SPUSD | School Year Starts August 13 with Distance Learning

Key pieces of information have been sent to parents and students in the South Pasadena Unified School District as the first day of school nears. Meanwhile, the Teachers Association of South Pasadena (TASP) has expressed concerns with the opening and hopes the school board will hold a special meeting

FILE PHOTO: Eric Fabbro | SouthPasadenan.com News | Superintendent Geoff Yantz

Expressing concerns about the spread of the coronavirus, the South Pasadena Unified School District will delay the start of in-person instruction and focus on distance learning when the 2020-21 academic year begins.

The five school school sites have sent several key pieces of information to parents and students informing them about webinars, technology, and textbook and supply distribution in preparation for the scheduled August 13 opening.

In correspondence to the community, Christine Gervais, the assistant superintendent of instructional services, said the school year will follow the previously published instructional calendar, however, noting events such as back-to-school night and parent-teacher conferences, may be adjusted and offered remotely. Principals at each of the schools, explained Gervais, will share these details with parents and guardians throughout the year.

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“Please refer to the district website or your individual school’s website for up-to-date information pertaining to the school year. Instructional models and additional resources may be found under SPUSD Instructional Services,” wrote Gervais.Thank you for your patience as we navigate a fully remote start to the 2020-2021 school year. We appreciate everything you do and look forward to a successful year ahead.”

According to a message from SPUSD Superintendent Geoff Yantz, the approved instructional model for the year includes a choice for either hybrid instruction or full-time distance learning. “All five SPUSD schools will offer online parent/guardian meetings soon to discuss the differences between the two choices and expectations for various grade levels so that families may select the schedule – either hybrid or full-time distance learning – that best meets their child’s needs regardless of the fact that schools will be physically closed,” he wrote.

In addition, the superintendent added in his message: “The situation surrounding a return to in-person education is fluid and we should expect that plans may change throughout the school year. According to the Governor’s recent comments, schools within Los Angeles County must remain in distance learning until the county is off the State’s monitoring list for 14 consecutive days.”

Yantz stressed that the district has prepared the proper health and safety protocols as previously recommended by the county health department including, “but not limited to, face coverings for all, social distancing, reduced in-person class sizes, frequent hand washing and sanitizing, and cleaning high touch surfaces regularly. These protocols will be implemented if schools physically reopen this year.”

On Sunday, the Teachers Association of South Pasadena (TASP) expressed concern with the district’s efforts at opening schools, seeking an emergency meeting to address a variety of issues.

“The students of SPUSD deserve better than a rushed, cobbled together plan with no pedagogical support for either distance or hybrid learning,” TASP sent in its message. “The SPUSD teachers deserve more respect for their time, experience, and professionalism than they have been given this summer.

Continued the letter: “Last week, the TASP negotiating team and the SPUSD administrative team met to discuss possible options. The teams ultimately discussed some potential changes to the details of the schedule for both the elementary and secondary models. TASP presented models that were created after more robust conversations among teachers over email, as well as a survey with ideas from those email discussions. While we have a variety of thoughts about specific length of periods and live instruction, 101 out of 102 SPMS and SPHS teachers said that we need a dedicated day for a home room with community-building, socio-emotional support, professional development, and asynchronous learning. District administration insists that we cannot do this without another School Board meeting.”

As of this writing, no special meeting has been set.