Borrego Schools, COVID-19
The Only Thing Certain is Uncertainty
Last updated 8/11/2020 at 9:29am
On July 17, Superintendent Mark Stevens and the Borrego Springs Unified School District Board of Education were all set to open the doors of our classrooms for the 2020 – 21 school year complete with the strictest safety guidelines. They had surveyed parents and teachers and conferred with all state and local health authorities as well as the San Diego County Office of Education. The plan included a choice for staff and families: distance learning, in-person classes, or a hybrid.
That afternoon, Governor Gavin Newsom declared that all counties on the COVID-19 Monitoring List in San Diego were required to open schools via distance learning only. This regulation would remain until San Diego County is off the list for 14 days. In essence, this is defined as having less than 100 cases of the virus per 100,000 individuals. This included San Diego County.
It was back to the drawing board for teachers and administrators. As Mark Stevens explained to parents and staff on his webinar July 31, BSUSD has learned much from our experience last March 15 when we were literally thrown into distance learning with one week to prepare.
In that case, we had to learn on the run while ordering every student a laptop, supplying some with Internet hotspots, delivering work packets to homes with no Internet, training teachers in the use of Google Classroom technology and a myriad of other aspects that we had never had to face. There is no question that some students lost out on precious educational time in spite of gallant efforts of the part of staff, students and parents.
BSUSD is determined this time to deliver an excellent and rigorous educational program and students will be held accountable for their learning. Teachers are receiving 5 days of training before school begins on the two on-line platforms they will be using: See Saw (K – 2) and Google Classroom (3 – 12). A strong focus will be on regular engagement with students and parents via email and phone. Attendance will be taken and grades posted. Lack of Internet is being addressed in a pro-active, aggressive manner by the District including state funds to assist low-income families with the cost. Each teacher will have his/her own website for easier access to lessons and communication with students and parents.
Teachers are not the only ones who will be receiving training prior to the school year. Parents will also be instructed, in English and Spanish, in setting up an email account, how to connect with teachers, how to check their children’s grades and how to ensure their children are completing the required academic assignments. No more, “I’m finished with my work,” comments from children whose parents do not understand Google Classroom or who do not speak English. Communication will be clear and honest with translation provided when needed.
When San Diego County is off the Monitoring List for 14 days, all will change and Borrego Springs Unified School District will be ready and willingly to offer an in-person education, albeit modified with reduced hours and blended instruction (in-person and distance).
This will come with an entire set of guidelines, rules and precautions from the California Department of Health. These include testing, regular disinfecting of classrooms, proper ventilation, facemasks, small group instruction with proper distancing, bus sanitation/seating and the list goes on.
For those parents wishing to continue with distance learning, that option will be available. These students will be supervised by teachers also choosing to work via distance learning. Every attempt will be made to accommodate the needs, health and desires of our families and our staff.
There remains a plethora of unknowns at this time including sports, school clubs, gatherings like Open House, pre-school, electives such as welding and after school activities. With so many unanswered questions, each day is a challenge as we wait for guidance from the State and the County. To address this situation, Superintendent Mark Stevens is forming a parent focus group. If interested, please contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“The times they are a changing” as the song goes and Borrego Springs Unified School District is doing its best to keep up, be flexible, follow the guidelines and offer our students a quality education in spite of incredible uncertainties.
What is certain is the first day for teachers is August 24 and students turn on their computers August 31. Parents will receive an announcement soon about registration. Stay tuned for more updates and there will be lots!