By Brian McDonald
Special to The Outlook
On July 16, the Pasadena Unified School District Board of Education authorized the start of the new school year. PUSD will begin the new school year on Aug. 17 in a distance learning environment.
On July 17, Gov. Gavin Newsom laid out new statewide mandates for schools that affirm the decisions and direction that PUSD is taking to keep our students and staff healthy and safe. PUSD will adhere to state and county mandates. The state mandate addresses safe in-person school based on local health data, requirements of masks/face covering, physical distancing, testing, rigorous distance learning, and the criteria for schools to close when a member of our school community tests positive for COVID-19.
This decision was a difficult one. But with COVID-19 cases continuing to increase locally and in Los Angeles County, we cannot and will not take chances with the health and safety of our students and staff.
PUSD will continue to closely monitor and evaluate public health conditions and data. We are continuing to prepare for the eventual return of students and staff for in-person learning. In accordance with the most recent state and local guidelines, we will switch to in-person learning when health conditions allow.
We have been preparing for the possibility of a full distance learning model. Our school opening plan is designed to allow us to move seamlessly from a hybrid model to a full distance learning environment and back again as conditions change. More details will be shared with you in the weeks ahead.
Using lessons learned from last spring, your feedback from surveys, and with more time to prepare, we have built a more robust remote learning program for our students. The new distance learning model will be different when school begins on Aug. 17.
There will be more live interaction with teachers and school personnel and a more structured daily schedule. We will shift to a new online learning platform called Canvas, which will allow us to organize instruction and monitor student progress. This will also allow us to ensure that our students are connecting regularly with school and district personnel.
We are also developing training modules to prepare our teachers, students and their families for distance learning.
From the beginning of the pandemic, we have been working in collaboration with the board of education, our labor partners, families and community partners to keep our students, staff, families and community safe. We appreciate your support and commitment. I also want to thank the team that has been working hard to plan our response since the early days of this pandemic.
I particularly want to thank our parents and families. We know that combining work, family and remote learning from home is hard. When we asked for your feedback to guide our planning, you responded. We’ve had a very high completion rate on the surveys, and your feedback has been invaluable. We appreciate your engaging with us and sharing your thoughts.
Most of all, I want to say a few words to our students. You are the reason we are here. Your well-being and success is what drives your teachers, school and district personnel to do our very best for you. I know that the idea of staying in remote learning is hard. But know that we are with you, and doing everything possible so that you continue to learn and are ready to succeed when we return to normal times.
This ongoing situation is challenging. But I know that with the strength, unity and resolve that you have demonstrated during these last difficult months, we will greet the new year with renewed spirit and commitment to your success.
I will share additional information as it becomes available. Please continue to check our website at pusd.us/covid19.
McDonald is superintendent of the Pasadena Unified School District.