Oakland students to start at least first 4 weeks of new school year online again

OAKLAND— All students in the Oakland Unified School District will start the first four weeks of the new school year the same way they ended the last one — at home, behind computers.

After that, if the spread of COVID-19 starts slowing down, students who want to return to classrooms will be phased in, district officials announced Friday,

The first day of school typically is “a day full of joy,” district spokesman John Sasaki said. “But as it stands right now, we’re not going to have that kind of day come August 10.”

All 53,000 students in the district will have to do their learning from a distance again for at least four weeks before a “blended learning” approach kicks in, with the eventual goal of having everyone back in physical classrooms when it’s much safer than now.

And even when the students start returning, classrooms will be half full at most since children will need to keep a safe distance from each other.

As an example, Sasaki said, there might be one group of students who come in on Mondays and Tuesdays and another group on Thursdays and Fridays, with everyone home on Wednesdays when the classrooms and other campus facilities get a thorough cleaning.

How quickly the blended phases follow each other will hinge on safety and student learning, Sasaki said.

Students given first priority to return to the classrooms will be those who need it the most, such as special education, homeless or those in foster care. Elementary-level students be allowed back sooner than those in the higher grades because younger children are less susceptible than older ones, Sasaki said.

As did other districts in the state, Oakland Unified closed its classroom doors in mid-March after counties issued stay-at-home orders in an effort to curb the spread of coronavirus. Loaner Chromebooks were given to students who don’t have computers at home to use for online learning.

The district raised $12.5 million to buy thousands of computers and internet hotspots that will go to students who may lack the technology at home. It is now waiting for 20,000 of those laptops, which will be distributed in the fall for students who need them, Sasaki said.

Over the next few weeks leading to the first day of school, the district will try to arrange schedules to accommodate parents who must go to work and can’t care for their children as they learn from home.

“This is a learning process for all us before we get to school. There are so many conflicting needs,” he said.

Superintendent Kyla Johnson-Trammell said this wasn’t an easy decision to make.

“We want to have our students back in class as soon as possible and welcoming them back to school has to be safe. But there is inherent tension between the ever-changing science, keeping students and staff safe, and providing the services that students need,” she said in a statement.

The district will host a virtual town hall meeting Monday at 5 p.m. for parents and students to get more information about the upcoming year.

Other school districts throughout the Bay Area have begun to announce school reopening plans this week. In Antioch, the school district postponed its start date by nearly a month, alarmed by the recent surge in COVID-19 cases in Contra Costa County. In San Francisco, school officials have yet to announce a plan for the upcoming school year but district officials have said on-campus learning will depend on the pandemic and its containment.

Alameda County has had a total of 7,485 coronavirus cases, and Oakland alone 2,936, according to the latest data from the county health department on Thursday.

Go to Source
Author: Angela Ruggiero