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In a 4-0 vote, the Beverly Hills Unified School District Board of Education approved a two-option reopening plan on July 21 for the upcoming school year, with students learning online and possibly returning to campus in the future. Board member Tristen Walker-Shuman was absent .
“I think it’s important to really finalize this opportunity to disclose we have two options,” BHUSD Board President Isabel Hacker said. “You have the option to decide what works best for your child.”
On July 21, BHUSD board members received a newly revised presentation on the district’s reopening plan, Return 2 Learn, by BHUSD Superintendent Michael Bregy. The plan allows parents and students to choose between the Independent Learning Center, an online model traditionally used by students who cannot regularly attend in-person classes, or a hybrid model called Live @ BHUSD.
As of July 21, there were 441 BHUSD students who applied and signed up for the ILC. Students who choose that program will commit to one semester of online-only learning, and by the end of the semester, they can choose to remain or enroll in the hybrid model.
The deadline to apply for the ILC program was extended to July 27 at 8 a.m., and any students who do not apply for that model will be automatically enrolled in Live @ BHUSD.
Live @ BHUSD will be taught Monday through Friday and students will have daily live interaction at home online using BHUSD devices. In this model, classes will mirror the bell schedule that follows each student’s current schedule.
Eventually, students enrolled in Live @ BHUSD will return to campus for in-person instruction once state and county requirements are met. The date for that to happen will depend on any future public health orders related to COVID-19, Bregy said.
“We want to be able to ensure that we provide parents with the most information up until that point to make a decision whether they want ILC or if they are going to be engaged in our distance learning, which is going to be Live @ BHUSD,” Bregy said.
The board’s consideration of whether to teach online or in-person classes was met with criticism and concerns by teachers, parents, students and stakeholders over the weeks leading up to the July 21 meeting.
Board members received 19 letters and read some aloud during public comment, and cited numerous phone calls and emails about reopening schools the board received during the past month. Most of the letters came from teachers concerned about returning to campus as the number of COVID-19 infections continues to rise in the city and the county of Los Angeles.
Paige Rubin, a school psychologist for BHUSD, wrote a letter questioning why BHUSD would consider reopening campuses when COVID-19 cases are higher now than when the district decided to close campuses and transition to online learning.
“If we are providing services and instruction to students virtually, why would you ever insist we risk our lives to do what we can do safely from home,” Rubin wrote.
Alexis Crane, a science and STEM teacher at Beverly Vista Middle School, wrote a letter asking the board to allow teachers to work from home, and to consider the health and living conditions for teachers and their families.
“Fewer people on campus means it is a safer place for the people who are there,” Crane wrote. “For those who have been potentially exposed or wake up feeling ill, but not quite ill enough for a sub, the ability to stay home needs to be part of the equation.”
Some parents opposed online learning, including the approximately 80 protesters who demonstrated in Beverly Gardens Park on July 9 to express outrage about the possibility of distance learning. They cited issues with online learning due to a number of reasons related to child care, and that online learning offered by BHUSD was inadequate compared to in-person instruction.
However, Dustin Seemann, assistant superintendent of education services, and Laura Chism, assistant superintendent of student services, who both assisted Bregy in the presentation of Return 2 Learn, provided additional details about how BHUSD is prepared to support students, teachers, staff and administrators in the upcoming school year.
BHUSD started summer professional development for teachers on Google Classrooms and other digital teaching programs such as Aeries Gradebook, Apex & Goalbook, myViewBoard, Google Meet and GSuite Tools, Seemann said. The district will provide optional departmental meetings to answer questions and collaborate on fall teaching plans to ensure BHUSD teachers have the necessary resources for a successful semester, he added.
Chism reinforced that BHUSD will continue to provide and support students who need additional help, and support the social and emotional needs of all students by offering services and connecting with those in need.
“The state nor the federal government have relaxed guidelines that apply to students who are in special education,” Chism said. “We are still mandated to provide the services and support listed in each student’s IEP to that level, so we are prepared to do that starting in August.”
She added BHUSD will be introducing social emotional learning lessons to cover things like bullying and cyberbullying, coping skills, substance abuse, depression and anything that students may be experiencing.
Hacker added that she empathizes and understands the concerns of teachers, parents and students.
“We don’t take this lightly,” Hacker said. “We don’t favor one stakeholder over the other. I hope that you understand that we are trying to resolve a lot of the issues and concerns that are on your minds because they definitely weigh heavy on ours as well.”
BHUSD’s Return 2 Learn reopening plan can be read online starting on July 24. For information, visit bhusd.org.
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