SBUSD Trustee Urges Quick Investment for Distance Learning, as State Ed Chief Downplays Reopening

SBUSD Trustee Urges Quick Investment for Distance Learning, as State Ed Chief Downplays Reopening title=
SBUSD Trustee Urges Quick Investment for Distance Learning, as State Ed Chief Downplays Reopening
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By Jerry Roberts of Newsmakers

Santa Barbara school member Kate Ford says it's time "to get serious" about improving and strengthening platforms and teacher training for online learning because it is not safe to reopen schools at this point in the pandemic.

The day after an epic board meeting, in which members heard from health experts, as well as dozens of teachers and parents, testifying about a proposed "hybrid" plan to start the school year with a combination of classroom and distance learning, Ford said she believes the district should "redirect some resources" to beefing up online learning.

"It just seems like we would be really exposing kids and teachers and school staff to lots of things that sound unacceptable to me," Ford said of the hybrid system, which the board had tentatively favored last month.

"There would be a lot of lost time that we could have spent possibly figuring out the best platforms" for distance learning, she added. "The idea is to get serious and find out where the best platforms are, what are they...across the country there are thousands of home schools that do this pretty well."

Ford's comments came as State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond said that "most of our districts" in California are likely to start the new school year with distance learning, given current Covid-19 trends, "and that decision I think is a good one."

Over the last week, districts representing over one million of the six million public school students in the state have announced they will not open classrooms next month because of an increase in coronavirus cases and hospitalizations, at least for now.

"I think that if school opened tomorrow, most of our districts would open in distance learning," Thurmond told reporters. “We know that in many communities throughout our state, we’re seeing high rates of infection in the community."

On Tuesday night, more than 700 people joined the Zoom call on which the school board conducted a "study session" about various options for the start of school. About 60 people, a large of portion of them teachers urging a 100 percent distance learning program for fall, gave public comments to the board.

Next Tuesday, the board is to reconvene to consider the latest iteration of plans for their 2020-21 school year, which will be set forth by new SBUSD Superintendent Hilda Maldonado, who attended her first board meeting last night.

"From last night forward, for the next five days, the leaders of the district, led by (Maldonado) will be scambling to really firm up a proposal," Kate said in our interview, "and I think that in every likelihood, this proposal will involve something about starting with distance learning, but with the ability to pivot to hybrid earning in a nimble and reasonable way."

A former teacher, principal and non-profit executive, Ford has the deepest experience in education of the five board members. Among her other comments to Newsmakers: ,

On the logistics of reopening. "I'm most concerned about the logistics. Educators can take care of educating. But the logistics of how to keep track of kids, how to address...when a child or a teacher is sneezing or coughing or has a sore throat, and then about the slowness of testing that we have in this county right now, and the even slower results, it just seems like we would be really exposing kids and teachers and school staff to lots of things that sound unacceptable to me."

On the safety of returning to classrooms. "I was talking to a friend, an emergency room doctor in the Valley and she was basically saying, 'whose lives are you going to watch over?' It’s not safe right now and we don’t have any reason to believe the surge is going to stop anytime soon."

On criticisms of distance learning last spring. "We've heard lots of concerns about distance learning, and they're real...Lots of things in the spring were band aid approaches and now…the idea is to get serious and find out where the best platforms are, what are they."

On helping overwhelmed parents. "I understand how parents, especially single parents, really need some help with their kids at home, and perhaps we should be focusing more on that, rather than the question of 'go to school, don’t go to school' -- how to give people help. And that's where I think we could be particularly interesting and creative."

On bad information about kids and Covid-19. "I would ask everyone to be very cautious about what they say about Covid-19 and children, because let's remember, kids have been out of school since March, so there really isn’t any good data about kids."

On unfair criticism of teachers. "There is an underlying message (from some in the community) 'teachers, get back to work, you’re supposed to be there, schools have got to reopen, who are you? Are you lazy? Are you ignorant? You know what you need to do.' And I just think it’s so much more complicated than that."

On the community helping out. "When we talk about distance learning, is there some way the community can get more involved – grandparents, neighbors, retired teachers, retired administrators - is there some way that we can help in those homes? Is there some way we can mobilize because we are going to have to do something to show that we are serious about providing support."

You can watch our entire conversation with Kate Ford by clicking below...and the podcast version is here.

