[UPDATED] Pasadena school officials, staff and students’ families alike are preparing for the first day of an unprecedented school year, set to begin with a program of 100 percent distance learning amid precautions and restrictions to prevent the further spread of COVID-19.
Each of the students in the Pasadena Unified School District began the process of picking up supplies including district-supplied Chromebooks on Monday, according to the PUSD. Individual schools were providing staggered pickup times for students to avoid crowding at campuses ahead of the first day of instruction on Aug. 17.
“Students will be expected to log in and start their school day at the regular start time,” the district said in a written statement. Student’s will use the “Canvas Learning Management System” which will appear on their “Clever Dashboard” preloaded on their Chromebooks.
Each school will be providing students with specific distance learning schedules.
Students in grades four through 12 will be required to complete a minimum of four hours of coursework each day, while those in grades one through three must complete three hours and 50 minutes of instruction each day, the district statement said. Kindergarten students will be required to complete three hours of instruction.
Teachers are required to interact with students daily and take attendance during remote learning, according to the PUSD. Accommodations for students with special needs will be provided.
“Instruction in 2020-21 requires a significant shift in how we relay academic content and, more importantly, how much of that content we can reasonably expect a student to absorb,” the statement said.
The district’s projected enrollment for the coming school year was 15,295 students, representing a decrease of 713 over last fall, said PUSD Board of Education Vice President Scott Phelps.
Patrick Shopwell, a parent of students at Marshall Fundamental School, said he was optimistic, though not without concerns.
“I think we are ready for the new school year. As long as ‘ready’ means we are willing to give everything a try, without any real idea where things are heading or going to end up,” he said in an email. “I think that is the hardest thing, obviously — the sheer uncertainty of it all. No one knows how this will go, and we all expect that virtual school in October will probably be different from what they are telling us will happen next week. And I think we are OK with that.”
“One of the few certainties, to me, is that everyone in the district and the school has the best intentions, and I think that’s a good place to start,” he said.
Shopwell added that in the case of his family, he was fortunate in that both he and his wife were able to work full time from home and have flexible schedules.
“I can take off hours during the day to help my kids, should things arise. My kids are also in eighth grade. I can’t imagine how difficult it is for those with elementary school kids, where I think school is so much about social interaction, Shopwell said. “But even in middle school, the social interaction is a huge loss to the kids. I would rather they were in school for that — for all of those activities like band, and dance, and sports, and student clubs.”
But while the pandemic keeps society and a standstill, “We will work hard to keep the academics going, and we will all just have to wait for those other things that make school life so great,” he added. “I guess we will all learn patience too.”
Two models of learning are expected to be offered during the coming school year.
All students will begin on an online model, with no in-person classes held, according to the PUSD.
Once public health officials give clearance for activity on school campuses, a hybrid model is to be offered to students, consisting of both online instruction and in-person classes.
Once Los Angeles County reaches Phase 3 in its COVID-19 recovery, “students can choose to remain with online learning from home or move to on-campus learning,” the PUSD statement said. “The schedule for the hybrid model will remain the same, regardless if students are reporting to campus or are learning from home.”
When it comes to a dress code while students are taking part in classes via webcams, individual schools will set policy, as they have in the past, Cahalan said.
“There currently is no plan to revisit this at the board level,” he said. “Although, we might if it becomes an issue. It’s largely up to principals and their site councils to address the issue of a dress code.”
The board does maintain control over what type of dress code restrictions schools can implement, such as barring gender-specific dress codes, “Cahalan said. “If we get complaints about dress codes or enforcement that aren’t addressed satisfactorily at a site we would ask the Policy Committee to review.”
The PUSD reached a $4 million agreement late last month with Arizona State University’s ASU Prep Digital to provide the online coursework for the coming school year.