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SLO Co. school districts explore in-person and online classes, teachers weigh-in on reopening

Posted at 6:55 PM, Jul 10, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-10 22:47:50-04

Many schools are getting ready to re-open, but it's still unclear what that will look like.

School districts will have to come up with their own plans, which could involve all in-person learning, all online learning, or a combination of both.

Many teachers say they want to be back with students, but the big question is how do they get back in the classroom safely?

"Teachers want to be teaching in person, it is where our heart is, yet under the circumstances we are under, the first thing we have to take into effect is health and safety," said Emily Cappellano, a third-grade teacher at Baywood Elementary in Los Osos.

As the president of the San Luis Coastal Teachers Association, Cappellano discusses concerns with proposed in-person and online learning models.

"Families should be on the same model. If you have a kid in secondary and then in elementary, do they need to be on the same model? There's a lot to figure out there," said Cappellano. "Busing is also going to be a huge issue with social distancing guidelines."

Districts are exploring hybrid options. For example, a class could be split into a Group A and Group B. Group A would go to school in the morning and finish the afternoon at home with online learning and vice versa for Group B.

However, teachers are also struggling with double planning one in-person lesson and one online lesson.

“If kids need support [at home], but you are teaching a group in front of you, how does that work? That's a big concern because they want to be giving enough support to all the students,” said Cappellano.

Another hybrid option could entail Group A going to school two to three days of the week and Group B going the remainder of the days.

Parents with jobs and multiple children say that would be too difficult to coordinate.

An Atascadero High School teacher said a survey of educators in the Atascadero Unified School District showed about half of the employees aren’t ready to go back to in-person teaching, while the other half said they were, given certain guidelines.

One teacher said she’s concerned about the current lack of resources.

“A big concern is how any district, given where budgets are right now, can afford the actual cleaning supplies, the hand sanitizer,” said Christine Williams, president of the Atascadero District Teachers Association.

On Wednesday, President Trump warned funding could be cut from districts that don't resume in-person classes.

“If the president was serious about schools opening and opening in-person, he would be attaching that with money, not threatening to take money away,” said Williams.

In a letter to state leaders, the California Teachers Association said, "While no one method of prevention by itself is 100 percent effective, layered strategies boost prevention with each measure knocking off some percentage of exposure and potential infection. This includes a clear and manageable plan to implement measures like physical distancing of six feet, reducing the number of contacts, face coverings, handwashing, daily health screening, support for sick and at-risk people to stay at home, robust testing, good ventilation (with absolutely no recirculated air), and cleaning and disinfecting."

The CDC recommends spacing desks six feet apart, limiting shared items, and requiring masks for educators and older students.

Teachers may be torn on how to return to the classroom, but one thing is clear.

“We're not torn about going back to work,” said Williams. “We want to be in front of students, the question fundamentally is, is that safe to do in front of students?"

Educators said they might have to prepare their students and families to switch to a different learning model in the event COVID-19 cases get worse or better.

Regardless if that is online or in-person, they have to keep 180 instructional days, according to Williams.

As of now, there is no deadline for schools to adopt a reopening plan.

Districts are currently working on reopening plans and will be presenting them to school boards over the next couple of weeks.