WATSONVILLE—Pajaro Valley Unified School District’s students will engage in distance learning for the entire first semester of the 2020-21 school year, the Board of Trustees unanimously decided on Wednesday.
The distance learning model is intended to slow the spread of Covid-19.
The district decided to keep its students learning at home through January after seeing the confusion that came last March, when it announced a one-week closure. That stoppage quickly grew as it became apparent that the disease was spreading.
Not wanting to repeat such uncertainty, the district chose to enact a semester-long distance learning model.
The trustees on July 22 approved their first-ever Virtual Academy for students that want to learn from home all year.
Guidance for Special Education students is still forthcoming from the State, PVUSD Michelle Rodriguez said. Rodriguez added that the district will be operating differently than it did in the spring, when the school closures were fresh and employees, parents and students were reeling from the sudden massive shift in their daily routines.
The district next year will focus more sharply on student participation, Rodriguez said, with teachers taking attendance. District staff will follow up with those who miss too many online lessons.
In addition, district officials will also crack down on employee participation. According to Rodriguez, 57 instructional assistants never went online.
“The challenge is that we are a people business, and it’s really hard to be a people business and do it from home,” she said.
In an effort to keep screen time to a minimum, students will be provided with a back-to-school launch kit full of supplies that will enable them to work independently, Rodriguez said.
Most students have received Google Chromebooks on which to complete their work, and many have received wireless hotspots to provide internet access, Rodriguez said. The district is now working with the families that still do not have internet access.
The district is operating under a high-risk category that mandates a distance-only learning model. If it moves to a medium-risk for the second semester, the board will meet to possibly approve a hybrid model that would allow students to return to class part-time.
The PVUSD Contingency Planning Team, which developed the plan, based their recommendations on guidelines from Gov. Gavin Newsom, the California Department of Public Health, the California Department of Education and the Santa Cruz County Health Department.