The Los Angeles County Office of Education has released a 43-page guidance for schools to reopen in August, including limiting class sizes, scheduling hand-washing time, and having students eat their lunches at their desks.
The framework was developed by a task force of dozens of LACOE representatives and district superintendents, none of whom was from Pasadena.
“We want to make sure that we are transparent, that districts are taking this information back to their communities, engaging their union partners, their parents and other stakeholders, so that everybody has a voice and knows exactly what to expect when schools reopen in their area,” said LA County Superintendent of Schools, Debra Duardo.
Task force recommendations included one-way hallways, staggering schedules, having students eat lunch at their desks, or end school days before lunch and “provide grab-and-go meals to eat at home.”
Masks are required unless someone has a condition that precludes them from being able to wear one.
Class sizes would also be limited.
“A typical 960-square-foot classroom fits a teacher and 16 students when perimeter walls do not have obstructions, and 12 students when furniture and materials align along perimeter walls,” according to the LACOE report.
“Our class sizes are under our contracts with our teacher’s union … which are based on our funding,” said Pasadena Unified School District Board Member Scott Phelps. “You would need more staff, requires more funding.”
LACOE is going to leave the teaching method, such as a traditional setting involving all students and teachers in school, or a hybrid model that could have some kids on campus while others learn via Zoom or other software, up to the districts.
The document LACOE provided Wednesday contains templates and checklists districts can use to determine what’s best for them. Schools start the process by determining whether they can control interactions, implement health and cleaning protocols, provide adequate staffing to monitor health, accommodate physical distancing in classrooms and common areas, provide transportation to and from campus, and provide food and nutrition services.
If a school meets those requirements, and has also asked parents what instructional method they want, has mental health and behavior support services, and has trained teachers and staff to cope with emotional and mental health concerns, then the school can reopen with their chosen instructional method.
If some or all of those requirements are not met, at full or lowered capacity, then distance learning is the only option.
“We plan to continue this work through the summer to support schools as they prepare to welcome families back – virtually or in-person – this fall,” Duardo said in the report.
Pasadena Unified, which said Tuesday it’s preparing to open schools Aug. 17, the original date students were scheduled to return from summer break, has yet to release results of a survey asking parents which instructional method they prefer: in-person, online, or a combination of the two.
“Although we cannot determine what the public health conditions will be at that time, we are planning along two paths: the resumption of in-person instruction with protocols for physical distancing and safety, and the possibility of a resumption in distance learning with a continuum of learning alternatives for families,” PUSD Superintendent Brian McDonald said earlier in May. “As plans develop, we are committed to making this a collaborative process. Our decisions will continue to be guided by the local health situation and made in conjunction with local public health authorities.”