SUSD discusses full-time instruction, distance learning for next year

File photo of the Saugus Union School District.

Saugus Union School District board members discussed a back-to-school update for the 2021-22 school year during the regular board meeting Wednesday. 

The district discussed a recommendation to have students back on campus for full-time instruction beginning Aug. 10, as well as plans to continue distance learning for families who wish to keep their children home. 

“Students are in class now for the allowed duration, which is 240 minutes, or about four hours,” said SUSD Superintendent Colleen Hawkins. “Pre-pandemic, it was about six hours, so in comparison to that, the students are back on campus for two-thirds of a regular school day.” 

The recommendation comes after Gov. Gavin Newsom announced the state’s economy will fully reopen in mid-June and vaccination efforts continued to increase in Los Angeles County. 

A distance-learning model will remain available for parents who wish to keep their students home through an independent-study program, but families can opt out of the distance-learning model at any time during the school year. However, school site enrollment may vary depending on space availability. 

Hawkins added a survey has been sent to families who are currently enrolled in distance-learning programs, and of those who responded, about 50% said they would have their students return to in-person instruction next school year and 50% said they wish to continue with distance learning. 

“We’ve been taking data, such as the interests in families to see what they want the next school year to look like for their children,” Hawkins said. “So, there’s an even split in families who responded to the survey regarding if they want to continue with distance learning next year.” 

SUSD had an independent study program implemented before the COVID-19 pandemic, which allowed parents to have a form of home schooling for their children. The program was a pen-and-paper method of learning, Hawkins said. The district is currently looking into transforming the independent study program into a digital medium to accommodate those who wish to continue distance learning. 

The school district will continue to require health and safety protocols outlined by the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health through the next school year. Students, faculty and staff will be required to wear face coverings, frequently wash hands, and maintain a social distance of 6 feet, unless in a classroom setting, where the distancing can be reduced to 3 feet, per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s updated guidance. 

Hawkins added there would be a need for additional hiring of teachers on special assignment and instructional assistants in the district, which will be discussed with the board at a future date, as extra academic support will be needed for students. 

The child development after-school programs will also resume on the first day of the school year in August, according to district officials. 

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