L.A. County education task force convened to discuss return to school

SIGNAL FILE PHOTO: A classroom full of kindergarteners and first graders at Rosedell Elementary School in Saugus applaud 100 year-old Wilbur Vidito Monday afternoon. Cory Rubin/ The Signal

An L.A. County education task force convened for the first time Wednesday to discuss the guidelines for reopening school campuses, with plans to release guidelines in the early summer.

Among the 24 superintendents selected to be a part of the task force, along with the Los Angeles County Department of Education, Saugus Union School District Superintendent Colleen Hawkins is the only superintendent on the task force from the Santa Clarita Valley.

The task force is looking at a number of factors that would affect kids returning to school in the fall, Hawkins said, when asked about Wednesday’s virtual meeting.

“The task force is going to look at all the demands that we would have to resolve or address in how we reopen for the new school year,” she added.

The decision to reopen would ultimately fall to the individual school districts, but the task force would be providing guidance for people and looking at a wide spectrum of information, Hawkins said, even examining how other states and countries are approaching this issue.

L.A. County Superintendent of Schools Debra Duardo announced the formation of the task force Tuesday, following Gov. Gavin Newsom’s announcement that he’d like to see schools reopen for the 2020-21 school year as early as July or August.

“A summer start would be conditional and require precautions being in place at our schools, including social distancing and safety protocols for our students and staff,” said Duardo in a prepared statement.

Hawkins said there are a number of factors that need to be considered, especially for her elementary school district. For example, while the unified and high school districts have college readiness programs to be mindful of, Hawkins and other elementary school district superintendents need to be looking at how distance learning will work for young children.

“A kindergartner who is doing distance learning right now was in school for two-thirds of the year, prior to going out for distance learning,” said Hawkins. “So, they used a computer, they knew what school was like, all of those kinds of things.”

“If we start the school year with pure distance learning, all of those (new) kindergartners across the elementary school districts are going to have never been in a classroom before in a school.”

This would make it more challenging for these new students to know how to engage with class material or use their Chromebook properly, Hawkins said.

Hawkins said the task force plans to meet twice a week to discuss this problem, along with all the other issues for returning to school. As of Wednesday, the task force hopes to have its recommendations released before the middle of June.

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