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San Diego Unified School District Releases Plans For Distance Learning In Fall

In this April 14, 2020, photo, Radik Musin directs families in cars as they l...

Photo by Gregory Bull / AP Photo

Above: In this April 14, 2020, photo, Radik Musin directs families in cars as they line up to receive computers for San Diego Unified School District distance learning, in San Diego.

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San Diego Unified School District's leaders and educators have announced they are planning an Aug. 31 remote restart to the school year during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Aired: August 3, 2020 | Transcript

San Diego Unified School District's leaders and educators have announced they are planning an Aug. 31 remote restart to the school year during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Reported by Joe Hong

The district will open the school year at the end of August with a new online education initiative educators said they designed to hew as closely to the traditional school year as possible. The plan includes a six-hour school day with customized learning experiences for each K-12 student, live daily interaction with teachers through video conferencing and custom learning experiences based on student needs with at least three hours of online instruction daily, two hours of independent learning and one hour of working in small groups with other students or participating in educator office hours.

"It’s all supposed to be tailored to the individual needs of students," said Richard Barrera, Vice President of the San Diego Unified school board. "That’s how we teach in a normal school day, and so we're trying to replicate that as closely as we can in the virtual setting."

Additionally, all elementary students will receive instruction in reading, writing, mathematics, science, social studies, physical education and the arts. Students will receive grades to measure progress.

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San Diego Unified's plans were created over weeks of discussions among parents, students, educators and administrators, culminating in the formal agreement announced Thursday night by San Diego Unified and the San Diego Education Association.

Superintendent Cindy Marten said the district will continue working on access and providing free computers and Wi-Fi service to families that need them. In the spring, San Diego Unified provided more than 50,000 Chromebook computers to allow students the ability to work from home. More than 97% of students logged into their classes during that time.

"All San Diego educators long for the day they can be back in class with their students, but the COVID-19 crisis has made that impossible for now," said Kisha Borden, SDEA President. "I am proud of the work we've done to make improvements to online learning that puts the emphasis on the quality of instruction and creates space for meaningful parent and family engagement during this time of crisis."

The changes to online learning were designed after hundreds of hours of conversations with parents via online Zoom calls. Students, educators, school administrators and community stakeholders also participated in the summerlong engagement and planning process.

RELATED: San Diego County School Districts Taking Different Approaches On Reopening

According to the district, this spring, many parents expressed frustration with the challenges of learning multiple software platforms to maintain contact with school. San Diego Unified announced plans to limit the number of platforms parents will need to use.

"Online learning is going to be better because parents helped design it," said Mahogany Taylor, president of the San Diego Unified Parent Teacher Association. "There will be many challenges to overcome this school year, both those that are currently known and those that are yet to come. But students, families and district personnel have repeatedly shown the courage, flexibility and teamwork necessary to make this year successful."

To support students, parents and educators, San Diego Unified has planned a boot camp to help everyone adapt. Both educators and students will spend the first week of the school year learning how to use the new system of learning.

Additional details of the online learning plan will be released by the district on Aug. 10, the same day the district plans to provide the next public assessment of when it will be safe to physically reopen. In the meantime, Barrera urged San Diego residents to help slow the spread of COVID-19 so physical classrooms can reopen.

"There is no substitute for in-person learning," Barrera said. "The downsides to closing schools are very real and very significant. Students do better when they’re at school."

Listen to this story by Joe Hong.

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