Classes for the 2020-2021 school year will begin all-online for the Temecula Valley Unified School District, and a few days later than originally planned.
At a special meeting of TVUSD’s governing board on July 30, the board unanimously adopted a memorandum of understanding with the Temecula Valley Educators Association — the district’s teachers’ union — to adjust the calendar for the 2020-2021 academic year in order to allow preparations to be made for beginning the school year online.
School had originally been planned to start on Wednesday, Aug. 12. Under the new calendar, classes will now begin on Monday, Aug. 17, with staff development days and a teacher preparation day taking place the week before. The school year will also be extended, with the last day of classes set to be Tuesday, June 8, 2021.
The adjusted calendar adds two work days for certificated staff. Those two additional days will cost the district about $1.9 million, to be paid for through funds from the federal CARES Act.
The district also agreed to a separate memorandum of understanding with the Temecula Valley Educators Association regarding online learning, reopening and safety impacts.
Per the terms of that agreement, the district must notify employees as soon as possible when Riverside County is removed from the state’s coronavirus watchlist, and must give at least seven days’ notice before a transition to in-classroom learning is made.
Other stipulations in that agreement include that the district must provide appropriate guidance regarding online learning, and that it will allow employees access to their worksites and classrooms on a rotating schedule.
The district “encourages unit members to fulfill their professional duties from their respective worksite, while using Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and maintaining appropriate physical/social distancing, although they may elect to work from home.”
TVUSD Deputy Superintendent of Educational Support Services Jodi McClay, who is set to become the district’s new superintendent on Aug. 1, also offered an update on the district’s online learning plans.
McClay said the district is still planning schedules for online learning at the elementary, middle and high school levels and hopes to have finalized schedules sent to parents on Monday, Aug. 3, but presented preliminary versions of those schedules to the governing board and the TVUSD community.
While schedules for distance learning were very flexible in the spring and attendance was not required, McClay said when school begins on Aug. 17, students will be expected to be participating in online learning during the same times they would typically be on their school campuses.
“As an example,” McClay said, “an elementary student last year attended school from 9 a.m. until 3:20 p.m., and that really will be the expectation this year.”
McClay said instruction will involve a combination of synchronous learning in which students are interacting live with a teacher, asynchronous learning in which students are not interacting live, and independent work.
At the middle and high school level, McClay said preliminary schedules will have students checking in with a homeroom teacher on Mondays and then primarily working asynchronously, and then participating in classes Tuesday through Friday, with three classes per day — essentially a block schedule. She said students will receive six hours of instruction per week for each class.
McClay said the district is committed to providing every single student with a device to use for online learning — something actually required by California’s Senate Bill 98, signed into law by Gov. Newsom in June.
The bill requires school districts operating with a distance learning format to provide devices and connectivity to every child, live interaction teacher-student interaction for every child, rigorous and grade-appropriate assignments, and support for special education, english learners and students who are not performing at grade level.
TVUSD currently has an order for 8,000 iPads expected to arrive before the start of the school year, McClay said.
McClay stressed to parents that the decision to begin the school year online-only was not in TVUSD’s hands. Gov. Gavin Newsom announced on July 17 that schools in counties on the state’s coronavirus monitoring list — which is currently true of Riverside County — must being the school year virtually and may not resume in-person instruction until after they have been off the list for 14 days.
“This was not a local decision,” McClay said. “We really didn’t have a choice, and so basically we are adhering to our governor’s mandate right now, which states that if our local health jurisdiction, which in our case is Riverside County, has been on what’s called the monitoring list in the last 14 days, we must conduct our business in a distance-learning-only format.”
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.
However, there is not yet a process for applying for a waiver, nor are there any criteria for what districts may qualify.
“We are anxiously awaiting that information so that we can visit this topic,” McClay said. “I know we have a lot of community support for applying for this waiver, and so as soon as we get the criteria and we know what the process is and whether or not we would qualify, we will most definitely be investigating that.”
Will Fritz can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.