A lot of ground was covered by Superintendent Dr. Geoff Yantz in his latest correspondence to the South Pasadena Unified School District (SPUSD) community.
Among his topics in his letter on Wednesday, April 29, included distance learning, graduations and promotions, summer school, returning text books and Chromebooks, new student registration, construction projects in the district, and talk about when the 2020-21 school year may begin.
“It is hard to believe that SPUSD is in its seventh full week of following ‘safer-at-home’ protocols and that students, and teachers are in their fourth full week of the SPUSD ISDLP,” he said of the district’s Independent Study Distance Learning Program. “Navigating the challenges of this pandemic may feel overwhelming at times, but I hope that you and your families are safe, healthy and adjusting to the new schedules. In the coming weeks, SPUSD will be sending you an online survey to obtain feedback about the ISDLP experience so far.”
Looking back on the past month, Yantz talked about how proud he is of SPUSD administrators, faculty and staff who “have accomplished some pretty amazing feats while continuing to help students reach their full potential,” he wrote, noting some of the achievements:
• SPUSD transformed its educational process (ISDLP) for nearly 5,000 students from preschool through twelfth grade.
• Most of our 500 SPUSD employees now work primarily from home with the exception of our dedicated essential staff who are maintaining operations at the district office and schools.
• SPUSD food service employees served more than 15,000 meals to students.
• The tech department issued more than 1,000 Chromebooks to students so that every student who needs a device at home has access to one.
• Teachers reported more than 95% of students engaged in the SPUSD ISDLP.
“Each one of these accomplishments reflects hours of work put forth by each department along with the support of our forward-thinking School Board members,” wrote Yantz in his letter. “We have addressed many additional matters along the way. With students’ best interest at heart, SPUSD implemented a grading policy to keep students on-track with learning and achievement. Our business office developed a system for keeping payroll up-to-date for all our employees and for making sure the bills are paid. Our teachers and support staff are delivering engaging distance learning lessons while also encouraging our students to participate in extracurricular activities such as online workouts, cooking classes, ASB elections, online birthday celebrations, public service announcements, and more.”
Yantz explained that SPUSD has been planning for the future, working to ensure that systems will be in place for when students eventually return to local campuses.
Details for the following are being worked out:
Yantz joins others in realizing that life looks “very different for the Senior Class of 2020 as well as for current eighth graders and fifth graders,” he wrote. “The high school administration is in the process of collaborating with the student body and SPHS PTSA to determine how best to recognize our seniors,” he wrote. “Additional plans are underway at the middle school and elementary schools, so please keep a lookout for updates that we are certain will recognize the significant accomplishments of our students.”
The superintendent pointed out that South Pasadena Educational Foundation (SPEF) runs the summer program for the South Pasadena community. “It appears that some summer school classes will be offered online through a distance learning program,” communicated in his letter. “Look for additional information about summer school from SPEF soon.”
Student Belongings/Textbook & Chromebook Return
In the coming weeks, Yantz said parents in the district will receive “detailed information about a system for students to pick up any personal belongings from school, to clean out lockers, and also to return textbooks and Chromebooks before the end of the school year. A detailed schedule will be created so that proper social distancing directives are followed.”
New Student Registration
Yantz said registration for new students, preschool through 12th grade is nown underway. “SPUSD has established protocols for new student registration while ensuring employees and parents are safe and practicing social distancing while completing the necessary procedures,” he wrote. “Please see https://www.spusd.net/ and click on the tab titled, “Enrollment/Registration” for additional information.”
The high school Athletics Project and the middle school Old Gym Rehab construction projects, both funded through Measure SP funds, continue at their respective campuses.
“Supply line/manufacturing delays have challenged the construction teams,” wrote the superintendent. “However, they remain dedicated to completing the projects by the planned completion date. Other projects that have been completed include the high school exterior painting and new security gates located along the SPHS numbered walkway. The roof replacement project on the two-story section of classrooms at the middle school is scheduled to begin on June 1, 2020.”
Yantz added that planning for the replacement of the elementary schools’ portable classrooms and new arts room continues with the expectation that construction will commence in spring of 2021.
Academic Year 2020-2021
Local school district officials are uncertain about what the future holds for the return to school next year. “You may have heard the governor speculating about what school will look like or when it may begin,” wrote Yantz. “These recommendations are not sensible, practical, or sustainable solutions for school districts within California.”
He doesn’t believe California public school system have the infrastructure or appropriate regulations to support a comprehensive, all-in, distance learning program for all students.
“Many California school districts are now experiencing this reality,” he wrote. “In response, after encouraging schools to close and to provide distance learning as a means for public education, state leaders now feel compelled to suggest solutions for how and when to open schools that are counterproductive. Without question, we have a desire for students to occupy our classrooms and schoolyards once again, but only when it is safe and instruction, resource allocation, school funding, required negotiable agreements with our bargaining units, and regulatory relief are all considered as part of a comprehensive ‘back-to school’ plan.”
Yantz insists the South Pasadena Unified School District has done “everything possible to institute an effective distance-learning model for students and staff. “We continuously engage in conversations with local superintendents, school administrators, and our respective labor associations regarding the practicality of our educational programming now and in the coming months,” he wrote. “I am confident that SPUSD will continue to be flexible and innovative as we approach any future challenges together.”