Last month, the Santa Barbara Unified School District took a first, tentative step to re-opening schools in August, with a hybrid system that combines classroom and online learning.
Amid a statewide spike in Covid-19 infections, however, large school districts throughout California now are deciding to stay closed for the fall in favor of distance learning only, as the SB school board convenes a remote, open "study session" on the issue tonight (Tuesday).
The Zoom session, scheduled from 5:30-7 p.m., will include presentations from physicians, public and mental health experts and non-profit leaders. Details for joining the meeting are on the district's website here.
Since the board's last meeting on June 23, the tide appears to have shifted against hopes that the status of the pandemic would allow for at least a partial re-opening of classrooms, which closed in March for the remainder of the school year.
Donald Trump, who lacks the authority to enforce his demand, has insisted that public schools must reopen, but on Monday, Los Angeles Unified, the second-largest district in the nation, announced it would not reopen for classes on Aug. 18, as did San Diego Unified, joining a host of Northern California districts which previously opted to remain closed for now. One outlier to the trend is the Orange County Board of Education, which not only recommended students return to class -- but do so without masks or social distancing; the county board, however, left the final decision up to local districts.
As a political matter, a crucial factor in recent developments was a letter to the governor released last week by leaders of the powerful California Teachers Association, which represents more than 300,000 teachers in the state, saying that the course of the pandemic makes reopening now too risky.
"Simply said, California cannot reopen schools until they are they safe," said the letter, which you can read here.
Josh Molina captured the wind-is-shifting atmosphere in his state-of-play piece on local schools on Tuesday, which included key quotes from local teachers union President Karen McBride:
"'With the number of cases in Santa Barbara and countywide getting worse at a much more elevated rate than back in March, April and May, that may mean that remote learning is the safest alternative," McBride said. "If we have to start the school year in full remote mode, it will not be like it the emergency conditions we faced in March."
..."'Teachers gained many skills for remote teaching in the spring, they strengthened collaborative professional teams, and there is ongoing professional development happening to improve our remote teaching and learning," McBride said. "If teachers and students resume school in classrooms, there is a very high chance that we will end up in a remote learning mode, and that could happen quickly."
Stay safe out there.