Monday, February 6, 2023     Volume: 23, Issue: 49

Santa Maria Sun / News

The following article was posted on July 29th, 2020, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 21, Issue 22 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [] - Volume 21, Issue 22

Santa Maria high schools to begin year with students at home, teachers in classrooms

By Malea Martin

The day after Santa Maria-Bonita School District’s board of education approved a reopening plan that starts the year with distance learning, Santa Maria Joint Union High School District’s (SMJUHSD) board followed suit by voting in a similar plan during a July 23 special meeting. 

It may be months before Santa Maria Joint Union High School District classrooms are back to looking like this. A reopening plan approved on July 23 will have students distance learning all through the fall semester.

The unanimously approved plan will have students begin at-home instruction on Aug. 17, while teachers will give instruction from their classrooms. The entire fall semester will be conducted in a distance learning model that splits students into two groups based on last name. Virtual instruction will begin each day at 8:40 a.m., plus time will be carved out before class each day for office hours and collaboration. 

On Mondays all students will be on a “flex” schedule, which includes all seven periods, each 40 minutes long. On Tuesdays, students with last names beginning with A through L will virtually attend periods one, two, and three for 80 minutes each, and the day will begin and end with “office hours” during which students can virtually engage with their teachers one-on-one. An identical schedule will occur on Wednesdays for students M through Z. On Thursdays, A through L will virtually attend periods four, five, six, and seven, each for 80 minutes; M through Z students will do the same thing, but on Fridays. 

Superintendent Antonio Garcia and his fellow assistant superintendents presented the model in-depth at the meeting, and they also touched on what hybrid and traditional models could look like down the road. 

“We don’t know what the future brings in terms of the reality of COVID-19 and its impacts, so we may or may not see all three, or even two, of those models,” Garcia said. “But we are prepared to present all three models in the event that we are ready to transition from one model to the next.”

That transition, Garcia recommended, should happen in the spring semester at the earliest. For logistical reasons, he advised against making a mid-semester transition this fall, even if the public health situation allowed for it.

The virtual school board meeting started with public comment in the form of pre-recorded messages and written comments. Similar to those read at Santa Maria-Bonita’s meeting the day prior, many of the comments for the SMJUHSD board came from teachers concerned with the proposed requirement that they must teach from their on-campus classrooms, even during the full-distance learning model.

Santa Maria High School teacher Kelli Tajima stated in a written comment that the requirement “is disrespecting the fact that we are professionals who love our students and want to do right by them. We can create robust and rigorous lessons from the safety of our homes, while also protecting our own children from exposures if we have to find alternate and costly child care.”

Righetti High School teacher Christie Ortiz expressed a similar sentiment in a written comment.  

“As professionals, I believe we are capable of teaching from a room in our home, while also helping our children connect to their digital learning on our breaks,” Ortiz said. “Please consider allowing the option to work from home to accommodate staff with children at home.”

Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum John Davis responded to these concerns, stating that the district believes teachers will work more effectively in the classroom, “where teaching tools are available.” He added that the district is looking to eventually provide some in-person opportunities for students who can’t learn as effectively at home.

“We envision a plan, even in distance learning, where we’ll have approval from the Department of Public Health to open up learning spaces for one-to-one services,” he said. “There’s so much that we can’t do effectively in a distance environment when it comes to services for English learners, special education students, students who are in need of counseling services … and we’re hopeful that we’ll be able to create an environment where we can do that.” 

Davis stressed that teachers who need accommodations to work from home—whether for health reasons or to care for their children—are encouraged to contact the district’s human resources department.

“We know that we’re going to need to make accommodations,” he said. “We have an interactive process in place to do that.” 

Kevin Platt, assistant superintendent of human resources, added, “The goal of providing the safest possible work environment for all has to be balanced with the goal of providing the best possible online education experience for students. That’s a tough balance.” 

“The district is committed to working with all of our staff members to accommodate whatever needs they may have,” Platt continued. 

Later, board member Dr. Carole Karamitsos reiterated this option.

“If any employee feels that this model doesn’t ensure safety for them or their family, we want to make sure that they know that our HR is ready and expecting that they’re going to work through these situations with them,” she said. 

Weekly Poll
What do you think about new legislation that would require Narcan at all public school sites?

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