Exactly One Month From First Day of 2020-21 School Year, OUSD Announces Plans for Start of School Which Will Include Students Returning to Class in Phases, Starting with a Period of Distance Learning for all Students
Oakland, CA -- As Oakland and the rest of the country work through the challenges of a global pandemic, OUSD is announcing that the 2020-21 school year, which begins on Monday, August 10, will start with students in distance learning. This recommendation was generated by the OUSD COVID-19 Action Team which is made up of school site staff including custodial, clerical, teachers, principals, as well as central office department leaders. In addition to our COVID-19 Action Team, we have consulted with public health experts and been in on-going conversation with our labor partners. Collectively, the latest information led District leadership to determine the best course of action for all our stakeholders is to begin the school year in distance learning where students will be home, learning virtually.
The recommended plan from the Action Team is to begin in distance learning and introduce phases of blended learning, meaning opportunities for specific groups of students to both attend school in person and continue with some distance learning. We are aiming for this first phase to last up to four weeks in order to ensure our school sites are well-prepared to implement our COVID-19 safety plans, and staff is able to attend training in both safety and instruction, and orient students and families to the flow of subsequent phases of blended learning. The transition into the first blended learning phase will depend on specific science, safety, student learning and support details, and we will use an equity lens for prioritizing in person instruction for targeted students.
OUSD has heard from many of our families and staff members. Some say they are ready for in person instruction and some are not. The district is looking for ways to meet everyone’s needs. District leaders have been negotiating with our labor partners on the best way forward. All involved are clearly concerned about the health of students, families and staff.
“You might think that with COVID, this decision would be easy, but it’s not,” said Superintendent Kyla Johnson-Trammell. “We want to have our students back in class as soon as possible and welcoming them back to school has to be safe. But there is inherent tension between the ever-changing science, keeping students and staff safe, and providing the services that students need. The health and well-being of our students, staff and family members is, of course, paramount. We know that this extended time away from school and away from their peers is causing serious issues to our students’ emotional well being. We are working to balance the risks of COVID with the impact of social isolation and the lack of in-person learning. At this point, we feel the best course of action is to open with distance learning, then transition to a blended model in which we can get our students and staff back together where they are bound to flourish.”
The time around the start of school coincides with the beginning of the rush of new computers getting to our students through the #OaklandUndivided campaign that we created in concert with Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf, the Oakland Public Education Fund and Tech Exchange. We raised $12.5 million in the first phase of the project to buy thousands of computers and internet hotspots that will go to our students who lack the technology at home. In order to ensure we are getting the devices to the students who truly need them, we are working with a Salesforce-based software development company to create a platform that will determine which students need the computers, catalogue the inventory, and track distribution and any service needs for the devices.
Given the timing for all of this to occur, if needed, OUSD will maintain and expand the Chromebooks loaner program while we transition to the personal at home devices provided by #OaklandUndivided. Our goal is that all student homes are connected at the start of the school year and most already are.
This afternoon, we met with our District and site leadership to update them on our plans for a strong start to the school year in which our school staff is able to truly connect with our students. As stated above, the plan to start the year in distance learning and build robust foundational distance learning practices for students and staff will lead to a phased in approach to a resumption of in-person teaching and learning. We plan to progress into different phases of school-based instruction as conditions allow and as will be defined by our on-going negotiations with our labor partners. We will continue to update the community weekly with additional information.
At 5:00 p.m. on Monday, July 13, OUSD will hold a Community Town Hall meeting about the start of school. Media and others can watch the meeting at: https://www.youtube.com/OUSDlive