. The new way forward is going to impact everyone in some manner. There is no solution that will satisfy all the needs in our diverse district.
Following the Board of Education’s approval of the instructional model, meetings at all schools will be scheduled for parents to receive information about the reopening plans. We will also be publishing a comprehensive document reflecting the details.
I would like to express my gratitude for the administrators, teachers and support staff who have spent countless hours meeting, discussing, and preparing for a variety of instructional options. Thank you to the parents and students who have provided valuable input in our focus groups, surveys, emails, and phone calls. I also want to thank my superintendent colleagues who have engaged in countless discussions, have endured through the most challenging time in our profession, and have shared their findings and ideas.
South Pasadena is fortunate to have a highly intelligent, educated, deeply-caring Board of Education that is actively engaged and informed. The Board brings together wisdom and ethics that most districts do not have within their governance teams. The Board deeply understands the gravity and significance of their decisions.
We expect to have an instructional model for the Board of Education’s public review and consideration at a tentatively scheduled Special Board meeting on July 16, 2020. I wish everyone in our community continued safety and good health during these difficult times.
Geoff Yantz, Ed.D.