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Basicinfo805 Jul 16, 2020 12:54 PM
SBUSD Trustee Urges Quick Investment for Distance Learning, as State Ed Chief Downplays Reopening

Bummer for our kids. Not surprised at all by the district's inability to rise to this challenge. In the meeting they spoke of a large amount of cash in their reserves, but appear reluctant to use any of it, to hire more teachers in particular. If not now then what is it for? This IS an unprecedented, emergency situation. Based on what we saw this spring, things are looking very bleak for the coming school year for almost all the public schools. Ask 10 parents and you'll probably get 8-9 that say Zoom teaching was an absolute failure. Montecito Union and Cold Springs, along with various privates, are planning to open, following all safety mandates, as dictated by our county and state public health authorities. It is doable.
There's risk in everything. Clearly a percentage of teachers who are outspoken on this aren't willing to take any risk of their own. All the risk (developmental, social, academic) gets shifted to the kids, who are really getting set back by the district's decision not to adapt the way they are educating our kids.

letmego Jul 17, 2020 09:22 AM
SBUSD Trustee Urges Quick Investment for Distance Learning, as State Ed Chief Downplays Reopening

Your information is incorrect. Look a little deeper. Children get COVID-19. Children die from COVID-19. Children spread COVID-19 to others. Teachers are at risk, staff members are at risk, grandparents and parents are at risk. Anyone with pre-existing conditions are at risk. The risk of spread of COVID-19 comes from: duration (>30 minutes), being indoors, being in crowds of people, proximity (<6 ft) not wearing masks. Indoors, crowds of people, proximity, duration. You can probably make some of the kids wear masks, but that's only 1 out of 5. Bars closed but schools open? Hardly. If you want schools to open. Use social distancing and wear a mask until our number of new cases drops to a reasonable level. Other countries and cities have successfully done this.

sblocal1967 Jul 16, 2020 04:31 PM
SBUSD Trustee Urges Quick Investment for Distance Learning, as State Ed Chief Downplays Reopening

Political rhetoric from inept elected officials. There was once a time when people in government would step up to a challenge out of a desire to be a civil servant. All online learning will do is spread the gap between the haves and have nots. The haves will figure things out and make the best of a bad situation. The have nots will struggle to keep up without the resources to overcome a bad situation. When it came time to figure out how to offer fee lunches over the summer to school admin stepped up and put a process in place. Creating an environment to teach kids safely is a large challenge - but doable. All I hear is why we can't vs how we can. The only people making these decisions are people with kids in school. Kate Ford has no skin in the game and will just take the path of least resistance.

a-1594949277 Jul 16, 2020 06:27 PM
SBUSD Trustee Urges Quick Investment for Distance Learning, as State Ed Chief Downplays Reopening

SBLocal1967 - So give us all your ideas on how this can be done with social distancing in the small, old classrooms that exist in S.B. schools. Right now desks have one to three feet between them. There are no extra classrooms. In your ideas, include how you keep kids who are five to eight years old from hugging or touching each other. What extra staff person can watch the kids to be sure they use soap and warm water and do so for 20 seconds when washing their hands? What other extra staff person can monitor the line of kids waiting to get into the bathroom in the hall for social distancing, as you can only use one sink at a time, to maintain social distancing. Who will pay for all the masks, wipes and Purell? The one who always does, the teacher? Now that hundreds of scientists have come out stating the coronavirus is airborne, will the school district have new air circulation systems installed in all schools immediately? Lastly, how do you have social distancing when you’re told to do an “active shooter drill” (or, god forbid, not a drill) and you have to cram all your kids in a closet?

letmego Jul 17, 2020 09:23 AM
SBUSD Trustee Urges Quick Investment for Distance Learning, as State Ed Chief Downplays Reopening

That is not an idea. That is just deciding to ignore the science of how COVID is spread and hope for the best. The students who "have" to be in school and their families are, in fact, the most at risk here. They will catch it and spread it to their families. The "have nots" as you say, live in more cramped quarters, are essential employees, and are less likely to have decent healthcare.

sblocal1967 Jul 17, 2020 10:00 AM
SBUSD Trustee Urges Quick Investment for Distance Learning, as State Ed Chief Downplays Reopening

Based on the data CV just does not seem to be that much of a health risk to justify the harm of closing schools. Sure there will be cases where the parents for their own personal reasons will want to keep kids home - similar to those who prefer home schooling - to each their own. There seem to be two perspectives 1) those people who are completely freaking out and want to lock own everything (these people are typically "takers" of society and want the government CV hand outs to continue and 2) everyone else who understand there is a balance. Most of these people understand that mask wearing is a goof thing and take proper precautions. I do not want the majority of society to be shut down due to some idiots.

