All local districts now intend to complete the school year through distance learning, responding to direction from the county and state superintendents.
State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond said in a statement Tuesday that students likely would not be allowed to return to campuses before summer because of ongoing efforts to slow the spread of COVID-19 through physical distancing and shelter-in-place orders.
“This is in no way to suggest that school is over for the year, but rather we should put all efforts into strengthening our delivery of education through distance learning,” he said.
Tracy Unified School District
Students in Tracy Unified School District will receive assignments next Thursday and formally begin distance learning April 20, after the end of the district’s scheduled spring break.
A letter sent to parents by Superintendent Brian Stephens on Thursday morning said teachers would provide weekly distance learning plans and assign required work for students to complete. Teachers will grade that work and give students their final grades and final report cards for the 2019-20 school year, which ends May 22.
Starting Monday, teachers will reach out to their students to arrange how they will communicate and find out whether they want digital or paper materials. Stephens said the digital-download option would be comparable to the paper-packet option, but not always identical. Families can choose whichever is best for them.
Between April 20 and May 22, each teacher will have virtual office hours for at least two hours a day Monday through Friday so that students or parents can reach out for questions, guidance or clarification. Those office hours might include virtual small group or one-on-one support or phone calls, depending on what families need. Teachers’ schedules will be posted on school websites.
The first batch of student assignments, for the weeks of April 20 and April 27, will be available to download from www.tracy.k12.ca.us or pick up at school campuses next Thursday, April 9.
TUSD has about 14,500 students. Stephens’ letter states that the district has a ratio of one electronic device to four students, and some of those are desktop computers in classroom labs. For that reason, the district is providing distance learning options on paper as well as digitally, in accordance with California Department of Education guidelines.
Jefferson School District
The K-8 schools in Jefferson School District are ready to launch distance learning on Monday.
Many students will participate in lessons using their families’ computers, tablets or smartphones, and the district checked out Chromebooks to families that needed them starting Wednesday.
Machone Hicks, who teaches eighth grade language arts at Traina School, expects to use a mixture of prerecorded lectures, live instruction via video chat, and virtual office hours where parents can call and check in face to face.
Teachers spent the first phase of school closures getting familiar with the online tools they’ll be using, which Hicks said are brand new “for a good 90% of us.”
“I think we’re finding out that there’s a lot of things we can do remotely, but then there’s a lot of things we don’t necessarily want to do remotely,” she said, adding that the teachers have missed their students since the abrupt closure of schools.
Superintendent Jim Bridges sent out a letter Thursday confirming that distance learning would continue for the remainder of the school year, a project he called “the largest change in instructional delivery in a century.”
“With your support, our district is committed to providing online learning that meets the needs of all of our families,” he wrote.
“I know that we still have much to learn and refine, but I’m so proud of each staff member for working together to make this happen. We are all being asked to step out of our comfort zones during this challenging time, and mistakes are not only expected but useful because we all learn from them. This isn’t going to be easy, we are going to stumble, but our school community is ready for this new challenge.”
New Jerusalem School District
Dave Thoming, superintendent of New Jerusalem School District, said Thursday that the district’s campuses would remain closed, but he still wanted to keep hope alive that students might be able to return before summer.
“We believe that leaving a chance, albeit a very slim chance, of reopening this school year is important to our students and families,” Thoming said.
For now, families have multiple options to continue their students’ education.
Roughly half the district’s 2,000 students are already using distance learning in a virtual environment.
“For us to get switched over with the other half of site-based students, it wasn’t much work for us,” Thoming said. “We already knew how to do it.”
Teachers began emailing work directly to students and families the first week schools were closed. They offered printouts along with the school’s online instruction platform.
“We’ve handed out hundreds of computers, and we’re working with families. Basically what were trying to do is to give them as many options as we can so they can find out what works best for their family,” Thoming said.
“We’re not taking a one-size-fits-all approach. We don’t think that’s a good approach to take. Not all kids can sit in front of a computer for three hours, but they can do OK if they are working through paper work. we just have to find that process that works best for each kid.”
Thoming is also committed to having in-person graduation ceremonies, however long it takes.
“Whether it’s at the end of May or the end of June, or July or August or September — whenever that gets lifted, we’re going to host a graduation for our kids,” Thoming said. “They’ve earned that, the families have earned that, and we need to go above and beyond to make that happen.”
Banta School District
Banta Superintendent Dean Moore said Thursday afternoon that every student in the district already had an electronic device and had been working from home using a combination of online work and printouts.
Starting April 20, after Banta School’s spring break, teachers will transition to teaching online only.
In a letter to families, Moore said that “based on new guidance from the state education department the educational opportunities will be checked and scored (not graded), and all students will need to work on their assignments daily.”
“We are fortunate that we are able to offer each student an electronic device to use at home to facilitate this,” he wrote. “Our teachers will continue to work diligently preparing lessons and meet with the students weekly to ensure that all students have the opportunity to continue to learn and grow.”
He said that, should the shelter-in-place guidance from the governor change in the future, the district may adjust the school closure.
Lammersville Unified School District
Lammersville Unified School District, which transitioned to distance learning March 18, will continue distance learning through the end of the school year.
The district made the announcement Thursday afternoon in response to Mousalimas’ recommendation to keep school campuses closed until summer vacation.
A letter to families said administrators would continue to monitor the news related to COVID-19 and follow the advice of experts.