Every new school year comes with new kids, new challenges and new rules — especially now. Along with every other school district in the country, Pasadena Unified School District must now plan for the future of education during the coronavirus pandemic.
“Things are not going to look anywhere near the way they looked prior to school closure,” said PUSD Director of Curriculum Helen Chan Hill. “We are all planning for some kind of online component.”
The California Department of Education provided four instructional models districts could use for the upcoming school year. Two of the options include a “blended” or a mixture of both distance learning and in-person learning and the other two are in-person learning. PUSD made a proposal that was presented to the numerous leadership communities in the city.
While Vice President of the Board of Education Scott Phelps wants to get students back into school safely, he really wants to help foster connections between students and teachers after some parents raised their concerns.
“We have to have more interacting between teachers and students,” said Phelps.
Hill and her staff have accounted for many options for reopening Pasadena’s schools.
“The proposal encompasses three different things essentially,” said Hill. “One is options should we come back in person. One is options should we be 100 percent remote. The majority are options for blended.”
According to a survey conducted by PUSD, most families support whatever plan the district decides to choose no matter if it’s in person, virtual or blended.
Hill says that PUSD prefers the blended model but the Board of Education will not choose an option until today, June 25.
In order to reopen schools PUSD has to ensure schools minimize the risk of transmission from students, faculty and staff. As outlined in the “Stronger Together” guidebook released by the California Department of Education, schools must maintain social distancing protocols, such as sitting and staying 6 feet away from each other, and everyone must wear a face covering.
According to the document, “at a minimum, face coverings should be worn” while waiting to enter the school campus, while on school grounds, while leaving school and while on a school bus.
Just as with the face covering, physical distancing will be extended to school buses as well. School districts must create a seating plan for busses that maintain a six-foot distance between each passenger. One sample options are to “seat one student to a bench on both sides of the bus, skipping every other row.”
The state Department of Education also suggests to seat students from the rear to the front to avoid students walking past each other. Also when returning students home, they recommend seating them in the order in which they are dropped off.
Schools must also ensure there are enough handwashing and hand sanitizing stations as well as enough cleaning supplies. Surfaces such as desks, tables, chairs, seats on the bus and keyboards must be disinfected between uses while items such as door handles, handrails, drinking fountains and playground equipment should be disinfected daily. According to the document, in order to avoid the risk of asthma “programs should aim to select disinfectant products on the EPA List N with asthma-safer ingredients.”
In addition to the hygienic and sanitizing standards, parents and other visitors will have limited access to campuses.
All these measurements outlined by the state are to keep students, faculty and staff safe while also providing students a place to learn, be it virtually or in person.
“Safety is always the number one priority for any human being,” said Phelps.