a-1595014406 Jul 17, 2020 12:33 PM
SBUSD Trustee Urges Quick Investment for Distance Learning, as State Ed Chief Downplays Reopening

Good points! The schools have been closed since March; what have they been doing to upgrade the classrooms for this? It was a strong possibility then that fall would be a big problem for the virus - I didn't see much if anything saying that summer would be the problem it's been. Have the desks been moved, ventilation improved, ...what has the SBUSD been doing?

mp805 Jul 16, 2020 05:04 PM
SBUSD Trustee Urges Quick Investment for Distance Learning, as State Ed Chief Downplays Reopening

Read an article that stated About 15,000 Los Angeles high school students are absent online and have failed to do any schoolwork while more than 40,000 or 30% have not been in daily contact with their teachers since March 16, when the coronavirus forced campus shutdowns...Distance learning sounds great! Unfortunately this whole situation has gotten political and the kids get the short end of the stick...I know, I know just call me a covidiot for even thinking about finding a smarter more effective way to open up.

a-1594946391 Jul 16, 2020 05:39 PM
SBUSD Trustee Urges Quick Investment for Distance Learning, as State Ed Chief Downplays Reopening

Here is the community message: teachers, get back to work and stop perpetuating the covid hysteria with your unrealistic demands. Or give us our money back - 50% of all general fund revenues that were supposed to provide K-12 education under Prop 98. Not happening, so we want our money back. The stunts pulled by the LA teachers unions have left a very bad taste in our mouths. Teachers unions need to clean up their act and get serious about being classroom teachers, or else find a new line of work.

OAITW Jul 16, 2020 06:13 PM
SBUSD Trustee Urges Quick Investment for Distance Learning, as State Ed Chief Downplays Reopening

The LA school district (the second largest in the country) and the San Diego school district have both decided to have classes 100% online in light of the increasing cases of Covid 19. Hopefully Santa Barbara will follow their lead.

Think of it like this. Bars have been found to be the number one environment for spreading Covid 19. Bars are closed environments with poor ventilation filled with adults drinking alcohol that makes them behave like irresponsible children. Schools are closed environments with poor ventilation filled with irresponsible children.

Abc109 Jul 16, 2020 08:15 PM
SBUSD Trustee Urges Quick Investment for Distance Learning, as State Ed Chief Downplays Reopening

This is a crock - at least for the smaller, private, or independent schools with small class size and more land. There should most definitely NOT be a mass school closure. Hire more teachers, get more creative, figure it out. By the time school is "supposed" to start, our kids will have been out for 5 months. Online learning is a joke. If as a society you would like to see the potential of the next generations completely smashed by your incompetence, you are not interested in WELL BEING at all.

a-1594969568 Jul 17, 2020 12:06 AM
SBUSD Trustee Urges Quick Investment for Distance Learning, as State Ed Chief Downplays Reopening

ABC109 - Step back and breathe.....”the potential of the next generation completely smashed by your incompetence”....?! You act like no generation has EVER in history faced any adversity. In fact, THAT’S the ticket, why don’t you go READ some history. Like try WWII in Europe. Yeah... and BTW, both our grandkids survived the “lockdown” with straight As, the older one with a 4.75 due to AP classes and a SBCC class (though only a Sophomore in high school). Geez, here’s hoping you don’t have kids, or you’d probably engender enough anxiety in them to self fulfill this prophecy of smashed potential. B r e a t h e.....

oceandrew Jul 17, 2020 01:23 PM
SBUSD Trustee Urges Quick Investment for Distance Learning, as State Ed Chief Downplays Reopening

Agreed. Parents want a reprieve from having their kids underfoot ALL day long for the duration of the PANDEMIC and want teachers to be the guinea pigs to test out the potential dangers of congregating again. I'll bet it's the same "don't make me wear a mask against my will" dopes who put teachers and other folks' kids at risk. I'd totally support a teacher's strike if they are forced to work in unsafe conditions.

