Santa Ynez Valley Union High School District starting distance learning Thursday
California schools must begin the 2020-2021 school year with virtual-distance learning per the orders of Gov. Gavin Newsom, and the Santa Ynez Valley Union High School District will do just that on Thursday.
Distance learning in the coming quarter will consist of online Zoom classes in a block schedule of 100 minutes each, according to Superintendent Scott Cory. Teachers will engage in live instruction for at least half of those 100 minutes, with the second 50 minutes set aside for either additional live instruction or for students to ask their teachers questions about the lessons.
According to an online letter from Mr. Cory to school district parents, the upcoming school year’s first two days of Aug. 13 and 14 will have a different schedule from the remainder of school days beginning on Aug. 17. Whereas the first two days will have all periods 1 to 7, starting next week school days will be divided between odd-schedule days on Tuesdays and Thursdays and even-schedule days on Wednesdays and Fridays.
The former will have periods 1, 3, 5, and 7, while the latter will have periods 2, 4, 6, and 7. Mondays will have periods 1 to 6 with no seventh period and school dismissed at 1:10 p.m. to allow for weekly staff development meetings.
In an interview with the News-Press, Mr. Cory remarked that whereas the school district’s sudden shift to distance learning last spring was akin to “building the plane while we’re flying it,” this year it is taking steps to ensure virtual lessons go more smoothly than in the past. These steps include having administrators sit in on lessons to determine what aspects of Zoom classes are going well and which ones need more work.
Transferring certain classes like physical education to a digital format requires “outside the box” thinking, Mr. Cory said, and as a result, online P.E. classes focus heavily on subjects that instructors can teach kids without engaging in physical activity. These include how to live a healthy lifestyle and nutrition. Given that quarantine has had a significant impact on students’ mental health, physical education lessons this coming quarter will also have a mental-health component.
“There’s a very broad array of things that P.E. teachers can be teaching their students,” Mr. Cory stated.
Shortly before the governor announced that California schools must conduct only distance classes at the start of the 2020-2021 school year, the Santa Ynez Valley Union High School District was working out a possible phased reopening. According to Mr. Cory’s letter, the district will implement the phased reopening at the end of whichever quarter it gets permission to resume in-person classes.
Mr. Cory said the phased reopening will be a mixture of remote and in-person learning, with students divided into two cohorts switching off personally attending school on different days of the week. The superintendent is hopeful the district will be able to implement this before the school year is done.
“We’re hoping beyond hope that we finish our year in person. That’d be a dream, that’d be a gift,” Mr. Cory said.