SCV School Districts moving toward blended models of learning for fall 2020

Cash Heter, 7, participating in theater practice with his class for the 'Wizard of Oz.' Courtesy of Brendie Heter
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Most of the Santa Clarita Valley school districts are working on a “blended” learning model for the coming school year, meaning there will be options for students to spend some days on campus and other days distance learning, officials said Tuesday.

However, parents are expected to be given an option to adopt a 100% distance-learning style through individualized online learning academies in most school districts.

Although the final decision has yet to be made for a number of the districts — the William S. Hart Union High School District, Saugus Union School District, Newhall School District, Sulphur Springs Union School District and Castaic Union School District — all have reached out to parents to discuss which model families would prefer, whether it be entirely at home learning or a hybrid of a blended model.

The Hart District last week reported a large amount of support for having students return to campus, according to a parent survey.

One model considered by the Hart District, which breaks students into cohorts, has students attending on alternating days for two days a week; while the other model has two cohorts attending school, one in the morning and the other in the evening.

Versions of these two models are being discussed by all the districts. While the details are still being worked on, the Castaic, Hart and Saugus Union districts are expected to create a two-day, full-day model, with the Newhall School District deciding on the a.m./p.m.-model. Sulphur Springs officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

A.M./P.M. model

An a.m./p.m. model differs slightly from district to district, but essentially would have students in school four days a week, but for half-days, with there being time between each cohort for staff to clean school spaces.

The two-day model, which the majority of districts appear to be leaning toward, would have students coming to school two days a week, with each cohort taking alternate days. Staff would then have time to clean at the end of each full day of class.

Wednesday, for the elementary schools, would be distance learning and would be alternating distance learning for high school and junior high cohorts, with one cohort having Wednesday class one week while the other had distance learning and then vice-versa.

“We’re the only ones doing the a.m./p.m. model. Everyone else is doing a very similar model to Hart,” said NSD Superintendent Jeff Pelzel. “We felt the continuity for learning for elementary students was really important, and having that ongoing, regular face time with their teacher four days a week versus two days a week was really important.”

Some districts, such as the Newhall School District, have said they will be providing adapted child care and after-school services to account for parents’ work schedules.

Blended model

On Tuesday, Saugus Union School District Superintendent Colleen Hawkins said the SUSD board is expected to commit to a blended model on July 7 along with the Saugus Digital Learning Academy for students whose parents do not want them to return to campus at all.

“The registration for (Saugus Digital Learning Academy) begins July 6 and then goes through July 24,” said Hawkins. “And the blended model, they don’t have to register for it, it’s just how we do it at the individual schools.”

Hawkins said the five districts had been working closely together in order to have consistency between siblings, and say, for instance, if a family needed assistance with child care provided by older siblings, that could occur with the new schedule.

Castaic Union’s governing board approved the blended model similar to Hart and Saugus, which will allow half of the students to attend on Monday and Tuesday (for a full day) and the other half on Thursday and Friday (full day), according to Superintendent Steve Doyle

“(On) Wednesday, students would have distance learning from home as well as the days they aren’t in attendance,” said Doyle. “Wednesdays would also be used for teacher planning and collaboration as well as sanitizing the schools. We still have many details to work through.”

Also on Tuesday, the Hart District governing board directed staff to move forward with blended model 1, which calls for two days on campus, and will include the option for students to pursue a completely online curriculum. The motion also asked for staff to work further for the improved fully online learning model.

Before voting, Hart District board member Joe Messina emphasized his desire to have the language of the motion include the district’s need to get students back on campus in a traditional setting as soon as it is safe to do so. Kathy Hunter, assistant superintendent of educational services, said there would be a “stage four” included in model 1 to allow for that.

Sulphur Springs Union School District officials were not available for comment Tuesday. However, a survey asking parents which model they would prefer had been posted for parents to answer. The survey, after being up for some time, closed at noon Tuesday.

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