ChemicalSuperFreak Jul 17, 2020 02:49 AM
SBUSD Trustee Urges Quick Investment for Distance Learning, as State Ed Chief Downplays Reopening

Online teaching is viable, but takes a lot of work to implement in order to keep students engaged. That work, which is tremendous, is on the teachers and districts who probably aren't familiar with the technology. More importantly, for some the ability to learn this skillset is way out of their depth. A lot of interesting automated daily activity, such as automated quizzes, can be implemented using the very customizable Moodle platform. All sorts of tracking of student engagement and rewards for working through material can be utilized. Unfortunately this takes 100x to set up than printing out the quiz and just standing at the lectern. Likewise, there's an investment on mimicking the most interactive portion of teaching, which is the chalkboard/greaseboard. There you'd need to have tablets for each instructor so they can use a stylus when marking up slides or illustrating something from scratch to answer questions during a lecture. Just explaining things just using your voice is often not enough for most students.

tsunami67 Jul 17, 2020 08:03 AM
SBUSD Trustee Urges Quick Investment for Distance Learning, as State Ed Chief Downplays Reopening

Fact: The school year will start fully online. It won’t be that way forever as a lot of these comments seem to forget. We’re in a pandemic and the most important thing is to keep as many people as healthy as possible. Each household with kids in school should figure out what they need to make remote learning more meaningful and successful. Figure out how your child learns and work to his/her strengths. There are online tests for this. Schools should offer parents tips on teaching techniques. The school administrators could do this as they usually were teachers prior to their administrative roles. If your child did not do well with remote learning in the spring, have him or her repeat the grade. The material will be partially familiar and the academics less stressful. We’re in a “new normal” and need to make the best of it.

letmego Jul 17, 2020 09:14 AM
SBUSD Trustee Urges Quick Investment for Distance Learning, as State Ed Chief Downplays Reopening

I knew there's a reason why I voted for her. She's experienced and sees all of the angles. Look, a month ago, I was all gung ho on starting my kids back to school on the hybrid option. But now? Our cases have only gone up. Our south coast number of new cases hit an all time high yesterday. We have no business putting students, families, teachers, and staff members at risk. What we NEED to do is determine a set of metrics that must be met before going back in person. (Number of new cases, etc.) In the meantime, yes, figure out how to do distance learning. Distance learning was somewhat seamless for my junior high kid. Most of the teachers had regular zoom calls. The program they use to track assignments and turn in homework had been in use for years already. Elementary school was another story - it was far more difficult. And let's face it - virtual learning for K to at least 3rd grade is going to require a parent or someone to be hands-on not only during virtual classes, but also during homework time. This sucks.

Lorax Jul 17, 2020 09:57 AM
SBUSD Trustee Urges Quick Investment for Distance Learning, as State Ed Chief Downplays Reopening

Let me get this right, Kate Ford wants to find " some way the community can get more involved – grandparents, neighbors, retired teachers, retired administrators - is there some way that we can help in those homes? Is there some way we can mobilize because we are going to have to do something to show that we are serious about providing support." Did I get that right
To send the older generations into the trenches because the young and fit educators who are on payroll won't do their job? So guess it doesn't matter that older people are the most vulnerable in the pandemic. Stop the politics, put kids first if you are serious about providing support.
This district is failing to provide their responsibility to our students if they stay in a virtual mode. The Health Department is not mandating this nor the Governor . There are safety protocals for minimizing exposure risk. All these campuses have outdoor space , gyms and auditoriums that can be used for physical distancing. If people are not comfortable, there could be an opt out for virtual only full time instruction instead of the two days on campus and 3 days remote learning with the proposed hybrid model . I am concerned that many families that want on site learning resumed will put their children in other schools , such as Garden School at 2000.00/month. This takes money away from an already financially weakened district who is burdened with Salary and pension commitments.

letmego Jul 17, 2020 10:09 AM
SBUSD Trustee Urges Quick Investment for Distance Learning, as State Ed Chief Downplays Reopening

"When young children cry the first few days of school, how do we comfort them by adhering to social distancing protocols?" ---
"When there are bathroom accidents, how do we safely help children change clothes by following social distancing protocols?" ---
"Children need help opening snacks, lunches, putting on jackets, tying shoes, how do we keep social distance protocols?"---
"How do we conduct fire drills, active shooter drills, severe weather drills while following social distance guidelines?"---
"Will we need to document each time a child removes his/her face covering so that we can be aware of possible exposure?"---
"Are parents aware of what social distancing will look like in the classroom... masks worn all day, children will be sitting in chairs for long periods of time and cannot engage in play too closely, children will have to do more seat work rather than small group work?"---
"Will we be getting another printer to make worksheets? Movement choice, group projects will be hard to do under current restraints and more busy work will be necessary."---
"Will students be allowed to sing or play instruments?"---
"Can lids be installed to cover toilets as they are flushed? Studies show that aerosol droplets from flushing can carry the virus three feet in the air and cover bathroom surfaces."---
"What are the options for staff with underlying health issues? Are the only options to return to work and risk dying or lose our job?"---
"What about the child whose nose is always runny?"---

