The Solana Beach School District made it official at the board’s May 7 board meeting: students will not return to the classroom this school year and distance learning will continue through June 4. Superintendent Jodee Brentlinger said the board’s decision offers parents some stability as the district continues preparing for the possibility of re-opening schools on Aug. 25.
The district is exploring using the week of June 8-12 for year-end activities such as virtual promotions for students and other celebrations—June 10 was meant to be the groundbreaking ceremony for the new Solana Vista School.
“We have so much uncertainty right now in our lives---our families do, our staff does and our students do--- and this is one piece of certainty we can give to all of them,” said trustee Vicki King.
Like all of the board members, King said she had “enormous concerns” about reopening schools and the protocols that will be required to keep students and staff safe.
Brentlinger said the district is following San Diego County’s indefinite stay at home order and Governor Gavin Newsom’s staged recovery plan. A separate state educational workgroup focused on the reopening of schools is expected to set the requirements for districts to be able to reopen.
Newsom stated last week that the earliest schools could consider reopening is July or August but Brentlinger said that there are still many more questions than answers at this point.
The San Diego County Office of Education has additionally provided all local school districts with recommendations for planning for a delayed school opening or restoring operations in phases this fall.
“When we do decide to reopen schools we need to assure students, staff and families that our schools are safe,” Brentlinger said.
Those safety assurances include the district having a sufficient amount of health and safety supplies—Brentlinger said right now, for example, they do not have the amount of hand sanitizer they would need to feel comfortable reopening.
As soon as the district learns the state requirements for re-opening, they can begin developing cleaning and disinfectant schedules and multiple school models for families. The district has to plan for what a school day will look like with social distancing and how they will monitor student and staff health.
“I have started to get several emails from parents who very much want us to continue with distance learning next year,” Brentlinger said. “They feel much more comfortable with that model than any other model at this particular time.”
Brentlinger said the district plans to survey parents about who is interested in returning to school in August or if they would rather have a hybrid model.
“One thing that’s really clear is that the economy is not going to open until schools are open,” said SBSD Vice President Debra Schade. “There are so many parents that are juggling right now. We’re at the frontline of this, it’s going to be a very difficult road ahead for districts because the dependency for supervision of children during the school week falls on schools.”
At the meeting, the board also discussed the district’s options regarding summer programming. Brentlinger said they are exploring using summer programming as a “soft reopening”—getting students and staff back to physical school spaces and providing an opportunity for some students to recoup learning skills that were potentially lost during the school closure.
The district has looked at the options of delaying the summer program to the end of July, shortening the timeline from four to two weeks as well as developing distance learning for summer classes.
The district is considering offering a free reading intervention program for K-2 students as well as a free two-week writing intervention class for students exiting third, fourth and fifth grades. They will also explore developing grade-level specific learning that will be available to all students as optional summer learning reinforcement.
Union complimented the district staff for being proactive in its planning.
“We’re going to persevere and rally as a community and I know as a board we’re incredibly proud of our district and everything we’ve accomplished up to this point,” Union said. “I have full confidence we’re going to involve stakeholders and give very thoughtful attention to how we move ahead.”