socially distanced desks

Plans partly informed by surveys of students and teachers

West county got its first look at what high school at Analy, El Molino and Laguna might look like next fall in a presentation that superintendent Toni Beal gave to the West Sonoma County Union High School District (WSCUHD) board on Wednesday, June 17.

According to Beal, the district is considering offering three types of programs simultaneously:

1) A hybrid program, where students do some onsite learning and some distance learning;

2) A 100% distance learning program, like the one that evolved this spring, involving curriculum developed and delivered by district teachers;

3) An independent study program using another, third-party online program, that’s nonetheless overseen by district teachers.

“We need to have options,” Beal said.  “We need to have a way to provide a hybrid model, where we bring kids onto campus as much as we can, but we also need to be able to provide a 100% distance learning model for those families that are not comfortable having their students come back. My belief is, if we do not provide these options, we will lose students.”

This three-part plan is based on a host of sources, ranging from health guidance from the state and county boards of education, as well as health orders from the Sonoma County public health officer. In addition, WSCUHD has done surveys of teachers, parents and staff and is working with a variety of committees, including the teachers union, to help shape its re-opening policy.

What would a hybrid program look like? One scenario that the district is considering is rotating between in-class instruction and distance learning, with students divided into groups of 12 that attend school on alternate days or times, perhaps according to a block schedule.

Survey results

A survey done in May of both students, teachers and parents showed a fair amount of hesitancy to resume a traditional school schedule. When asked the question, “If the Public Health Department advised that staff and students could return to school in the fall in some limited capacity, which of the following options would best describe your preference for you and our students?”

Students (356)

● Distance Learning 14%

● Hybrid Schedule 38%

● Traditional 41%

Current/Incoming Parents (341/122)

● Distance Learning 11% /12%

● Hybrid Schedule 41% / 41%

● Traditional 39% / 43%

Teaching Staff (68)

● Distance Learning 7%

● Hybrid Schedule 43%

● Traditional 32%

● Unsure/Need more information 18%

It’s interesting to note that, though they are a distinct minority, twice as many students (14%) as teachers (7%) chose the distance learning option. At the same time, teachers (at 32%) were significantly less eager than students (at 41%) to return to a traditional classroom model.

Other surveys the district looked at, including one by the teachers union, found that 28.7% of teachers are in a higher-risk population and that 25% felt they were not ready to return to the classroom in the fall. 

No one can predict the future

According to Beal, the situation is so fluid that the only answer is to have multiple approaches. Beal said the district plans to notify staff and families of the district’s preliminary plans for re-opening by July 3. Then the district will resurvey these four groups again during the week of July 13 and announce a firm re-opening plan by July 27. The first day of school is scheduled for Aug. 13.

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