As San Diego Unified prepares to open the 2020-21 school year with online instruction for all students Monday, district leaders have announced plans to offer small, in-person learning sessions to students facing the most severe challenges. Elementary school students who have been uniquely identified by their teachers as experiencing learning loss may be offered appointments to receive in-person sessions. Participation will be voluntary.
The plan, “Phase One Appointment-Based Onsite Learning for the 2020-21 School Year,” is the result of continued collaboration with the San Diego Education Association (SDEA), and is aligned with reopening guidelines established with scientific experts from the University of California at San Diego that were released Aug. 10. The UCSD report called for a phased approach to reopening schools.
“We remain committed to following the science in designing our response to the COVID-19 crisis, including all of the recommendations we received from our expert panel of UCSD science and health professionals that included a phased return to in-person instruction,” Superintendent Cindy Marten said. “This is Phase One, which provides a measured approach to address the very real problem with learning loss, faced by our most disadvantaged students, while maintaining the strict standards put in place to protect the health and safety of all students, staff and community.”
Kisha Borden, who represents some 6,000 teachers as president of SDEA, said her members are eager to return to the classroom once safety conditions improve. In the meantime, she called the new plan to address learning loss a valuable first step.
“I believe this plan has been developed with the safety of educators and students in mind, and that it gives educators the lead in identifying those students who need extra support means,” Borden said. “We are working hard to strike the right balance between keeping everyone safe and making sure our students don't fall further behind. We hope that a safer and smaller-scale approach will become the standard road map for other districts around the state.”
Under the plan to address student learning loss as a result of the COVID-19 crisis, students will be identified for participation based on several factors:
* Below standard, represented by an average academic mark of a 1 or 2 in Math or English Language Arts strands, on their Spring 2020 report card
* Students who do not have a Spring 2020 report card (incoming TK, K, or new students to the district) and do not make progress toward grade-level standards once schools open
* Special education students not meeting their IEP goals
* Special education students with intense support needs
* Students who have been recommended for an initial assessment for an IEP or require a triennial assessment, and require standardized assessment that cannot be completed online for eligibility.
“Online learning has created new challenges for every student,” Superintendent Marten said. “We trust our educators to identify those students most in need of additional supports to overcome those challenges.”
Once identified for potential participation, educators will review students’ progress, using formative assessments, observations, and information gathered from families. They will decide which students simply need changes to their online learning program, and which should move to appointment-based in-person learning. Decisions regarding transportation and student meals will follow.
Identification of participants will start with the new school year, with the first in-person sessions to be held as soon as late September. Students who participate in the in-person learning sessions will continue to receive online learning. The number of students who will be provided appointment-based onsite learning is contingent upon available site staff and resources.
“From the start of the COVID-19 crisis, we have said this virus may change how we operate, but it will not change who we are,” Board Vice President Richard Barrera said. “We are a district with equity at our core, and this new plan advances that goal of creating a more equitable school system.”
Both San Diego Unified and SDEA reaffirmed their decision to use a more stringent set of health and safety standards than those being used throughout the county. Leaders from San Diego Unified and UCSD announced their reopening guidelines on Aug. 10, when it also released plans to reopen school in phases.
The in-person learning-loss sessions will be conducted only in spaces with adequate air exchange, including MERV-13 air filters and/or portable ventilation units.
To review the San Diego Unified health and safety standards for reopening schools, visit sandiegounified.org/about/newscenter/district/new_standards_to_protect_community.