LBUSD to assess combination of in-person and online learning for 2020-2021 school year

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As students begin to close their school books for the summer, questions of what the 2020-2021 school year will look like during the COVID-19 pandemic continue to arise.

While some parents aren’t ready to send students back to an on-site learning environment, others believe students are experiencing valuable learning losses under distance learning.

Third district councilmember Suzie A. Price sent a letter to the Long Beach Unified School District (LBUSD) last week, which encouraged the district to work with parents of LBUSD students to find a safe way to reintegrate students into an on-site learning environment.

“Students are experiencing significant learning losses as well as missed activities,” Price said in an Instagram post accompanied by the letter. “These missed learning and growth opportunities also include essential socialization and exposure to Long Beach’s diversity of cultures, viewpoints, and experiences.”

In a statement to the Signal Tribune, Price’s Chief of Staff Jack Cunningham said that the councilmember is mindful that the district has a lot of different considerations when it comes to a decision on reintegrating students into on-site learning.

“The details of what would need to happen to ensure safety is something she defers to the school board on but as a parent and a policymaker in the city, she will always make herself available to facilitate any community forums on the topic,” Cunningham said.

He added, “As this is a very robust national and statewide topic of discussion, she has been asked to weigh-in on the topic and has consistently reported to her residents that she defers to Long Beach Unified to come up with the best plan, which hopefully involves some sort of safe and prudent phasing-in of school this fall.”

The LBUSD has begun releasing some details of what can be expected come fall.

In a YouTube video sent to families last week, Dr. Jill Baker, Deputy Superintendent of Schools for LBUSD, gave an update on planning in preparation for the 2020 school year.

“Planning for next year and future years involves developing approaches to learning that have never existed in LBUSD before and doing so with a potential 10% reduction to our district budget, which is approximately $70 million,” Dr. Baker said in the video.

One of the innovative approaches being considered according to Baker, is a blended learning opportunity that will allow students to choose a combination of in-person and online learning.

“Our aim is to bring as many students back to school as is safely possible. It has been well recognized that not only are K-12 students different in their needs for learning than college students but also having students in school creates the best opportunity for our families to get back to work,” Baker said.

Additionally, as reintegration to on-site learning is being contemplated, there will be an expectation of social distancing in classrooms. Large group gatherings such as assemblies, activities and events will not be taking place as advised.

According to Baker, surveys have been sent to teachers, parents and students to evaluate their experiences with distance learning.

In order to incorporate multiple perspectives and a lived experience into future plans, the findings of the surveys will be reviewed by re-opening task forces.

Baker also revealed in the video that the re-opening task forces will be expanding in the following weeks and will include members of the teacher, classified employees and management associations respectively.

“This work will require that we continue to collaborate well into the days of summer, continually assessing and reassessing our plans and maintaining close contact with our local health officials,” the deputy superintendent of schools said.

Ultimately, the district will determine the ability for students to return to on-site learning based on the direction of California Gov. Gavin Newsom and the local health department.