In the spring, school districts throughout California scrambled to put together an online program following the sudden school closures caused by COVID-19. For the most part, these were haphazard programs that left much to be desired. The level of instruction in many cases was far below what children would have received during in-class instruction. But parents, including myself, understood the novelty of the situation and while many parents voiced their concerns, they ultimately gave school districts some slack.
But that was the spring. We're now nearly five months beyond the initial school closures. And as we head into fall, parents rightly expect more from school districts. The good news is some school districts seem to have taken parents' concerns seriously.
San Diego Unified School District's Distance-Learning Plan
San Diego Unified School District, the largest school district in San Diego County, has released its distance-learning plan. The plan, I'm happy to say, is far more robust than its spring program.
On July 30, 2020, San Diego Unified and its teachers union reached a tentative agreement regarding what the distance-learning program will consist of. The agreement calls for a six-hour school day. Under the agreement, teachers will conduct three hours of live online instruction, hold office hours, and arrange for small-group instruction. Students will also have at least two hours of independent work and one hour of working in small groups or participating in virtual office hours.
What is San Diego Unified School District's Plan for Special Education Students?
Under the agreement, IEP services will be provided live and be based on each student's IEP service hours and needs. This means there shouldn't be a reduction in service hours for services such as specialized academic instruction ("SAI") or related services (e.g., speech and language).
If it becomes apparent that a child isn't receiving what's required by his or her IEP, parents should immediately bring it to the attention of school staff so they can correct the situation. If the issue persists and goes unaddressed, the school may be failing to implement the IEP.
For more information on failure to implement an IEP, click here.
What is San Diego Unified School District's Plan for Students Who Require Behavioral Support?
One pressing question that isn't addressed by the agreement is how San Diego Unified plans to address the needs of students who require behavioral support to attend academic instruction or other services. The plan calls for IEP services to be provided live. But it's not clear how it intends to deal with this very important issue.
When Can California School Districts Resume Onsite Instruction?
School districts cannot resume onsite instruction until the county in which they are located has a COVID-19 case rate of 100 per 100,000 people or below. Currently, San Diego County has a case rate well above this threshold.