SantaBarbaraObserver Jul 17, 2020 10:11 AM
SBUSD Trustee Urges Quick Investment for Distance Learning, as State Ed Chief Downplays Reopening

Unfortunately, in today's America everything is weighed based on the financial risks. This is no different. Its all about liability and culpability. In America, lawyers determine what gets done based on risk assessments on the cost of litigation. It's about the money and the fact that every leader is looking for someone else to blame. Very few are willing to make the right choice, the tough decision without political cover. Its always CYA, its always the money...

bosco Jul 17, 2020 10:30 AM
SBUSD Trustee Urges Quick Investment for Distance Learning, as State Ed Chief Downplays Reopening

I have a 5 year old that is going to start school online. How does that work? If the private schools are allowed to open, the public schools should open as well. If grocery store workers are allowed to go to work, the teachers should go to work as well. Teachers are essential workers, it's about time they start acting like it. Every business that can open has found a way. The school district is willingly harming the kids and the community by not figuring out how open. I am furious and ashamed for our school district and the teachers.

letmego Jul 17, 2020 01:50 PM
SBUSD Trustee Urges Quick Investment for Distance Learning, as State Ed Chief Downplays Reopening

Per the Governor today, schools in counties on the "watch list" (which ours is) are not allowed to reopen. Does not matter public, private, or charter. A county has to be off the watch list for 14 days before reopening. At that point there's a long list of requirements - including face masks, 6 foot distancing, regular temp checks and COVID checks, etc.

dukemunson Jul 17, 2020 11:50 AM
SBUSD Trustee Urges Quick Investment for Distance Learning, as State Ed Chief Downplays Reopening

Let's show some creativity here! All of the public schools have massive playgrounds and grassy areas. Let's get some big tents out there set up...our weather for at least the next 3 months would let our kids be outside for some learning. Let's plant some big gardens...get the kids out of the classroom...but in school! Let's hire some extra teachers and tell some school administrators that they are teaching this Fall. Let's open up some money for some home school curiculum to encourage some parents that have a parent at home to maybe take the plunge and do homeschool...a certain number are going to do it anyways which will bring down the number in schools and maybe if 2-3k was made available for purchasing materials/curiculum a certain number more would stay home. There is a relatively easy path to limiting elementary to 12-15 kids per class...with just a little creativity. The time to spend some money is now. Use our property tax and get the kids in school from 9am to 2pm. Older teachers that dont want to come back can do the online ZOOM school that a small percentage of kids will choose. Let's open up all the options...partner with a school close by and maybe you can offer options to people (5 days a week reduced hours, hybrid, all online and homeschool). SHOW SOME INITIATIVE AND CREATIVITY! This thing isn't going away by January...so open up the playground and let's do some classes while the weather is perfect outside and worry about January later!!!!

sacjon Jul 17, 2020 04:06 PM
SBUSD Trustee Urges Quick Investment for Distance Learning, as State Ed Chief Downplays Reopening

DUKEMUNSON - this is the most sensible thing I've read here in a while. We can't just cancel and close everything anymore. We've done it long enough and the virus is still here. It's time to get creative, not lazy. Outdoor school makes total sense. Why has this not been considered? We need to figure out a way to co-exist with this thing, not just cower and hide forever. A viable vaccine is likely far from reality, so we make a choice: 1) Shutter everything and hope it comes before kids develop severe mental issues due to isolation and our test scores go even lower due to the dismal quality of online learning OR 2) Think outside the box and don't accept total closure as an option but rather figure something out! I choose #2.

rustydad Jul 17, 2020 01:45 PM
SBUSD Trustee Urges Quick Investment for Distance Learning, as State Ed Chief Downplays Reopening

Facts from around the world show that children have almost no chance of becoming seriously ill from the virus. Nor do they act as spreaders of the virus. Facts also show that teaching via the internet is a dismal failure. And even if it wasn't schools are not just about being "taught things" but also where kids learn social skills through interaction with other children. If the teachers and administrators are too concerned about their health to risk opening the schools then let them stay at home. But don't pay them to Skype a few hours a week at full pay and benefits. Lay them off like everyone else who is laid off and let them live off of unemployment checks.

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