Superintendent Update (Thursday, August 20, 2020)
Dear PUSD Families,
We are now just two weeks away from our first day of school on September 2nd. Our teachers, principals, and staff have been working very hard to get ready for our fully virtual start to the year. This week, hundreds of PUSD teachers are engaging in professional development around virtual learning; our technology team is preparing Chromebooks and laptops for our students and staff; and our schools are working out schedules and preparing for material distributions. We are so excited to have our students back, and we can’t wait for the day when we ultimately reopen our campuses for in-person instruction.
As you may know, on Tuesday, San Diego County was removed from the state monitoring list after experiencing 3 days of below-100 per 100,000 case rates. San Diego County is the only Southern California County so far to be removed from the state monitoring list. While this is encouraging news that could help pave the way for us to reopen schools this Fall, there are also some important things to keep in mind. Most importantly, there is a 14-day waiting period the County is requiring before schools can physically reopen. This means if San Diego County case rates, and other metrics, stay below acceptable thresholds for 14 consecutive days, the County will allow for schools to start reopening.
Even with this shorter, revised reopening timeline, we have no way of knowing for certain whether San Diego County will be able go 14 straight days staying off the monitoring list. As a large school district, we cannot wait until the day before the first day of school to find out. We already know the constantly changing timelines and decisions have made planning extremely difficult and frustrating for District leadership, our staff, and our families.
As a result, to avoid further uncertainty for our staff and families planning for Fall, the Board of Education reaffirmed our September 2nd fully virtual start at its last meeting. However, if San Diego County passes the 14-day window and schools are cleared to begin reopening, the Board would like to reassess when and how to physically reopen schools, instead of waiting until December. Board members have indicated a desire to reopen in phases, starting with small groups at elementary school first, including our youngest students and learners with special needs, then eventually middle and high schools after a grading period. However, staff is also exploring creative ways to bring back small groups of students in our middle and high schools sooner, such as through labs, clubs, or electives as feasible. You can view the full presentation and discussion from the Board Meeting below.
Meanwhile, we continue to do everything possible to ensure healthy environments for our students and employees when they do return. We all want to reopen schools and remain open when it is safe to do so. We must approach reopening carefully and thoughtfully to avoid the mistakes we are seeing in other districts that have already been forced to shut down. The initial transition from fully virtual to in-person learning will be based on the preferences our families and teachers have indicated on the commitment forms, to the greatest extent possible, which will take time to successfully implement at all grade levels. We will notify families and staff with as much notice as possible before any transitions to AM/PM or A/B learning take place.
I appreciate your understanding and support as we adjust to these ever-changing conditions.
Marian Kim Phelps, Ed.D.