Parents of Pasadena Unified School District students have been asked to make a decision on whether they wish to send their children back to school in person, as school officials prepare to partially reopen campuses as early as Jan. 11.
PUSD officials distributed an online survey to district families earlier this week, requesting decisions be submitted by Nov. 22 on whether students will return to campus under a “simultaneous” learning model, or continue distance education alongside their existing classmates and teachers.
“While we are anticipating that January 11 is the earliest day that we can reopen campuses, we are actively planning to welcome students to school in person,” PUSD Superintendent Brian McDonald said in an email to parents.
“Because we must plan by committing to teachers and other personnel and by purchasing appropriate supplies, your decision on the survey is binding and applies to the remainder of the 2020-2021 school year, which ends June 3, 2021,” McDonald wrote.
Parents were encouraged to “review the options carefully before making your decision.”
“Depending on your indicated preference, we will send follow-up communications,” McDonald stated.
“To ensure that you receive all subsequent communications, please make sure to confirm and update your contact information in the Aeries parent portal. If you do not have a parent portal account, please click here for instructions to create one.”
Under the planned simultaneous learning model, a portion of students attend class in person while some of their classmates attend online, officials said. Details regarding the plan are available online at pusd.us/cms/lib/CA01901115/Centricity/Domain/2660/2021_Simultaneous_Learning_Fact_Sheet.pdf.
PUSD Board of Education Vice President Scott Phelps said that while the district is making plans, the course of the pandemic and the decisions of public health officials will ultimately guide the timeline.
Prior to a significant portion of the student body returning, smaller groups such as students in special education and English learner programs, are expected to return first, he said.
“Hopefully we’ll learn something from those groups and that will inform us,” he said.
Some parents have expressed concerns about being asked to make a decision now, with uncertainty regarding the pandemic still looming, Phelps said.
“I did see a little bit of parent feedback where they were a little bit nervous about choosing without knowing more about the environment that they would be putting their students in,” he said.
Additionally, negotiations between the PUSD and the United Teachers of Pasadena teachers’ union must be completed before the teachers will be able to return to the classroom, Phelps said.
Pasadena Education Network Executive Director Nancy Rose Dufford said her organization has also been fielding questions from some concerned parents.
“What we’re hearing is that, of course, this is a very stressful time for families; that all things being equal, everybody would want their children back in school,” she said. “But there is concern, of course, about when that could happen and how it can happen safely.”
Given the circumstances, Dufford said she commended the PUSD’s response.
“PUSD, I will say, is doing a really good job in terms of their planning. I know that some parents are concerned that they’re having to make a binding decision about whether they want to go back to school,” she said.
“Some parents are feeling like it’s too early for them to know if they’ll be OK doing that on Jan. 11th. But other parents understand that the district needs to do a lot of planning,” Dufford said. “And there’s a lot of staffing that has to happen and classrooms have to be put into a place that students can attend again. So there’s a lot that has to happen.”