In a 5-0 vote held during a virtual meeting Wednesday, the William S. Hart Union High School District governing board approved the closure of school campuses for the remainder of the semester.
All four of the elementary school districts in the Santa Clarita Valley — Saugus Union School District, Newhall School District, Sulphur Springs Union School District and Castaic Union School District — announced a similar decision.
“We changed the date from May to June 4, so we will not be reopening schools this semester,” said board President Linda Storli. “From what I understand, our distance learning has become a model for many districts in the country, and we’ve done really well on that.”
The announcements included an emphasis on continuing education through distance learning, a model that has been adopted or will be adopted by all school districts within the SCV.
“It is important to remember that even though our schools are closed, school is still in session and instruction will continue,” said SSUSD Superintendent Catherine Kawaguchi in a statement to her district on Thursday. “We recognize that this decision comes with many challenges. Remote learning is a new experience for all of us.”
Storli said that they’ve received a positive response in terms of the distance learning and student participation thus far, and that the district is working on providing Chromebooks and WiFi to Hart district students in need.
“Social workers are going door to door, ‘Do you need a Chromebook? Do you need internet?’” said Storli, adding that those without internet can contact the district and Spectrum will provide internet for free to the students for 90 days.
Storli said the district’s food programs will continue as normal, and people under the age of 18 will not need an ID to get a drive-by lunch hand-off from the district.
The district is considering the possibility of a pass/no-pass model, as opposed to the traditional letter grade system, but they have not crossed that bridge yet, Storli said.
Additionally, Storli said she would like to see graduations occur whenever the time is safe, whether that be during a later ceremony in the summer or through a virtual graduation.
“I want to be able to have those kids walk across, get their diploma and get their picture taken while Grandma stands up and cheers,” said Storli. “I desperately want to have some sort of walk-across-the-stage graduation … even if it has to be in July.”
Storli said those decisions regarding the grading system and graduation were being worked on presently.
And although the educational model has changed, the district and the board agreed that staff and teachers would be paid the same as they would if the schools were open.
“Teachers will continue to receive the normal salary, classified staff will continue to receive their salary even if they stay at home,” said Storli.
Also during the board meeting on Wednesday, the board voted to allow Superintendent Mike Kuhlman “to take any and all actions necessary to ensure the health and safety of students and staff and to ensure public education continues to be provided to the students.”
This would include powers to relocate students and staff, provision of alternative educational program options, directing staff to serve as disaster service workers, and/or make alterations, repairs or improvements to school property, according to the agenda item.