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By Will Fritz
Staff Writer 

FUESD to begin classes online Aug. 17


Last updated 8/6/2020 at 6:07pm

Fallbrook Union Elementary School District staff and governing board members meet at the district's virtual board meeting Monday, Aug. 3.

School starts Monday, Aug. 17, for Fallbrook Union Elementary School District families, and district officials have hammered out many of the details of how students will start classes virtually this fall.

While FUESD administrators had previously been drafting plans to return to physical classes – which called for decreased class sizes, staggered breaks and recesses, temperature checks and other measures – Gov. Gavin Newsom dashed any hopes of starting the school year in-person last month.

The governor announced July 17 that schools in counties on the state's coronavirus monitoring list – which currently does include San Diego County – must begin the school year virtually and may not resume in-person instruction until after they have been off the list for 14 days.

Julie Norby, FUESD's assistant superintendent of educational services, gave the board and the community a look into the district's plans for online learning, which were developed in 50 subgroup meetings and 10 full group meetings of various district stakeholders including parents, teachers and administrators.

Students will be expected to be learning for the full typical school day – six hours for elementary students and six-and-a-half for junior high students – with an early release on Fridays for both middle and elementary school students, Norby said.

Junior high students will be on a block schedule Monday through Thursday, with class periods of 90 minutes, and shorter hourlong class periods on early-release Fridays.

For students of all grade levels, there will be instructional support for those who need individualized education programs, as well as daily blocks of time for parent/student support – office hours, essentially.

Attendance will be mandatory, just as it would be if students were in physical classrooms, Norby said.

"Not logging into school because you have to go do something is not going to be OK," Norby said.

Students will learn both synchronously and asynchronously – meaning learning will take place in real time with live interaction as well as independently through watching videos and completing tasks.

All students will have access to a district Chromebook, Norby said.

At the end of last year, the district achieved a 1:1 student to Chromebook ratio in grades 3-8, and will achieve a 1:1 ratio for all students this year, she said.

As of last year, 97% of district families had internet connectivity, Norby said. FUESD is working with Verizon to provide district-filtered internet hot spots to families without internet access this year, Norby said.

The district will continue to offer curbside pickup for school meals.

Currently, the plan is for FUESD families to be able to pick up meals at their school sites Mondays and Wednesdays between 6:30 a.m. and 8:30 a.m. – meals picked up Mondays will include breakfast and lunch for Monday and Tuesday, while Wednesday pickup will include breakfast and lunch for the rest of the week.

Students approved for free and reduced lunch will be provided these meals free of charge. Other students will pay $9 Mondays and $13.50 Wednesdays.

Should the district get the green light to restart in-person classes, Candace Singh, superintendent of FUESD, said the district is still committed to staying online for at least the first four weeks of the school year and will provide two weeks' notice to parents before transitioning to either a blended or all-in-person learning model.

"We committed to you that no matter what happens we are staying online for four weeks because we need to create that academic schedule, that stability for our children and for our families to be able to get into this kind of instructional routine," Singh said. "We also know that we will provide our families with two weeks' notice before we come back in face to face whatever that looks like."

She said that two-week window will allow the district time to make appropriate changes to adjust to a return to in-person learning. It is of course not clear, though, when San Diego County will actually be removed from the state's coronavirus watchlist.

"If the case rate in our county continues to be what it is, I would anticipate that this is much longer than that," Singh said.

She said the district will continue to monitor the situation and will update the community at each board meeting.

Will Fritz can be reached by email at [email protected]


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