school reopenings

School Districts Struggle to Make Decisions About Fall Learning

Many districts are hoping to execute a hybrid learning model, but as coronavirus cases surge, uncertainty lingers.

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This story has been updated to include a statement from the Corona Norco Unified School District.

Parents across Los Angeles County are concerned and confused by mixed messages regarding what to expect when school is back in session in just a few weeks.

The unpredictable nature of COVID-19 and the constantly changing case count only exacerbate the uncertainty about when and how to reopen schools. Though many plans are in the works, no solid decisions have been made. 

Some officials say the issue is money, with much needed to ensure the schools are clean and safe.

With school beginning in just a few weeks, 78% of districts across California are considering some sort of hybrid model that would involve a mix of on-campus and online learning. 

But there is no one-size-fits-all approach.

For instance, Acton-Agua Dulce Unified has laid out a roadmap to reopening that involves four phases and begins with all schools remaining closed to on-campus learning, while a spokesperson from the Corona Norco Unified School District tells NBC LA in an email that the district is "returning to a full traditional model and also offering students a virtual schooling option for students not wanting to return to our campuses.”

The latest report from the California School Boards Association indicates that many districts are also proposing giving students the option of entirely virtual learning. 

Troy Flint, a spokesman for the group that represents about 1,000 school districts and county offices of education across California, laid out the districts’ financial concerns.

"Normal funding is insufficient for school because we are not in normal time," he said. "We have to consider if you're going to have fewer students in a classroom because of social distancing. Do you have enough space in your schools to accommodate those students?"

The districts are eager to resume school, but not by any means necessary, Flint said.

"Health and safety is the first priority."

As for parents, Flint recommends that they seek out as much information as possible from their district directly, as well as news sources and reputable agencies such as local health officials and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

The CDC is standing behind its school reopening guidelines – which include closing communal areas and installing physical barriers – as President Trump voiced his disagreement, calling the suggestions "very tough" and "expensive."

The president even threatened federal budget cuts if schools do not open.

The LA County Health Department Director suggests reopening campuses may not happen amid COVID-19 surges. The county is expected to release its recommendations later this week, but districts – as well as students and parents – should have a Plan B. 

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