As of now, when students in Riverside County head back to school this August, they will be doing so virtually.
And Temecula students will be no different, Temecula Valley Unified staff told board members and the public at the district’s school board meeting earlier this week.
TVUSD staff had been preparing plans for in-person, hybrid and online-only learning models for months, with the goal being to give parents options when classes begin again Aug. 13.
But that went out the window when Gov. Gavin Newsom announced on Friday, July 17, that schools in counties that are on the state’s coronavirus monitoring list cannot resume in-person classes until their county has been off the list for 14 days. Riverside County, which recorded 907 new coronavirus cases and one death on the day of TVUSD’s board meeting, remains on the state’s monitoring list.
“Our plan had been to offer a traditional, a blended, and an online (learning model), but as most of you know, recent orders from our governor have mandated that, as of this date, we will be opening in an online learning format only,” Deputy Superintendent Jodi McClay told the board. “So I think it’s critical that we emphasize that as of this date, we do not have a choice.”
There is one exception to the governor’s order — health officers may grant a waiver to allow elementary schools only to reopen in-person if requested by a district’s superintendent, in consultation with labor organizations, parents and community organizations.
”When considering a waiver request, the local health officer must consider local data and consult with the California Department of Public Health,” according to information shared online by the governor’s office.
But McClay told the board that the district will have to wait and see what the process is for requesting a waiver, as those steps have not yet been announced.
“The process for this and the benchmarks by which a district may be evaluated for a waiver have not been determined yet,” McClay said.
She said the district expected the criteria for applying for the waiver to be available sometime this week or early next week. At that point, she said, “we may be able to see whether we would meet the criteria in order to apply.”
Board member Julie Farnbach, when given a chance to speak later in the meeting, was the only board member to express that she was strongly in support of pursuing a waiver.
“I’m in dozens of different Facebook groups because I need to hear the community, and I was not exaggerating at our last meeting when I said we are losing hundreds and hundreds of families,” Farnbach said. “There’s no way we’re gonna have 27,000 students enrolled. I can tell you that right now. It will be less than 25. It could be more like 20. And not only do I insist that we consider the waiver no matter how much of a pain the paperwork is, there are law firms out there ready to sue the governor because of his mandate.”
Board member Kristi Rutz-Robbins, speaking after Farnbach, called for caution.
“We are doing the best we can in this horrible situation, we have to move to online learning, we have the public health department that is guiding us through this and we will follow the professional advice and open when we can, safely,” Rutz-Robbins said.
Kimberly Velez, TVUSD’s assistant superintendent of educational support services, gave the board information on some of the district’s plans for online learning as of now.
“We are still working on the final reopening plans, there’s still a lot of work to be done before Aug. 12,” McClay said before Velez’s presentation.
Velez said unlike in the spring when the district had to quickly move to a distance learning model with little advance preparation, and thus adopted a “hold harmless” grading policy in which students could not have their grades lowered after in-person classes ended, TVUSD students will be graded during online learning this year as they normally would.
“We will have a scheduled school day using consistent learning platforms that work with integrated technology,’ Velez said, “with high quality teaching and learning at the forefront.
She said daily attendance will be taken.
“We will have accountability with daily, live check-ins and virtual instruction five days a week,” Velez said.
Anna Tapley, director of curriculum, instruction and assessment, said elementary students would use Seesaw and Google Classroom programs for online learning.
“Seesaw in particular supports our younger students who can easily submit written work and read aloud for teachers to evaluate,” she said.
Tapley said elementary parents could expect online learning to cover “all subject areas with approximately four to five hours of learning each day, five days a week.”
McClay said once schools eventually are allowed to reopen, the district will likely move forward gradually with a “cohort” model of some groups of students returning certain days per week, and with all families being allowed to remain online-only if that is their preference.
Jason Osbourne, TVUSD’s executive director of maintenance, operations and transportation, presented information on precautions the district will take at all school sites once in-person learning resumes.
TVUSD is planning to provide five cloth masks to each student and employee, face shields for all staff, gloves for staff at central locations, as well as plexiglass barriers in areas such as counseling and nurse offices where staff may have to interact with students or parents, according to Osbourne.
Will Fritz can be reached by email at email@example.com.