The San Bernardino City Unified School District Board of Education unanimously approved the re-opening of the school year on August 3 in a distance learning model in light of the recent rise in COVID-19 cases countywide. The decision was made primarily with the safety of students, staff and the community in mind.
Students will have the opportunity to connect with educators in a limited capacity only when and if state and local health departments and the school board deem it safe to do so; a date has not been determined due to the fluid nature of the coronavirus. Safety protocols such as sufficient face coverings, PPEs, face shields, and hand sanitizers will be in place at each school site before students will be allowed to return.
Extended distance learning will be offered to families apprehensive about their children returning to school sites.
Education Trailer Bill AB77 stipulates that school districts offer in-person instruction to the greatest extent possible, but distance learning may be offered as a result of an order or guidance from a state public health officer or a local public health officer for a local education agency or school, or for students who are medically fragile or would be put at risk by in-person instruction, or who are self- quarantining because of exposure to COVID-19.
“We have increased rates of transmission right now, and we have increased rates of school age cases, and so as a result and in speaking with County Public Health, they are in agreement with us that for San Bernardino City the safest opening of school for August 3rd would be to stay in distance learning,” noted Dr. Rachel Monárrez, SBCUSD Assistant Superintendent, Continuous Improvement Division.
To help ensure students do not fall behind in learning, AB77 requires:
- 180 instructional days in person, virtual or blended;
- Document daily participation (virtual, in person); students will be marked absent if they do not engage;
- Weekly engagement record documenting of offering of synchronous (teacher live in virtual setting) and asynchronous (work posted in Google Classroom and students gather work to do on their own) instruction required;
- Districts are to develop written procedures for tiered re-engagement strategies for students absent more than 3 school days in a week;
- Schools must regularly communicate student academic progress with parents.
Distance learning will include:
- Access for all students to connectivity and devices;
- Ensure quality/rigor of grade level instruction equivalent to in-person instruction;
- Academic and mental health supports for identified students;
- Special education and other services related IEP goals and/or accommodations can be executed;
- Designated and integrated instruction in English language development and assessment of English language proficiency;
- Daily interactions (instruction, progress monitoring, school connectedness) with certificated employees and students.
According to Monárrez those guidelines were already in place when the district moved into a distance learning model in the spring. “Now we have the opportunity to improve upon it, to enhance and improve our instructional model of distance learning,” she said. “A survey has been sent out to teachers to assess what they would need to better offer distance learning and meet parameters of the education trailer bill.”
Moving forward the district will continue to draft COVID-19 mitigation plan, communicate with DPH, and negotiate with bargaining units. Training is underway on reopening guidelines at school sites, a communication plan is being developed for accurate and timely messaging to families and the community, and the district is coordinating with local community child care facilities.
The district asks that families complete an online questionnaire at sbcusd.com/opening by July 13.