Superintendent Message Regarding Reopening for the 2020-2021 School Year

July 17, 2020

Dear DUSD Students, Parents, Staff, and Community,

At the Special Meeting held last night, the Board of Education unanimously determined the best course of action to start the 2020-2021 school year on August 13, 2020, is by utilizing 100% distance learning. This difficult decision was informed by the extensive work completed by our Re-Visioning Taskforce that included analysis of all survey data, recommendations provided by the Re-Visioning Steering Committee, public comment provided at the meeting, and current public health information that shows an alarming rise in the COVID-19 curve. While we know operating within a 100% virtual environment, for the time being, will present challenges, our guiding principle and first-priority remains the health and safety of our students, staff, and families. The Special Meeting can be viewed here.

The value school-based services afford our families is undeniable, and we would like nothing more than to welcome back all of our students and staff to our campuses, but only when it is safe to do so. We will continue to work toward the ultimate goal of delivering full-time in-person instruction at our schools and will monitor and evaluate public health conditions to keep you informed as to when in-person learning is possible. Until that time, we will utilize a spectrum of models designed specifically to provide the flexibility needed to pivot back and forth between them as health and safety conditions permit. The models we will employ throughout the 2020-2021 school year will continue to be developed in collaboration with our labor partners, but a general description for each is provided below:

DUSD 100% Distance Learning Model:

We will begin the year with this model starting on August 13, 2020. Rest assured, the DUSD 100% Distance Learning Model will be substantially different from the remote learning used at the end of last school year. This new model will offer our students a robust online learning experience with technology access for all that will have a strengthened emphasis on teacher-student engagement with daily live interactions with teachers and peers for the purpose of instruction, school connectedness, and social-emotional support as well as progress monitoring, accountability measures including grades and attendance, and parent education components.

DUSD Blended Model:

When safety conditions allow for in-person instruction, the DUSD Blended Model will cohort students into smaller groups to minimize the number of students and staff on campus at any one time to offer in-person instruction at school with distance learning when at home. Key elements of this model include consistent scheduling for in-person instruction across the district, prioritizing siblings to be placed in the same cohort, providing for more frequent in-person learning for students needing specialized services, accountability measures including grades and attendance, and ensuring the appropriate time, space, and resources needed to implement all public health and safety guidelines.

It is important for all of our families to know students in need of social-emotional and mental health support and specialized services for high-needs students will be prioritized and provided in all models. Our free Grab-n-Go meals service will also continue. 

DUSD Virtual Academy Program

DUSD will also offer an additional option called the Virtual Academy Program for students in Grades K-12 wanting 100% online learning to access the standards-based core instructional program for the entire 2020-2021 school year. This is not the same as the DUSD 100% DIstance Learning Model and will operate as a separate program. Enrollment in the Virtual Academy Program is optional and will require submission of a parent request. More information will be issued next week along with a survey to determine student interest in participating in this program. A Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) guide will accompany the survey to help you make your decision. 

I am grateful for the contributions our Board of Education, Steering Committee, Taskforce Members, students, families, staff, labor partners, and community members have invested in developing our Re-Visioning Roadmap that has led to the place where we will start the 2020-2021 school year on August 13, 2020. I had hoped we would be in a better position now than we had found ourselves in last March, but we are not. I am asking once again for your understanding, support, and resolve which will be needed to make the upcoming year the best we can for our students and staff. I acknowledge we still have much more work to do, especially in light of the fluid nature of COVID-19, and I assure you our district’s response will continue to be dynamic. I am confident that our entire learning community will join together at this crucial moment as we have demonstrated under difficult circumstances before, and we will rise to meet the challenge once again. We anticipate you will have many questions until further information is provided next week. I ask that you please email them to communications@duarteusd.org so they can be added to our FAQ guidelines. Thank you all and be well!

Sincerely,

Gordon

Gordon Amerson, E.d.D.

Superintendent of Schools

Duarte Unified School District