Remainder of SCV public school districts return to virtual classrooms

Kindergarten teacher Sarah Luckenback welcomes her students online on the first day of school at Emblem Academy in Saugus on Wednesday, August 12, 20. Dan Watson/The Signal
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The final two remaining school districts on summer break are slated to head back to class on Thursday, but like all schools around the county, they will be returning to an online format. 

On Wednesday, the Saugus Union School District returned to the virtual classroom, while Sulphur Springs Union School District and Newhall School District return today. 

In order to establish a connection between teachers and families, Sulphur Springs Union School District officials said they’ve been communicating regularly with families, whether through the district’s weekly Friday letter distributed by Superintendent Catherine Kawaguchi, or by holding a Back to School night on the evening before the first day of school. 

The reason for doing that, by moving Back to School Night to the night before school even begins, instead of later on in the school year, was because the Sulphur Springs district wanted parents to get the information they needed, to know about the curriculum, as well as the schedule students will be working with while at home.

Sixth-grade teacher Shannon King welcomes her students on the first day of school from her empty classroom at Emblem Academy in Saugus on Wednesday, August 12, 20. Dan Watson/The Signal

“(It’s about) being really forward thinking and not having a misstep,” said Kawaguchi. “And then what is also important is the teacher is making sure that they’re telling parents how to contact them.” 

The Sulphur Springs district, in an additional step to make sure kids were prepared for Thursday, had given out needed school supplies to students, such as crayons, pencils, scissors, glue sticks and other materials, for them to use at home.

“We are truly excited to begin the 2020-21 school year,” said Saugus district Superintendent Colleen Hawkins. “While we may be providing instruction to everyone digitally, we are OPEN and ready for learning to happen.”

Hawkins said the district had prepared for the coming year by creating Saugus Digital Learning Academy for families who prefer a digital-only model, even when the Department of Public Health allows schools to reopen. 

Head Custodian Daniel Ramirez raises the flag for the first day of school at Emblem Academy in Saugus on Wednesday, August 12, 20. Dan Watson/The Signal

A county must not be on the state’s “watchlist” for 14 days before schools will be allowed to reopen. Counties on the watchlist show negative trends in terms of COVID-19, of which L.A. County is one. 

Hawkins said once the schools reopen, in addition to offering an all-online model, parents have been given the option to pursue a blended model, with students attending school in alternating groups.

“We have prepared for our employees to return by ensuring we have (personal protective equipment) and health safety protocols in place, and we have prepared by providing new digital resources and teacher professional development,” Hawkins said, adding that the district has also been providing regular communication with parents and stakeholders. 

Jeff Pelzel, superintendent of the Newhall district, told parents in a letter distributed Wednesday that while the school year appeared to be different, district teachers and staff planned to still build trust and relationships with students and families.

Principal Jon Baker, right, and head teacher Tiffany Desmond welcome sixth-grade students online on the first day of school at Emblem Academy in Saugus on Wednesday, August 12, 20. Dan Watson/The Signal

“Our focus during the first two to three weeks of school will be on getting to know your child(ren), identifying their strengths, learning what areas they may struggle in, while creating a positive and safe learning environment for all students,” the letter from the Newhall district said. “We will love them first, and teach them next.”

Pelzel also shared with parents a list of 22 bullet points that included tips and tricks for parents to help with distance learning. 

“This year will look different from years past, but we know that our students, parents, teachers and community will all pull together to make this a successful year for our students,” he said.

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