The Glendale Unified School District in California reopens today under "new normal" circumstances. Time will tell if their reopening model succeeds.
Students at the Glendale Unified School District in Los Angeles, California returned to school today. However, their classrooms would not have looked or felt like anything they were previously used to. A total of 20 of the district's schools have opened their classrooms up for remote learning. Instead of 24 students to a classroom as per usual, each socially-distanced classroom will be restricted to 12 students. Each student will be assigned to a "technology pod," a table equipped with a computer. Why do they need computers? Well, the pupil's teachers will not be returning to school with them. This reopening plan is the brainchild of District Superintendent Vivian Ekchian, who simply wants to relieve the burden of childcare on parents who are also essential workers.
Wednesday is the 1st day of school and Ms. Tonoli and Mrs. Worley can’t wait to see you! Rise and shine bright and early on Wednesday, August 19th and log into your first day of distance-learning. #wecantwaittoseeyou #ZoomaZoomaZoom #princiPALS @Kristinetonoli @GlendaleUSD pic.twitter.com/3JgtCCSjGX— MarkKeppelVAPA (@KeppelVAPA) August 15, 2020
"We learned very early and during the pandemic that our parents who are essential workers, parents who could not work from home or parents who had multiple kids, had a dire need for childcare," Superintendent Ekchian said in an interview with CNN. "And the reality was when we changed to remote learning, there wasn't a place for them to drop off their kids. So this at the elementary level is really an opportunity for childcare, for our parents who can't stay home with their kids and need a safe place where their students can continue to learn while they're away working or looking for a job." Los Angeles Count's Department of Public Health, citing the high number of coronavirus cases in the area, announced that they would not consider any applications for waivers enabling elementary schools to reopen. However, as Glendale's reopening plan constitutes childcare and not schooling, they are allowed to operate.
Most schools in California will not be reopening for in-person education this month.— CNN (@CNN) August 18, 2020
But superintendent in the Los Angeles area has come up with a plan to welcome some students back to class. And it doesn't involve their teachers. https://t.co/saakLNjtpL
While there will be no teachers conducting any formal learning within the classrooms, a single substitute teacher or district staffer will be present in order to help with computer technical assistance, monitor students and their use of masks, maintain social distancing, and ensure students remain focused on their work. In Ekchian's eyes, this reopening plan is a way to ensure that the learning gaps between students of various backgrounds do not widen over time as the pandemic rages on. "All students don't have parents who speak English at home," she explained. "[They] may not have parents who are ready to help them with the homework or stay on task. We don't want the learning gap to be widened over time."
The reopening plan also employs contact tracing as well as help with testing and medical consultations. At present, parents are not being asked to "limit their exposure" in order for their children to participate in the program (though there is "a level of expectation" that guidelines are followed, the Superintendent notes). If a student is found to have been infected with the disease, Ekchian may consider shutting the program down entirely. She stated, "If we felt that it's in the best interest of the students and adults to shut down for a period of time then that's what we would do, but this would not happen in isolation." Just over the last four weeks, there has been a sharp increase of 90 percent in the number of cases among children in the United States. Many parents are wary of Glendale's reopening model, but it could be the way forward for school districts across the country.
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