Lake Elsinore Unified students won’t be heading back to physical classrooms until January at the earliest.
LEUSD’s board of trustees voted Oct. 22 to continue distance learning through the rest of the semester and set a tentative restart date of Jan. 13, with students being allowed to return to classrooms part-time on that date. The district also voted to approve draft plans for part-time reopening.
“We cannot predict the public health impact as the COVID-19 pandemic moves into this winter,” Superintendent Doug Kimberly told the LEUSD board. “We do know COVID-19 will continue to heavily impact instruction and school operations this school year. Reopening schools will likely be like starting a brand new school year because of the pandemic and social distancing requirements as well as the changes to master schedules to accommodate parent wishes.”
It was with that reasoning that Kimberly said his recommendation to the board was to keep students learning from home through winter break.
The reopening schedule and draft plans were approved by the LEUSD board 4-1, with board member Christopher McDonald in sole opposition.
“I’m having a very hard time understanding how a hybrid schedule is going to be better for the students and better for the teachers,” McDonald said, explaining his dissent. “And for that reason I think we maybe would be better off staying virtual.”
Reopening would be impossible in the short-term, anyway, with Riverside County having reverted to the purple tier of the state’s coronavirus reopening plan as of Oct. 20.
And LEUSD’s plans to restart in-person education part-time in January will depend on health conditions, Kimberly said.
“It is contingent on the County of Riverside being in the red tier or better, (as well as) state guidance and local health orders,” the superintendent said. “If the County of Riverside is sent back to the purple tier or is maintaining in the purple tier (in January) the district will reassess conditions for reopening schools second semester and adjust dates and schedules as needed.”
The draft learning plans for elementary, middle and high school students approved by the board Oct. 22, which will go into effect if and when campuses reopen, were mostly finished but may still be subject to some tweaks, Kimberly said, as the district was still negotiating the plans with LEUSD’s labor unions and some changes may be made to meet logistical and safety needs.
At LEUSD’s Oct. 8 board meeting, district staff presented three different learning models for elementary students, two for middle school students and one for high school students.
Plans presented regarding elementary education on Oct. 8, which were drafted as “a.m.-p.m.” cohort models, called for in-person learning to be phased in over a four- or seven-week time period based on grade level, but on Oct. 22, the draft plan for elementary schools approved by board members removed the gradual phase-in, since the date for returning to campuses was pushed back to January.
In the “a.m.-p.m.” model approved by the board, one group of students will be sent to school in the morning and another will attend school in the afternoon, minimizing the number of students on campus at any given time. Students will still participate in a period of asynchronous learning — that is, learning that does not take place in real-time with an instructor — during the part of the day when they are not on campus.
Kimberly told the board that district staff had been working on two reopening models for middle school students while the Oct. 22 board meeting’s agenda was being drafted, but that staff had narrowed it down to one plan as of the meeting.
The middle school reopening model presented to the board is a morning block schedule, in which students are divided into two groups and come to campus two days a week.
The first group would attend class periods 1,4 and 6 on Monday mornings and periods 2,4 and 6 on Tuesday mornings, while the second group would instead attend those classes on Thursdays and Fridays, with Wednesdays being a distance learning day for all students.
The high school reopening plan presented to the board was similar, with students being divided into two groups, one of which would attend periods 1,4 and 6 on Mondays and the other attending the same classes on Thursdays and Fridays, with Wednesdays being all-virtual.
The district will still offer a distance learning format for families that wish to continue in that format — Kimberly said in a survey sent out to parents after the Oct. 8 board meeting, more than 6,000 respondents said they preferred to keep their children in distance learning.
Will Fritz can be reached by email at email@example.com.