Solana Beach plans to offer full-time, in-person school in 2021-22

A fourth grade classroom at Skyline School.
A fourth grade classroom at Skyline School.

The Solana Beach School District is planning for all students to return five days a week in the fall. The board is expected to make a final decision on the 2021-22 school year at its regular meeting on April 15.

As of March 8, all K-6 students in the district have returned to four days a week in-person school with fourth graders being the last to come back. In order to accommodate some of the larger 4-6 grade classes while maintaining distancing and stable groupings, some classrooms have been extended into secondary learning spaces. Board members said they have all enjoyed visiting the school sites to see in-person teaching and learning in action.

“I’ve never seen kids so excited to be in school,” said SBSD President Vicki King. “That’s the one silver lining, that kids love school in 2021 and it’s amazing to see.”

In order to bring all students back this fall, the district is recommending to lower class sizes for the upcoming school year: K-3 classes will go from 24:1 to 20:1 and grades 4-6 will be lowered from 27:1 to 25:1. SBSD Superintendent Jodee Brentlinger said the smaller class sizes will support one full class being in one learning space. For the upper-grade classes that have more students, the district will prioritize using larger spaces to provide for increased opportunities for ventilation and to allow more room for students to spread out.

“As long as we’re able to put all the kids in one class I think this is a wonderful program,” board member Dana King said.

Health and safety mitigation measures will remain a top priority for students and staff and they will follow the California Department of Public Health guidelines, which at this time includes facial coverings, stable groupings, distancing and sufficient ventilation.

Board member Julie Union thanked the district for being proactive in its planning as parents had shared a lot of concerns about the instructional model and are deciding what to do in the coming year. During public comment, parents continued to ask for a full return, for “live” teachers, no split classroom spaces and no more Zoom.

“I’m just so happy and grateful that we’re able to offer what our parents wanted which is five days a week with children in one classroom and being able to offer an online model as well,” Union said.

In an initial planning survey conducted by the district, 94% of parents said they would like their children to return to in-person school in the fall while 6% would prefer the online model. A similar survey conducted with district staff showed 82% of certificated staff and 85% of classified staff preferred the onsite model.

The district is proposing that the Online Scholars distance learning model will continue in 2021-22 as an independent online program, offering an alternative to the traditional in-person learning model for Solana Beach families. Sabrina Lee, assistant superintendent of instructional services, said a lot will depend on the number of students who choose to participate in the online program but they are viewing it as something that will grow and expand post-pandemic.

“It’s a very unique opportunity to give another educational experience for our students,” said Sabrina Lee, assistant superintendent of instructional services. “I’m super excited that this is a possibility.”