San Diego Unified, the state's second-largest school district, will transition to online learning beginning April 6 due to the COVID-19 outbreak. The announcement came a few weeks after the district shut down all of its schools to prevent the spread of the virus.
SDUSD said the move is being made to save the academic year for students, while district physical structures remain closed until the health emergency abates.
“From the start of the public health crisis, we have been clear about two main commitments: our students will have the chance to complete their academic year, and the opportunity to do so will be available to all of our students, no matter what challenges they face,” said SDUSD Superintendent Cindy Marten.
“As a result of the coronavirus pandemic and the need to restructure the teaching-leaning process in order to keep our students and educators safe, the San Diego Unified School District is initiating an At-Home Learning Program that utilizes the technological innovations that will provide continuity of learning for all students,” said SDUSD Board Trustee Dr. Michael McQuary representing District C including the Peninsula, Mission Bay, and La Jolla school clusters.
“The At-Home Learning Program was developed in collaboration with SDUSD, KPBS and the San Diego County Office of Education, and it incorporates many of the best distance-learning practices being used within the district and across the nation.”
The plan outlined by district leaders envisions a gradual return to academic instruction in several phases. Currently, the school district is providing online enrichment activities via the district website and a partnership with public broadcasting. That will change following the end of spring break, on April 6. At that point, teachers will begin receiving training for the move to online instruction, will work remotely with students who are able to participate, and will identify those students who are unable to take part. Work done during this time will not be graded for credit but will contribute towards students’ academic progress in the courses they are taking.
“Students are missing out on valuable learning opportunities. The current situation is unsustainable and demands a solution,” said SDUSD Board President John Lee Evans. “The solution we are announcing allows our students to continue their academic journey without the fear of spreading the COVID-19 pandemic.”
“Partnership and engagement between educators, parents, and students will be the key to the success of this transition period,” noted Kisha Borden, president of the San Diego Education Association.
“We know our families are eager for their students to continue learning, and our teachers are eager to make that possible,” said SDUSD Board Vice President Richard Barrera. “The soft launch on April 6 allows teachers and students the opportunity for expanded distance learning, which will grow stronger through the continued collaboration of parents, professional educators, and students. This will be a short-term solution until we can return to that best practice.”
McQuary added the “soft rollout” of the online education program will take place from April 6-27. “Teachers and students will be provided the opportunity to learn how to operate the distance-learning platform, become familiar with the resources, and ensure that every student has a functional device, access to the internet, and be provided the necessary supports,” he said.
“During this soft roll out student work will not be graded. Graded work will begin after April 27, and will enable every student to continue the required course work that will prepare them for matriculation to the next grade level, promotion to middle school, or high school graduation,” McQuary said.
“From the moment the crisis forced schools to close, we’ve been working on ways to continue student learning, whether or not public health officials approve a return to in-classroom instruction,” said Marten. “Immediately after spring break on April 6, San Diego Unified will launch a revised online learning system that will include more interaction with professional educators, as well as additional support for parents. Teachers who are ready to begin working with their students online will do so, while their colleagues get the training they need to provide excellent instructional opportunities to students.”
Marten added: “A formal return to grading and instruction – but not a return to the physical school environment – is scheduled for April 27 for the 90 percent of all district students who attend schools on a traditional academic calendar. As with students on a traditional calendar, 10 percent of students in year-round schools will experience a soft launch of the new learning environment upon returning from spring break, on April 27. There will be a full return to graded instruction in year-round schools on May 11.”