Story by Kahlen Miao
Photo by Ella Jayasekera
The South Pasadena School Board advised Superintendent Geoff Yantz to begin the 2020-2021 school year with 100 percent distance learning at its meeting on Thursday, Jul. 16. The board also approved hybrid instructional models for both the elementary and secondary levels that will be utilized when they are determined to be safe.
Distance learning will require students to attend livestream classes every day on an odd/even repeating block structure — unlike the fourth quarter of last school year where virtual meetings were optional. The length and timing of classes is still unclear, but will be similar to the adopted hybrid models.
The elementary hybrid model splits schedules into AM/PM rotations based on grade levels, which alternate between in-person and virtual instruction. The secondary model also breaks students up into cohorts in which they will either attend livestream or on-campus classes based on the day of the week. Regardless of instructional model, the district will offer lunch services to students with added safety precautions.
After hearing from health expert Dr. Michael Smit and examining Los Angeles Unified School District’s (LAUSD) precedent, the school board concluded that it was currently not appropriate for students to physically return to school. However, Yantz has the final say in the instructional model and will likely send out his verdict to the community on Friday, Jul. 17. Board members explained that the health and safety of students, teachers, and staff in regards to the recent local increase in coronavirus cases was more important than being on campus.
Many teachers advocated for complete virtual education, but also expressed that they did not feel like their input was valued or even considered in the district’s decisions.
“We are disappointed that the recent process used to determine the proposed secondary livestreaming model was created with minimal input from teachers despite the work of a focus group that included teachers from all school sites,” SPMS teacher Eric Hilger said. “This work, which included hours of discussion, surveys, department meetings, audit proposals and teacher feedback was overlooked when the current proposal was crafted.”
The district will continue to negotiate with teachers and update parents and staff on the details of the distance learning schedule. School board members meet next on Tuesday, Aug. 11.