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San Diego Unified Expands In-Person Instruction With Learning Labs

Four students sitting at desks 6 feet apart as a teacher guides them through ...

Photo by Nicholas McVicker

Above: Four students sitting at desks 6 feet apart as a teacher guides them through a lesson at Lafayette Elementary School in Clairemont Mesa on Oct. 13, 2020.

Allison Paredes, a kindergarten teacher at Franklin Elementary in City Heights, volunteered in January to work in-person with six kindergarten students for just a few hours a day. But, she says, those few hours made a big difference.

“I’ve been able to have my most vulnerable students coming in so my students where English might not be their first language. So, it helps with the language barriers, or my students that have individualized educational programs,” Paredes said. “It’s been really great.”

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Starting next week, Paredes will teach twice as many students on an in-person basis as part of the district’s Learning Labs program launched early this month. Schools across the district, including Franklin Elementary, will bring back thousands of vulnerable students for a full day of in-person instruction.

With this latest step towards full reopening, teachers like Paredes will have a chance to gradually transition from virtual to in-person instruction.

“I got to try it on with six students and because it went well I feel very comfortable and that helped my decision in expanding,” Paredes said.

But she won’t be on her own: The district is providing a classroom aide to make sure students are staying safe and on track. Paredes said this will be a huge help as she’s simultaneously teaching students in-person and virtually.

Reported by Joe Hong

“In a kindergarten classroom, it’s going to be important to have a second adult in the room to help,” she said. “If students are having a problem in-person, that second adult can go assist them while I’m working on the lesson.”

Districtwide, about 20,000 students qualify to participate in the Learning Labs. The district is prioritizing students with disabilities, students experiencing homelessness, foster children and students identified by their teachers as falling behind during distance learning.

“Being able to zone-in and target those students even as we’re working towards broader reopening for everyone is important,” said Richard Barrera, president of the district’s board.

RELATED: San Diego Unified School District Resumes COVID-19 Testing Program With Plans To Expand

The district will present an updated plan for a broader reopening based on recent CDC and state guidelines at Tuesday’s regular board meeting. Barrera said the Learning Labs provide a way to test the district’s safety protocols before a full reopening.

“Even though we may put the mitigation strategies in place, they have to be implemented successfully so this gives us a chance to do that,” he said.

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Photo of Joe Hong

Joe Hong
Education Reporter

opening quote marksclosing quote marksAs an education reporter, I'm always looking for stories about learning. My favorite education stories put a student's face on bigger policy issues. I regularly sift through enrollment data, test scores and school budgets, but telling student-centered stories is my top priority.

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