SUSHD town hall reveals draft opening plan for the 2020-2021 school year


Lucia Rivera

Prior to COVID-19, the Bonita Vista High quad is empty of students after school during the 2019-2020 school year. The school will remain closed to students at least until September.

In order to announce the draft opening plans for the 2020-2021 school year, Sweetwater Union High School District (SUHSD) administration, including superintendent Karen Janney, Ed.D., held a virtual town hall meeting on June 18. While 1700 community members sent in an RSVP for the event, which was held live on YouTube, the video has over 4000 views as of June 19. 

Many plans were announced during the hour long video, several of which related to the beginning of the school year on August 3. 

“We’re considering distance learning only to open the school year on August 3. That means no on-campus instruction. Given all the information we know at this point in time, including the article that was published in the [Union Tribune] UT this very morning about the new COVID-19 outbreaks, we mentioned earlier that even though education is our primary purpose, health and safety is our number one priority. And the fact that many of our feeder elementary school districts have start dates after August 3, we’re considering distance learning to remain in distance learning through August 28,” Janney said during the meeting. 

While instruction during the month of August will be conducted online, SUHSD is planning for a transition to on-campus instruction with a hybrid model beginning “when health orders permit.”

“For example, that means, health orders permitting, we may begin with no more than 10 percent of our students on campus at any one time. And then [we would] transition to higher percentages as health orders permit. At this point in time we don’t know how the 10 percent or any percentage of on-campus instruction would look,” Janney said. “What we believe is that we would, as we get closer to the start of school, we’d begin those conversations around, ‘Is it ten percent of the total population one day a week? Or certain populations that would come on certain days?’”

Additionally, SUHSD families will be offered a completely virtual option for the next school year, called Launch Academy. Students who choose this option will not transition to on-campus instruction at any point in the upcoming school year. Both Apex and SUHSD online courses would be offered to Launch Academy students.

“This [program] would not be a blended model. It would be purely an online model. […] Counseling service and academic guidance would be provided for each student involved in the virtual Launch Academy as well as continued college and career support,” Assistant Superintendent for Teaching and Learning, Ana Maria Alvarez said. 

For all distance learning taking place in the next school year, SUHSD will be implementing the use of Google as the chosen learning management system, and Jupiter Grades as the chosen grading system. Although five SUHSD schools will be using Canvas next year, they will transition after the 2020-21 school year to Google and Jupiter Grades as well. 

Additionally, using a visual presentation to accompany announcements, it was shared that fall sports are currently “on hold for High School and Middle School.” Also, from July 28 to 30, laptops and iPads will be distributed to students through a drive through system, and “connectivity will be enhanced through Cox Connect to Compete, T-Mobile/Sprint Hotspots and enhanced connectivity solutions at school sites.”

Administrators also responded to eight questions sent in beforehand by community members through a Google form available on the SUHSD website. Janney also described how the SUHSD has incorporated community members into their decision making processes so far. In addition to community input, Janney described key components in decision making, like the relative higher number of cases in San Diego’s south bay where SUHSD schools are located. 

“There are also a few non-negotiables that we’d like to highlight and they include, as we’ve mentioned a few times already, using the available data to drive our decisions. […] We know that equity will continue to be a key consideration, we want to make sure that every school, every student, every staff member gets exactly what they need to move our educational program forward,” Assistant Superintendent for Equity, Culture and Support Services, Joe Fulcher, Ph.D. said. “And then we also need to adhere to all state and local guidelines. Those are all key considerations, but also non negotiable as we move forward.”