Here’s how San Diego Unified’s distance learning will work, according to deal with teachers union

Teachers won’t have to work more than four hours a day and will decide how to provide online learning

No San Diego Unified student will receive a grade lower than what they were earning before the COVID-19 school closures.

Teachers can decide how to teach their students online. They also can set their own daily schedules and won’t have to work more than four hours a day.

These are some key points in a new agreement that outlines San Diego Unified’s distance learning model, which launches April 27. The agreement was finalized Friday between the district and its teachers union.

The agreement was the district’s last hurdle to clear for its transition to distance learning, when all students will learn from home as schools remain closed due to COVID-19.

Part of the agreement promises that no student will earn a lower grade than they were earning as of March 13, the last day students physically attended school. This “hold harmless” approach means students will complete work that only maintains or raises their grades.

The agreement also leaves it up to teachers to decide how to teach their students and structure their workdays. The agreement does not set a minimum daily schedule for teachers.

San Diego Unified Superintendent Cindy Marten said in an interview that it was important to make teaching and learning schedules flexible, considering many teachers and students are handling stressful situations at home and teachers also have their own children and families to care for.

“We’re understanding that in this crisis where nothing is normal and everything seems chaotic around us, there needs to be flexibility inside the structure of learning that we’re going to provide for our students,” she said.

Teachers also have to consider how old their students are and whether their students have internet or computer access when they decide schedules and modes of online learning, Marten said.

“For us, it was not about a directive that everyone must do the same thing, at the same day, at the same time. We don’t do that anyway,” Marten said.

Like students, teachers also will be “held harmless,” meaning they won’t be evaluated or disciplined based on how they provide distance learning or the quality of their instruction during this time.

“It is recognized that staff is developing and experimenting with distance learning lessons, instruction, and/or services during this pandemic,” the agreement states.

The agreement will expire on July 22. District officials say the agreement does not set a precedent.

Here are more details about what the distance learning plan means for students:

  • Chromebooks will be loaned to students who need them. For students who do not have computer or internet access, the district will give students printed materials.
  • April 27 will be the official start date for students to receive special education.
  • Teachers will provide special education “to the maximum extent possible” and ensure that students with disabilities have access to the same learning opportunities as everyone else.
  • Individualized Education Program, or IEP meetings for special education will be held virtually.

Friday’s agreement includes several details about what will and will not be expected of teachers during distance learning, such as:

  • Teachers will not be required to work more than four hours a day, including instruction, prep time and staff meetings.
  • Teachers will not have to turn in lesson plans.
  • Besides instruction, teachers can spend their work time holding virtual office hours, planning instruction, monitoring student activity, grading, giving feedback to students, collaborating with other teachers, holding special education meetings and more.
  • Teachers will not be required to provide instruction via live video, such as Zoom. They can give pre-recorded or live lessons.
  • Assigned coursework can be for purposes of enrichment, intervention or introducing new material.
  • Teachers will get at least one hour each month to physically return to their school to pick up materials they need.

School counselors and nurses will not have to provide services to students, but may do so via email, telephone or other virtual means, according to the agreement. The district says it will develop more guidance on distance learning for counselors and nurses.

Teachers are receiving training on how to teach students remotely using online tools such as Zoom, Google Classroom, Canvas and Seesaw, Marten said. Teachers also are getting trained on how to assess how much students are learning, how to cater to young students in an online format, and how to facilitate student voices in an online environment.

On Monday certain high schools also will start distributing some 40,000 district-owned Chromebooks to students in all grades. Families will be notified of when and where they can pick up a Chromebook.

The district is encouraging students who lack internet access to sign up for Cox service if they live in its service areas.

Cox is providing low-income families with students with two free months of internet, which will cost $10 a month afterward. Charter is also providing two months of free internet for families with students.

The district is considering providing WiFi hotspots to students once the two months of free internet end, Marten said.

Kisha Borden, president of the San Diego teachers union, also said that flexibility is important for distance learning.

“Since the district announced the move to distance learning, educators have expressed a belief that we should adopt a model that allows for flexibility and grace for students and educators to continue instruction that accounts for varying degrees of comfort and experience with technology,” Borden said in an email. “We’re glad the district has agreed to implement distance learning, sharing this belief and ensuring students and educators are not unfairly punished for this change.”

When officials deem schools safe to re-open, San Diego Unified will provide teachers at least two workdays notice to return to school, the agreement says.

The district said all classrooms and school facilities will be disinfected before students return.

Post a Comment