Phased Expansion to In-Person Instruction Proposed for Oct. 26
As we continue teaching and learning in this most unusual of years, I want to take a moment to thank our staff members and community partners who recently opened most of our schools to “cohorts,” or small groups of students, through the Distance Learning Support Program (DLSP). Participants include special education students, English learners, and children of essential workers. The program is operated in partnership with the YMCA of San Diego County. Already, more than 1,100 students are participating in DLSP at 41 of our 46 schools. In a traditional school year, this program might otherwise be considered a before- or after-school program. Now, during this pandemic year, DLSP operates during the school day to provide care and support with distance learning for our students who most need the program.
With the success experienced with DLSP, the Chula Vista Elementary School District is proposing an expansion to live in-person instruction when supported by local data. Ideally, we would start offering in-person instruction at the beginning of the second quarter of our academic year, which is Monday, October 26. We propose a phased expansion, starting with students in Preschool through Grade 2, as well as Special Day Class students (Mild/Moderate and Moderate/Severe special education students). I have heard from many of you about the enormous challenge, frustrations even, of balancing work and life without the safety and security provided by our local schools. Given the extensive protocols and requirements necessary for in-person instruction to take place, there is little doubt that schools are one of the safest places for students. In fact, several public school districts in San Diego County have already opened their campuses to at least small groups of students, including special education students, English learners, and others who need additional help or receive specialized instruction. More school districts will be opening in the weeks ahead in our region and across the country.
Because COVID-19 transmission rates have been higher in certain of our local zip codes than the rest of San Diego County, our District is taking a measured and cautious approach toward a return to on-site classes. With our proposed expansion to in-person instruction, students would attend school four days a week (M-Th), possibly on a modified day schedule. Our goal is 16 students per cohort for most classes, but no more than 18, in Transitional Kindergarten-Grade 2 in order to maintain social distancing. Preschool students would remain at no more than 14 students in a classroom with no more than two adults present. Students would have Fridays reserved for distance learning from home. More details can be found here. The proposed reopening will be the focus of our next District Town Hall virtual meeting, scheduled for 6 p.m. on Thursday, October 8. Please save the date and join us!
It is important to understand that parents can choose to keep their students in the current distance learning instructional model—even when/if schools are reopened for in-person instruction. A commitment form will be sent to all District parents by school principals to determine which parents want their child/children to return to in-person instruction or remain in distance learning.
With the safety of students and staff foremost in our decision-making, our District will continue to work with local public health officials and the County Office of Education to ensure a reopening that is consistent with federal, state and local guidelines. We also continue to dialogue with our labor groups about how to return safely because of our increasing concern for students’ social-emotional well-being, physical safety, and widening academic inequities.
I appreciate your flexibility and understanding as we adjust to ever-changing conditions.
Francisco Escobedo, Ed.D.
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