Solana Beach district parents will choose between on-site or remote learning for students

SBSD is prepping for Solana Santa Fe School to reopen in August.
SBSD is prepping for Solana Santa Fe School to reopen in August.
(Karen Billing)

The Solana Beach School District’s reopening plans are guided by safely bringing back as many students as possible as many days possible, maximizing teaching and learning and providing for the social and emotional needs of students, families and staff.

A recent survey of 1,861 district families showed that 63% preferred an on-site learning model, 22.9% a hybrid model and 14% remote learning as their first choice. The most support for on-site model was at Solana Vista and Skyline Schools with 71 and 69% respectively. Fifty-five percent of families at Solana Ranch preferred the on-site model.

Of the 174 Solana Santa Fe families that participated in the survey, 58% preferred in-school model, 23.5% a hybrid model and 18.3% selected online learning.

The most support for a hybrid model was the 26 percent of families at Solana Pacific and the highest percent for remote learning was 20% at Solana Ranch.

Sixty-two percent of certificated teachers surveyed preferred the on-site model.

SBSD expects to send communication to families about the learning models the week of July 13 and will ask parents to commit to a model by July 24 so they can finalize staffing.

Returning to school will mean the district, like all others, must follow the state and county guidance on the “big four”: face coverings, physical distancing, cleaning and sanitization, and screening practices like temperature checks. Those guidelines continue to evolve, including those regarding masks for students.

“I do believe there is going to be a natural grieving process that we are going to go through regarding school looking different next year,” said SBSD Superintendent Jodee Brentlinger. “We need to give others and ourselves grace, we need to respect each other and we need to help each other move forward with what I’m calling this new reality.”

“We all want to reopen schools and we all want schools to get as many kids back as possible, however, we have been challenged and honestly frustrated by how the guidance continues to change.”

Like the neighboring Rancho Santa Fe and Del Mar districts, SBSD is developing two instructional models: 5 days a week on-site learning and a full remote, structured learning model online. With their on-site model, students would be placed in cohorts to minimize the exposure to other students and they will adhere to the latest distancing and face covering guidelines. Most of the district classrooms have the possibility for 19 to 21 students with physical distancing—kindergarten and larger classrooms can possibly fit 23 to 24. There will be staggered lunches, recesses, arrival and departure times.

At the June 25 meeting, Solana Santa Fe parent Lauren Hay shared her concerns about bringing children back five days a week in full classrooms.

“We’re exhausted from the stress of the pandemic and juggling our careers and remote learning. While we’re all eager to put the pandemic behind us, in San Diego we’re seeing record case numbers and percent positive cases and alarming number of outbreaks The expectation from county health officials is that incidents will only increase this summer,” Hay said. “Just because we dream of our kids being back at school and life going back to normal does not mean it’s best for our children, families, teachers and community.”

“I struggle to understand why we’re diving headfirst into the most risky option rather than taking a measured approach beginning with a hybrid option this fall,” Hay said.

Neighboring Encinitas Union School District has announced they will be using the hybrid learning model as well as a full distance learning option. In the hybrid model, students will be on campus two days per week and working at home utilizing distance learning two and a half days per week. Students will come to campus on either a Monday/Wednesday or Tuesday/Thursday schedule.

No matter what model SBSD parents select, the district’s priority is a safe environment that is conducive for learning, said Sabrina Lee, assistant superintendent of instructional services. There is some flexibility in their planning for a hybrid schedule approach should they have to open schools with less than full capacity.