Story by Noah Kuhn
Associate News Editor
Photo by Helena Fu
California’s decision to close schools amidst the coronavirus outbreak’s growing implications has left a trail of new challenges for the South Pasadena Unified School District (SPUSD) and Superintendent Geoff Yantz. As SPUSD faces a community-wide quarantine through the end of the school year, the district is adjusting to the unprecedented situation by enacting new measures, including the Independent Study Distance Learning Program (ISDLP) that will launch on Monday, Apr. 6.
School instruction will be administered to students through online platforms like Google Classroom. Teachers will assign lessons and homework on Monday by 10 a.m. to be turned in by the end of the week, giving students flexibility to complete assignments. Physical Education will remain a part of school, but Yantz did not explain how teachers plan to verify students’ completed physical activity.
Teachers are working with administrators to develop grading structures, in addition to finalizing their lessons for the remainder of the year. Although students missed two weeks of instruction from Mar. 16 to Mar. 27, during which other public and private schools like Marshall Fundamental in Pasadena were operating remotely, Superintendent Geoff Yantz is confident students will not fall behind in their academics.
“The teachers have reviewed what’s remaining in the curriculum and have selected what they consider to be the essential standards: the content that should be covered by the end of the year,” Yantz said. “It won’t impact [next year’s] school calendar.”
The California Department of Education has given little guidance to the district, which has led SPUSD to collaborate with other school districts in Los Angeles County to develop its ISDLP. The district is modeling a new grading policy set to be announced at the end of next week, based on the Department’s outline released on Thursday, Apr. 2, that emphasizes an “equitable” grading system for all students.
SPUSD is also adapting the registration and enrollment process for the 2020-2021 school year. A finalized plan will be released in the coming days. The South Pasadena Educational Foundation (SPEF) has yet to announce its plan for Summer School.
The district will continue to pay all employees and none of them will be furloughed this school year. Additionally, SPUSD schools will not lose state funding for their two-week closure prior to the week of Spring Break. Administrators are communicating with SPEF, Tiger Bingo and other organizations that had to cancel fundraisers for the district to make up crucial missed revenue.
SPUSD is transferring all of its social and emotional support services online. All school counselors and the district social worker, Natasha Prime, are available two hours each day by video or phone. The district will continue its special education program remotely with all age groups.
Technology access has been a concern among school districts that are transitioning to distance learning programs. SPUSD hosted chromebook pick-ups in late March and will continue to do so outside the district office between 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. from Monday, Apr. 6, to Thursday, Apr. 9. The district has already distributed over 1,000 chromebooks during the two-week closure. To deal with internet and connectivity problems, tech support will be available by email and phone from 8:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
SPUSD expects to continue its food and nutrition services for all students under 18 who qualify for the National School Lunch Program until the end of the school year.
“We look forward to launching our new program on Monday,” Yantz said. “Our teachers are looking forward to reconnecting [with students] and really want to finish the school year on a positive note.”