BHUSD Prepares for Distance Learning

On July 21, the Beverly Hills Unified School District (BHUSD) Board of Education held a Study Session unanimously voting to approve the drafted reopening plan for the fall of 2020. BHUSD Superintendent Dr. Michael Bregy presented the “Return 2 Learn” reopening plan with two options: A virtual learning plan called the Independent Learning Center (ILC) and a distance learning option called Live@BHUSD that will replace the hybrid learning option. Live@BHUSD includes increased expectations for live instruction and classes held in a routine that mirrors the bell schedule and will return in phases to the physical classroom when deemed appropriate. A detailed reopening plan that includes distance learning expectations, health and safety measures, cleaning and disinfecting operations, gradual reintegration steps, social emotional wellness, and more is expected to be published late this week. However, there is no exact timeline yet as to when the physical school will reopen for students. The meeting came four days after Governor Newsom announced new guidance prohibiting both public and private schools from reopening for in-person instruction if they are in counties on the state’s “monitoring list,” which tracks Coronavirus data. During the Study Session, Bregy repeated that in all likelihood, BHUSD will begin the school year on August 17 with a new statewide required rigorous distance learning plan that includes: daily live interaction for every child with teachers and other students; class assignments that are challenging and equivalent to in-person instruction; devices and connectivity so that every child can participate in distance learning and targeted support for English language learners and special education students.

“Learning is non-negotiable,” Governor Newsom declared in his July 17 statement. “The virus will be with us for a year or more, and school districts must provide meaningful instruction in the midst of this pandemic. In California, health data will determine when a school can be physically open – and when it must close – but learning should never stop. Students, staff, and parents all prefer in-classroom instruction, but only if it can be done safely.”

As of press date, there are 32 counties on the state’s watch list, including Los Angeles, Sacramento, Orange and San Diego. Schools in counties that are not on the monitoring list are able to reopen following health and safety guidelines recommended by the California Department of Public Health. For schools that will reopen, Newsom outlined expectations, such as: all staff and students in grades 3-12 must wear masks, and students in second grade and under are encouraged to wear masks; staff should maintain at least six feet of physical distance between each other and their students; staff should be tested regularly for Covid-19 in cohorts; schools must screen for Covid-19 symptoms, including temperature checks and maintain robust handwashing stations, sanitizing and more.

Newsom articulated that any county on the state monitoring list must be off of that list for at least 14 consecutive days before any school within that county can have in-person learning. Otherwise, schools must conduct the statewide required distance learning. Hours after Newsom’s briefing, Bregy released a video summarizing the governor’s expectations and what it means for the BHUSD community. Bregy stated, “We know in all likelihood, due to the fact that L.A. County is on the monitoring list now, that we will begin the school year with distance learning.” He assured the BHUSD community that distance learning “will not resemble home learning 2.0.”

The virtual ILC option for the fall remains the same, offering online learning exclusively for the first full semester. The deadline to enroll in the ILC has been extended to July 27 at 8 a.m., and those who do not apply for the ILC will be automatically placed in Live@BHUSD. As of July 21, 441 students – 13 percent of the student population –have enrolled in the ILC.

Students in grades 6-12 enrolled in the ILC will have a one-hour appointment with an assigned BHUSD teacher, and four opportunities throughout the week to participate in  multi-student tutoring sessions in math, science, social studies and English. Elementary students in the ILC will be assigned a grade level teacher and meet in small groups each day. Grades TK-2 will receive between 5-10 minutes of instruction per subject every day, and grades 3-5 will receive between 20 to 30 minutes of instruction per subject daily. BHUSD will offer ILC students access to additional individual support and social-emotional support with a morning check-in.

Students enrolled in Live@BHUSD will have daily live interaction online while at home using a BHUSD device. Teachers will live stream instruction daily and students will follow their current schedules. There will still be a late start every Wednesday and two early release Thursday each month. The option strives to mimic the classroom experience and mirrors the bell schedule. Attendance and grading expectations are forthcoming. Students will be integrated in phases back to the physical campus as directed by the public health order.

Bregy underscored the difference between Live@BHUSD and transitioning back to the physical classroom. “We’re going to be preparing scenarios to share with our Board of Education about ways to move forward. There’s many options and choices in the future on how we begin to open up. We know that right now, there is a plan in place for symptom checking for staff and students.” He added, “We’re looking at testing, and how that’s being done. A lot of this is evolving because even some of the testing that’s being done now is being delayed and we’re not getting quick results. We’re being told that there are many new tests on the horizon that will give immediate results, and we’re hoping that happens sooner than later.”

BHUSD is also looking into ways in which they can assist families with childcare. “Not every childcare option is going to be a good fit for every family,” said Bregy.

Although published reports this week alluded to the fact that California school districts could apply for a waiver to allow elementary schools to resume in-person learning, BHUSD has not received official notification of that policy. “The waiver was not mentioned in any way in the COVID-19 Industry Guidance: School and School-Based Programs…The only wording available in the document suggests that staff, parents, and community organizations would need to be consulted to apply for such a waiver should any formal document be announced,” Rebecca Starkins, the spokesperson for BHUSD told the Courier.

“I would say nothing’s off the table right now,” said Bregy. “Because we don’t know what that transition is going to be. When the future public health orders are revised, and they will be, then we will look at that information to help us transition kids back in. It may very well might be there is a hybrid version that we need to go to before we have all the students back, but it’s just too early to tell.”

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