CARLSBAD — Graduations are rescheduled and students will not return to schools for the remainder of the year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Those were the directions from the Carlsbad Unified School District Board of Trustees to Superintendent Ben Churchill during a May 13 meeting. High school graduations at Carlsbad and Sage Creek high schools have been pushed back until July 23, Churchill said.
The board also discussed a flexibility plan for possible in-person ceremonies, but those details will come at a date as the board also agreed to seek advice from its legal counsel.
“For those folks who have asked us to return to school immediately, we don’t have that latitude,” Churchill said regarding the April 30 order. “The public health order in San Diego County reads that public schools are to be closed until further notice. Until that is relaxed, we don’t have the authority to change that.”
“There’s not a scenario where it’s a light switch and we go back into large-group gatherings,” Trustee Claudine Jones added. “We can have an opportunity to have something more traditional planned later on.”
There are several steps to re-opening, Churchill said, which includes Gov. Gavin Newsom lifting the stay-at-home order, the San Diego County public health officer removing the public health order, districts must develop a “re-entry” plan and evaluate the May revised budget from the state, which was released last week.
Currently, the county has met four of the five criteria to lift the order, he added. Robert Nye, assistant superintendent of instructional services, said remote online learning will continue until June 11 for underclassmen. Seniors will finish on June 5.
“There’s still a big question mark as to when the governor will allow schools to re-open,” Churchill said.
Once the budget is analyzed, Assistant Superintendent Chris Wright said the district determines how to maintain a balanced budget and develop a path that remains solvent. Newsom’s $203 million budget is calling for at least 10% cuts in education and is tying those cuts to $1 trillion federal aid for states.
However, if the federal aid comes through, the education budget wouldn’t be cut, according to a report from CalMatters.
As for a fall re-opening, Churchill said the health and safety of the students is the top priority, especially for the most vulnerable children. The other two include physical space and then teaching and learning.
However, cleaning and disinfecting supplies may be tough to obtain as a number of manufactures have ordering backlogs, he said.
A district survey completed by 700 students and 1,300 parents revealed 99% of students know how to access their assignments online, Nye reported, compared to 85% of parents. As for assigned work, 63% of students and 64% of parents said it was “just right,” while 34% of students and 18% of parents said it was “too much.”
The district has also allocated 33 wireless internet hotspots and 800 Chromebooks to families and staff.
However, one troubling trend has been an increase in vandalism and trespassing on school property. People have scaled fences, spilled paint, tunneled under fences, broken windows, and more, Churchill said.
Fortunately, some staff and crews will return to campuses soon to clean and sanitize, which should help with reducing vandalism. Also, Churchill said the Carlsbad Police Department is being more aggressive with its patrols around schools.
“I’m disappointed and frustrated that people are taking advantage of our community resources,” he added.