South Pasadena Unified School District (SPUSD) superintendent Geoff Yantz presented a plan framework at Thursday night’s board meeting to reopen all five district schools for the 2020-21 school year. The framework suggests a hybrid model that includes on-site instruction and off-site distance learning, as required by newly adopted California law.
Though the recently passed Senate Bill 98 requires California districts to offer in-person learning “to the greatest extent possible,” the district hopes to adopt a plan that prepares for sudden and drastic change. “The board will consider a model that allows us to seamlessly transition from a hybrid model to an all-in distance learning and back again throughout the school year as conditions change,” said Yantz in a statement to the board. “We will be prepared for any and all possibilities.”
The framework accounts for a distance-learning option for any student that chooses to opt-out of on-site instruction for the upcoming school year, as well as social-distancing and hygienic mandates for on-site instruction. Some of these include:
- Face-coverings for all students and staff
- Desks six feet apart in classrooms
- All schools at or under 50% capacity
- Staggered bell schedules and limited lunch interactions
- An indefinite ban on athletics
- Spreading day-care services amongst all schools
Yantz recognizes the difficulty in crafting a plan that will accommodate all students and staff. “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,” said Yantz.
The board of education also heard a presentation from Michael Smit, an epidemiologist and assistant professor of clinical pediatrics at USC’s Keck School of Medicine. Smit provided recommendations on how to operate schools safely and effectively during the pandemic, and also emphasized the unpredictability of the crisis over the next few months. “We’re going to have to make difficult decisions with incomplete information,” he said.
The district hopes to proceed with their plan despite having not received guidelines from the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, which has delayed their safety directives to school districts for weeks. “It’s been extremely frustrating and challenging to provide answers to very basic questions. I am sorry for the uncertainty and stress this has caused, and I share in your frustration,” said Yantz.
The district will take feedback from students, teachers, and parents, and adjust their reopening plan as necessary. The board hopes to vote on the plan as early as next Thursday during a special board meeting, but may wait if more adjustments are required.