Dear Team PUSD,
This week, the County of San Diego announced new, more stringent metrics that must be met in order for local schools to reopen for in-person instruction. The revised metrics have made it impossible for any San Diego County school district to physically reopen schools for in-person instruction before mid-September. Therefore, Poway Unified will start the 2020-21 school year fully virtual on September 2.
Prior to this week's announcement by the County, schools could have resumed in-person instruction if the county remained off the state monitoring watchlist for 14 consecutive days. Based on this previous requirement, we pushed back the start of the school year to allow case rates to decline and provide us with the best chance of reopening for virtual and in-person instruction. However, the new metrics announced to San Diego County Superintendents yesterday, require our county to be off the monitoring list for two 14-day cycles (a total of 28 consecutive days). Additionally, if at any point during the aforementioned 28-day period, the county exceeds established thresholds for three days, it will be placed back on the state monitoring watchlist. Then, the county would need to remain off the monitoring list for another 28 days to resume in-person instruction.
Given this new information, our aim is to avoid further uncertainty for our families, staff, and students during these unfortunate times: to maintain stability and continuity-of-learning for our students, PUSD will remain fully virtual through the December break (December 21-January 1), regardless of whether the in-person or fully virtual learning option was selected in the recently-completed Family Commitment Form. Teachers who chose the alternative homeschooling or independent learning options will be placed based on the number and grade level of students enrolled in this option. In late Fall, we will reevaluate our plans taking into full consideration then-current public health conditions, and guidelines and restrictions from the Governor and public health department.
While this information is likely to disappoint the majority of our staff and families who indicated a desire to return to on-campus learning as soon as possible, everyone should know that -- due to our extensive planning thus far -- PUSD will be ready for a prompt and safe return to in-person instruction if permitted to do so come January.
Finally, you may rest assured Team PUSD has also been preparing for a robust, rigorous, and comprehensive virtual learning experience since Spring. Based on the feedback from your distance learning experience during emergency school closures, we have been refining virtual learning to include one learning and communication platform, age-appropriate daily schedules, 5-day-a-week lessons and contacts with teachers, and required attendance and letter grades (for secondary) and progress reports (for elementary).
- Since March, we have offered extensive professional development opportunities for our teachers, with over 1,125 teachers taking advantage of professional development focusing on innovative tools and strategies to support virtual learning.
- In August, all PUSD teachers and IAs will receive additional training in virtual teaching platforms and tools.
- Since April, groups of teachers have been collaborating across grade levels on virtual lessons and curriculum as well as age-appropriate daily schedules.
- PUSD will be a 1:1 device district, meaning teachers, IAs, and students will receive the necessary technology for a successful virtual learning experience.
- We are also expanding our training for staff to provide social/emotional supports for our students in a virtual learning environment.
- IEP meetings will resume for our students receiving special education services.
- We are developing parent training videos to support our families in becoming familiar and comfortable with technology and various learning platforms.
While the start of the 2020-21 school year is not what we had hoped, I am confident we will be able to navigate this challenging time together. There are so many school traditions that we are experiencing differently in this new reality. Just like our schools surpassed our expectations by making drive-through graduations and promotions so personal and special for our students, I am confident our amazing and creative staff will be able to rise to the challenge to provide an opening of the school year that is memorable and successful for our students and their families.
Marian Kim Phelps, Ed.D.