Livermore Valley Joint Unified School District (LVJUSD) fleshed out multiple options for resuming school in late August.
The district is working with county and state officials, as well as considering the needs of families and staff, in deciding how to best serve students while keeping everyone safe and healthy.
Much like district officials and many teachers, more than half of families who responded to a survey said they would prefer having students in school as usual, full time. Close to 40% prefer a hybrid model that has students coming to their school sites for part of the week and learning from home part of the week. That would maintain social-distancing and hygiene requirements.
“We continue to be actively engaged in collaboration with our staff and the community on plans for possibilities for fall 2020,” Michael Biondi, assistant superintendent of educational services, told the board of education at their meeting last month. “Our planning emphasizes the social-emotional connection, as we miss our students, and they miss us.”
Potential Hybrid Schedule
Under the hybrid model, students would likely come to campus on alternating days to limit the number of people on campus at any time, said LVJUSD Superintendent Kelly Bowers. That will be more likely than having morning and afternoon shifts, because of the logistical complications of cleaning the school between shifts.
Other health and safety concerns expressed in the survey include a preference for following health expert guidance rather than public opinion, according to a district press release. That would include social distancing, mask wearing and enhanced cleaning and handwashing. However, many respondents valued returning to campus to support children’s mental health and social-emotional welfare.
In terms of alternate-day scheduling, board member Anne White noted, “Parents may also appreciate full-day schedules for planning and logistics.”
In the survey, families said having students attend school fewer than five days a week poses challenges for child care.
Many families also said it’s challenging to work at home or away if their student must learn from home. A smaller number of survey respondents indicated it’s not a challenge while working. Still fewer said it’s not a challenge because someone was available to supervise the children.
A task force including teachers, office staff, administrators and parent representatives will continue meeting through July to discuss options. No plan will be finalized until the first week of August to allow for updated information from the Alameda County Public Health Department, the California Department of Education and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“We realize everyone is eager to know, but we want to wait until the information evolves more,” Biondi said.
If distance learning were required, either part-time or full-time, the district is establishing clearer, common daily expectations for students and teachers. LVJUSD will also enhance teaching and learning resources, which will be organized in a new learning management system platform called Schoology.
In the survey, families requested consistent teacher interaction, structured online instruction and teaching consistency, and a defined schedule. Parents appreciated communication, but asked for comments and assignments to come through one platform. They also wanted teachers to be required to use technology for enhanced student connection and academic understanding.
In the survey, parents admitted that their understanding of what was expected of their child academically became worse during distance learning.
Having experienced the for several months already, the majority of teachers surveyed — 63% — said they were relatively comfortable if distance learning were required again. Nonetheless, 42% would prefer returning to teaching in person. Half were equally comfortable returning to campus or continuing distance learning, while just 7% preferred to continue distance learning.
Biondi also noted the district works closely with teachers, so that if a hybrid model were needed, they wouldn’t have to create double the curriculum materials for both in-class instruction and at-home learning.
Health on Campus
A return to school in any capacity will likely require several changes to ensure the health and safety of students and staff.
“We’re committed to the health of our employees,” Biondi said.
Under consideration are passive and active screening measures — such as checking body temperature — at entry points to campus. Schools may also limit nonessential visitors, and emphasize more robust hygiene measures, such as washing hands when entering or leaving school, restrooms and classrooms, and after sneezing and coughing. The task force is developing ways to maintain physical distancing, and masks or face shields will likely be required.
In the survey, some families preferred for children to return to school without masks. The district noted that current public health guidance requires face coverings at all times.
To address operational, technological and logistical concerns, LVJUSD will revise procedures for desk placements and custodial training. The wireless systems will be updated.
The district is also looking for help in purchasing 2,100 Chromebooks, which will provide one machine for each student in need. To replace obsolete computers, a total of 225 laptops are needed for teacher use.
Mealtime at school will also look very different. Breakfasts and lunches would be pre-packaged. When and where the children eat is also subject to change.
District officials acknowledge that families would like to know as soon as possible what the academic setting will look like come the first day of school, Aug. 25. However, officials pointed to a recent increase in the number of COVID-19 cases and the potential for legislative action that impacts schools. They will provide updates during the summer as options get solidified, and as the public health environment changes. Still, they will share a plan with the community by the first week of August.
“I like that we’re waiting before making a decision,” said Emily Prusso, board member. “We’re attempting to be flexible even after the school year starts.”