The start of school this fall will look different from anything students, parents or teachers have experienced before. Rather than the excitement of returning to campus and seeing friends in person, students will instead be starting the year remotely.
Last month, California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced that schools can only reopen once their county is off the state’s COVID-19 monitoring list for 14 consecutive days. Santa Clara County remained on the state’s list as of the Town Crier’s Monday press deadline.
As a result, districts plan to continue online learning this fall. Below is a roundup of what parents and students can expect at local schools.
Student kick-off activities begin for local high schoolers today, with classes starting Monday. Mountain View Los Altos Union High School District administrators have recommended to the board of trustees that school stay remote at least through the first quarter. The board was set to review the topic at a meeting Monday evening, after the Town Crier’s press deadline. For more, see the article on page 1.
This fall, the district is giving families two learning options. Parents are being asked to pick one option for the full semester.
Under Option A, students will have a regular schedule of classes taught by teachers at their home school. Although learning will start online, if it becomes permissible, certain groups of students may be brought back to campus.
Students enrolled in Option B will stay remote for the full semester, with classes offered through UC Scout and Edgenuity, both online content providers. The curriculum is self-paced, with support from MVLA teachers overseeing the courses.
“Using the conjunction of both UC Scout and Edgenuity gives us the most thorough options for our students to be able to have similar classes (to the ones) they are already signed up for,” said Teri Faught, the district’s distance learning administrator.
Letter grading will return for students enrolled in both options, after the district went to a credit/no-credit system in the spring. Both options also will include Honors and Advanced Placement classes, and students will have access to extracurricular activities and clubs, as well as academic counseling, mental health services and the tutorial center.
Those in Option B will not be able to take part in electives and programs, such as choir or dance, at their regular school.
Students will be automatically enrolled in Option A, unless they affirmatively select Option B. Registration for Option B is slated to remain open through Monday.
The Los Altos School District will be launching the 2020-2021 school year remotely Aug. 19. Similar to the high school district, the Los Altos School District is offering parents the choice between two programs.
One will stay entirely virtual, while the other will transition back to campus as it is allowed. Both programs will be taught by LASD teachers and cover the same curriculum, including special subjects for elementary students and electives for junior high schoolers.
However, the virtual program will be taught by teachers throughout the district, rather than just at a child’s home school. Superintendent Jeff Baier has appointed Elizabeth Leach, a teacher and longtime LASD employee, as elementary school principal of the virtual school.
Roughly 18-20% of families have chosen the fully remote option, Baier said. LASD families will have the opportunity to switch between programs every six weeks. When a student transitions from the virtual to the blended model, administrators will aim to place a child back at his or her home school, though it isn’t guaranteed.
The district is considering applying for a waiver to start bringing elementary schoolers back to campus. The state’s guidance allows districts to apply for a waiver from their local health officer to reopen elementary schools, though certain requirements must be met before a waiver is granted.
When a return to campus becomes possible, the district plans to start by bringing back those students who have had the hardest time with online learning. That could include English-language learners, low-income students and those in certain special-education programs.
The district then intends to have students return by grade level, using an A/B cohort model where any given student is on campus two days a week.
According to Baier, the youngest learners would come back first, with grades returning in pairs (transitional kindergarten and kindergarten, then first and second grade, etc.) and likely at least two weeks between each group.
Bullis Charter School students will be starting the new school year virtually Aug. 19. According to Superintendent Maureen Israel, the school is taking lessons from the spring to build plans for the fall.
“There are a lot of pieces of the puzzle,” she said. “What we’re really focusing on right now is building the most thoughtful remote learning environment for all of our students and families.”
According to Israel, the school is building a schedule where students have access to core subjects, as well as classes such as art, drama and physical education.
School officials also are discussing the possibility of applying for a waiver to bring back some elementary students for in-person learning. In particular, Israel said BCS is looking at the possibility of bringing back the youngest students, as well as those most impacted by distance learning.
In the meantime, the school is moving ahead with a remote start. When school does eventually return in person, Israel said the intent is for parents to be able to choose to stay fully remote, though that could be impacted by government requirements.