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SLO County school districts discuss returning to the classroom

Posted at 11:40 PM, Oct 06, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-08 01:55:18-04

UPDATE (10-7-2020): The Coast Unified School District Superintendent Scott Smith says in a statement:

In collaboration with our stakeholders and trustees, our District is exploring potential cautious steps forward that will enable us to provide in-person wrap around services for small groups of students who are struggling in Distance Learning while they continue in Distance Learning. Our plans center on ensuring every student is making academic progress while in Distance Learning at this time.

It was announced at the San Luis Obispo County Public Health Department press conference Wednesday that the Atascadero Unified School District, Paso Robles School District, and Pleasant Valley School District did request for an elementary school waiver that will be approved by the state despite being currently in the red tier.
ORIGINAL STORY: Schools in San Luis Obispo County were given the green light to reopen Tuesday and many school districts in the county already had plans to discuss what their reopening plans might look like Tuesday night.

Some districts are still in the early stages of planning for students to return, with some administrators saying they don’t plan on having students back at all until January.

Disheartening statistics came out of the Paso Robles Joint Unified School Board meeting Tuesday afternoon.

"We have more kids failing at 6th-12th grade than we have had. In fact, at the high school level that has doubled. Now that is just the first quarter progress report and we'll have another report next week," Jennifer Gaviola, Deputy Superintendent of the Paso Robles Joint Unified School District, said.

1,000 students currently have a least one "F" grade according to the district, illustrating the struggles some are facing with distance learning.

Some students in the district might be back in the classroom by next month, however.

The district approved its new hybrid plan Tuesday that would have students in:

  • T-K and kindergarten starting on a split schedule by Nov. 2.
  • First and second graders starting on Nov. 16
  • Third through fifth grade starting on Nov. 30 after thanksgiving break.
  • Students in grades 6-12 will have to wait to return until January.

For Paso Robles parent Elidia Lopez, she says she prefers for her sons to continue distance learning for now.

"My concern is what if there's a positive case? Are they going to have to close down the schools again, be quarantined for 14 days and have the kiddos miss out even more learning than what we're doing now? That's my main thing - I don't want them to start and then stop, start, and then stop; it really defeats the purpose," Lopez said.

Lucia Mar mom Shannon Galvan says her kids need to go back soon

"I'm not afraid of my kids catching the virus - I'm terrified of what's this is doing to their mental health and how it's altering the rest of the life kind of thing; that's more of a fear for our family than them getting the virus," Galvan said.

Tuesday night, Lucia Mar discussed its plans for reopening that includes an a.m.- p.m. hybrid half-day schedule, but the district says it has to update its plans to the latest guidance by the state and public health.

"Make no mistake, we are operating with a high sense of urgency and at the same time we cannot compromise safety. As we learned with the recent return to limited in-person programs, return to in-person learning is complex and has many angles and facets to consider: staffing needs, facility needs, training on new procedures, and the list goes on," Lucia Mar Unified School District Superintendent, Paul Fawcett, said.

Fawcett says the district will be sending out a survey this week to parents. Once parents decide whether they want their children at home or in the classroom, the district says they'll be stuck in that decision for the rest of the year so students aren't going back and forth.

We reached out to other school districts in the county who discussed this matter Tuesday night.

The San Luis Coastal Unified School District says they are distance learning through December and will continue increasing in-person opportunities in addition to the small group learning and athletic activities already underway.

The San Miguel Joint Union School District says in a statement:

Currently, SMJUSD is offering in-person Distance Learning support and services for students with disabilities and other vulnerable student groups who were not successful in Distance Learning. We are supporting over 100 of our 600 students in small, stable cohorts following the California Department of Public Health's guidance.
On Thursday, Sept. 24, our board decided to table a vote on applying for a possible waiver for elementary school to wait and see where the county ended up today. Because we are now able to open schools without a waiver, we will not go through that process.
We have begun taking steps to prepare for a Hybrid Reopening plan. We are updating our Reopening plan to make sure we have all new guidance included as some things have changed since the end of July when it was first approved. SMJUSD has surveyed parents and about 60% said they would be ready to send their children back next month. However, about 20% said they did not feel it was safe to do so at this time. Another 20% were undecided. Many families have let us know that a Hybrid plan is very difficult for working parents. SMJUSD will continue to work closely with stakeholder groups over the next month, including both our classified and our certificated bargaining groups, in the planning process. Our goal is to get all students back on campus as soon as it is safe for staff and students and we are able to offer a quality blended program as some students will be choosing to stay on distance learning.