The South Pasadena Unified School District (SPUSD) will implement a distance-learning model to begin the upcoming school year, closing all five district schools indefinitely. This decision comes days after both the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) and the Pasadena Unified School District (PUSD) announced their campuses will be closed to begin the Fall semester.
“We can’t put our students at risk, we can’t put our teachers at risk, we can’t put our staff at risk,” said board president Dr. Michele Kipke. The board unanimously expressed concerns for opening up campuses on August 13th amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.
“This is not a safe time to start schools in a physical presence,” said board member Dr. Ruby Kalra. The district’s decision to implement a distance-learning model to begin the school year comes days after the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health granted school districts permission to close campuses for the upcoming semester.
Public comments read at the beginning of the meeting overwhelmingly opposed a hybrid-learning model proposed at last week’s board meeting. Though the board this week approved the framework of a hybrid-learning model for both primary and secondary education to satisfy a legal requirement passed by the state’s legislature, they don’t anticipate implementing a hybrid-learning model to begin the school year.
“I think we are going to be distance-learning for quite a while given the trends,” said board member Jon Primuth. “If we wanted to start in classrooms in August, it would be harsh and divisive in a way that would tear our community and our stakeholders apart.”
Though every board member requested a distance-learning model to begin the year, some expressed concerns about how the model would affect disadvantaged students and teachers. “There’s a lack of equity in distance learning,” said board member Zahir Robb. “We’re seeing it disproportionately impacts learning in certain communities.”
Board member Dr. Suzie Abajian raised concerns about the proposed hybrid model, saying that the ever-changing nature of the pandemic continuously raises new questions about the district’s plan. “Given the current situation, we are so far from knowing what that model would involve,” she said.
Governor Gavin Newsom announced on Friday, July 17th that all California schools within counties considered high-risk for COVID spread must implement a distance-learning model for the upcoming school year. Los Angeles County is among those considered high-risk at the moment. In-person education will only be considered for those schools once the county remains off the state’s monitoring list for fourteen consecutive days.
The district still plans on beginning the school year on August 13th, and now with a distance-learning model for all of its students. Kipke, however, pointed out that plans may change between now and the first day of school. “With COVID, every day is a new day,” she said.