As the South Pasadena Board of Education looked at different options Thursday night to open the school year, State Gov. Gavin Newsom made a key decision one day later, announcing Friday that distance learning will be the norm, at least for now, this fall.
The local school board during a special virtual meeting approved an instructional model for the 2020-2021 academic year, directing schools to be physically closed, calling for students to begin the year in front of their computers away from campuses due to coronavirus concerns.
As outlined in a letter to the South Pasadena School District community, Superintendent Dr. Geoff Yantz noted that the governor said schools within counties on California’s monitoring list “must begin the school year distance learning and must remain in distance learning until the county is off the monitoring list for 14 consecutive days.”
Los Angeles County, he wrote in his correspondence to parents and students in the district, “has been on this monitoring list since the State began monitoring counties in this way. We all would like students to be back in school as soon as possible, but school districts must play a pivotal role in preserving the health and safety of our community.”
The approved instructional model, according to Yantz, “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 childs’ needs regardless of the fact that schools will be physically closed.”
Yantz said he will communicate soon with the SPUSD with more more information on how to select an option.
The school district was advised “to physically close schools in light of the recent guidance issued by the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health and due to an upward trend in the number of coronavirus cases,” explained Yantz.
He said the SPUSD has spent “countless hours reviewing instructional alternatives and collecting feedback from stakeholders about several different models,” adding: “State legislation SB 98 said that public school districts “shall offer in-person instruction to the greatest extent possible” unless the state public health officer or a local public health officer provides an order or guidance to school districts to physically close.”
In terms of sports, Yantz said county offices are directing districts to limit student extracurricular activities to online interactions and avoid team sports for now. “We realize that these decisions may be difficult to adjust to for many students and families, but SPUSD must participate in the collective effort to prevent the virus from spreading,” he said.
The superintendent added that daycare information for families is forth coming “after we have an opportunity to develop plans that complement the approved instructional model and the physical closure of schools.”
The question many want to know is: when will students physically be returning to South Pasadena campuses? “The situation surrounding a return to in-person education is fluid and we should expect that plans may change throughout the school year,” said Yantz. “According to the governor’s recent comments and as stated previously, schools within Los Angeles County must remain in distance learning until the county is off the State’s monitoring list for 14 consecutive days.”
In his letter, Yantz said 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,” he said. “These protocols will be implemented if schools physically reopen this year.”
The superintendent has gained widespread appreciation from residents for effectively updating stakeholders in the district with information regarding how COVID-19 is affecting South Pasadena schools.
“Thank you for your patience, understanding, and support as we forge through these challenging times,” Yantz concluded in his latest message. “The 2020-2021 academic year will be like no other, and we will continue to put safety first as we help our students reach their full potential.”