Solana Beach School District plans for full reopening

Students in class at Skyline School in Solana Beach.

The Solana Beach School District board finalized its plans to return to full in-person teaching and learning in the fall at its April 15 board meeting.

While many schools across California are just now reopening, Solana Beach School District students have had the opportunity to be in school in-person since September and the district started phasing-in students to four days a week in November. As of March all grades are in-person four days a week with students who opted for distance learning remaining in the Online Scholars program.

In order to bring all students back this fall, the district will 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. Currently, some 4-6 classrooms have been extended into secondary learning spaces to accommodate distancing requirements.

The coming year’s schedule aims to provide the maximum amount of teaching and learning, to give opportunities for students to be with their teachers as much as possible while still allowing time for teachers to plan to support student progress, particularly after a year in which there has likely been some learning loss.

“Teachers are hopeful that many things we know are best for kids can resume next year,” said Jesse Mitchell, president of the Solana Beach Teachers Association, giving, for example, the chance for students to see not just classroom teachers but Discovery Lab teachers, counselors and other specialists in person. “We’re excited not to have to split students between two spaces and try to manage both.”

The district will continue offering an online alternative model in the 2021-22 school year which has been named Immersive EDU. The online model will offer SBSD students five days of remote instruction and all of the district’s core academic and social emotional learning programs. Angela Tremble, principal of Online Scholars, said that Immersive EDU presents a chance to “reimagine education” and she is looking forward to strengthening the program design over the next months.

“While the vast majority of students and families will opt to return to in-person on-campus learning next year there will remain some families who will select an alternative teaching and learning experience for their children,” Brentlinger said. “I strongly believe in choice and offering that to our families.”

Brentlinger said the early numbers show there are about 60 to 100 students that would be interested in the online program.

During public comment, parent Bruce Cameron said that while he is not opposed to an online option, he asked that the board carefully examine the costs involved. With teachers at a premium, he said he would not want to be underutilizing teachers if there are not sufficient children interested in continuing with the online model.

“As we move on site we’re going to need as many teachers as possible and we want to make sure that doesn’t get jeopardized,” he said.