SUHSD extends distance learning until October 2, 2020

Distance learning will now extend at least until Oct. 2, 2020 for all Sweetwater Union High School District (SUHSD) sites, as announced by the SUHSD on July 23 during a live Town Hall meeting. According to the public “Reopening of Schools Plan” presentation, this decision is due to “Local Health Indicators” and the “Governor’s Order Issued on Friday, July 17, 2020.”

Beginning Aug. 3, SUHSD students will be faced with a very different version of distance learning than they took part in at the end of the previous school year. One changing factor is the proposed daily student schedule. 

All schools, except the new Launch Academy, will follow a block schedule consisting of three 90 minute classes Monday through Thursday, and five 30 minute classes every Friday. Advisory will be an additional class offered by some school sites. Teachers are also expected to “share their office hours with students and administration,” according to the “Re-opening of Schools Plan.” 

A schedule specific to Bonita Vista High will be released to students in the future. School nurses and counselors will continue to be available to all students as well, and students will receive their course schedule by July 31.

Additionally, the grade policy implemented at the beginning of distance learning in the 2019-2020 school year which upheld student grades will not extend into the 2020-21 school year. 

“With the commencement of distance learning this school year, students will be held accountable for their course work and earned grades will be issued. Teachers will ensure that  students are engaged and will provide support and interventions for students who are struggling academically. Before a “D or F” grade can be issued, the teacher must demonstrate that parental contact has been made and interventions have been implemented. Written notification to parents must be provided before grade is issued,” states the SUHSD plan.

For the class of 2021, graduation credit requirements will remain the same, however, the community service requirement of 30 hours will be waived. 

“During this pandemic, we want to ensure that we are not exposing our students to potential infection,” Assistant Superintendent Ana Maria Alvarez said. 

In regards to technological connectivity during distance learning, students will each receive an iPad or laptop, or choose to opt out and use their own devices. Google will be the platform used for instructional distance learning, and JupiterEd for grading. 

“Families who do not have access to connectivity may apply for the Cox Cable connectivity program or may request District hotspots. Additional hotspots are also available at each school site in the parking lots. Wi-Fi is made available in the parking lots for student use while in distance learning,” is stated in the SUHSD reopening plan, although this plan is still developing.

SUHSD has also developed resources over the summer for teachers, counselors, students and parents, which will be released on several websites next week. These resources include course specific materials for teachers, Social Emotional Learning (SEL) materials and instructions for SUHSD families.

Lucia Rivera

As the school year progresses, the district administration has outlined dates for updated decisions, although the timeline is “subject to change based on local health indicators.” On Sept. 21, 2020 the district will decide whether distance learning will continue after fall break.

Then, on Nov. 30, 2020 there will be “determination if the district continues in distance learning to the second semester or potentially bringing up to 10% of students [back to campus] based on academic and social indicators.”

During the second semester, on March 1, 2021 the district will determine “if the district continues in distance learning for the rest of second semester,” according to the released reopening plan. 

Reopening itself will take place in five stages, beginning with Stage I, which is distance learning, and ending in Stage V which is all students back on campus every day.  To help determine which 10 percent of students will return during Stage I, due to their “need for ‘in-person’ support, Student Study Teams, School Counselors and School Psychologists at each school.”

“Students will be selected based on those with the greatest need. While there are student groups that traditionally struggle (on average), some of those same students thrive, therefore we will use the structures described in the next section to identify students with the greatest needs to recommend them for the first level of in-person support.”

The second stage will consist of bringing 10 percent of students to campus, and the third stage will extend that percentage to 20 percent. 

“Based on local health indicators, up to 20% of students could return to in-person instruction. Students would attend one day a week in person and 4 days with distance learning. This would meet the limit of 9 students per class based on social distancing guidelines,” is outlined in the reopening plan. 

In Stage IV, 50 percent of students will return to campus at a time, with each student on campus for two days per week. This plan also will follow the SUHSD criteria for in-person instruction.

Lucia Rivera

These are: “Schools are located in a local health jurisdiction that has not been on the county monitoring list within the prior 14 days, 14 day rolling average of San Diego County  positive test rate below 5% [and a] 14 day rolling average of new Coronavirus cases in Sweetwater zip codes decreasing over 14 days,” according to the re-opening presentation.

While this proposed plan has been outlined, it was reiterated throughout the Town Hall meeting that decisions would develop as guidelines changed. Another reiterated acknowledgement was of the collaboration that took place to build this plan. 

“It is essential that you understand that this has been a team approach in terms of supporting and developing a plan for reopening the schools,” Alvarez said. “This is in no means a static plan. On a daily basis we are given new guidelines, and potentially new approaches so we will continue to modify based on the most recent guidelines.”