PUHSD board approves online-only instruction due to COVID-19 pandemic

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Kim Harris
Managing Editor

The Perris Unified High School District has approved a plan to open high schools in full distance learning mode, citing the inability to keep all students safe amid the COVID-19 pandemic during a special meeting held Wednesday, July 8. 

PUHSD will have online learning five days a week Monday through Friday with a daily learning schedule that will allow students to work from home or anywhere for students at Paloma Valley, Heritage and Perris high schools.

“This part of our rights as students and staff to be safe on campus,” one commenter said in written comments read aloud to the board since the meeting was a virtual one. 

The commenter also addressed the issue of students and families being affected by COVID-19 disproportionately. As of July 9, 708 cases and 16 deaths were reported in the city of Perris, and 430 cases with six deaths were reported in Menifee.

“How is that being taken into consideration,” the commenter asked.

Grant Bennett, superintendent of PUHSD, told the board staff recommended the distance learning model.

“We feel like right now with what’s going on, we want to keep the safety of our staff and our students, so that is the one that makes the most sense,” he said.

Board president Anthony Stafford said he agreed with the distance learning. 

“Of course, anything is up for change, if things got better or worse, but we have to have a plan and that plan would work for me,” he said.

As part of the move, there will be daily instruction from teachers and student supported learning, according to a document highlighting the plan shown during the meeting.

The full distance learning guiding principles the plan offers high quality instruction and rigorous learning experiences for all students through essential standards and formative assessments designed for a distance learning model, according to the document.

The district will prioritize social emotional support including identifying students in need of additional support and will build and maintain a safe and inclusive virtual classroom community.

Learning will be assessed through academic screening programs with feedback, and intervention will be provided to students as needed. According to the document, attendance will be taken through Infinite Campus, and grades will be issued based on essential standards.

Academic schedules will be structured to support access, engagement and achievement and to assist students to become independent learners.

The motion to begin the 2020-2021 school year as distance learning only passed unanimously, and the district will reassess the instructional model as the situation changes.

Other options considered by the district included blended hybrid learning and a full reopening under the traditional model of in-classroom instruction.

“I do want the community to know that after all the brainstorming and all the data that has been give to us, I believe that this is whole-heartedly right, morally right and right for our students and staff,” board member Edward Garcia said. “Everyone’s life s valuable, everyone means something to us and we truly and generally care about you. I strongly believe that safety is No. 1 for everyone.”

Kim Harris can be reached by email at valleyeditor@reedermedia.com.