SAN MARCOS – The San Marcos Unified School District (SMUSD) board held a meeting last Tuesday, July 21, to present and vote on a reopening plan for the upcoming school year. The plan failed to pass 2-3, but the district still wants parents to choose between two, year-long learning models by Aug. 2.
SMUSD, which has more than 21,000 students in grades K-12, presented parents with two options for their students. The first is remote learning/in-person learning, which aims to ultimately return students to physical school if and when it is safe to do so.
The second is the Leading Edge Virtual School (LEVS), which is an online option for students who wish to remain off campus for the entirety of the school year.
Per Gov. Newsom’s recent announcement of his pandemic plan for California’s schools, schools located in counties that are on the Monitoring List must not physically open for in-person instruction until their county has come off the Monitoring List for 14 consecutive days. San Diego County is currently on the state’s Monitoring List.
Therefore, SMUSD, which is set to start classes on Aug. 18, will begin virtually for all students.
According to parents in the district, Tuesday’s meeting was the first time the plans had been shared with them. Nonetheless, students are expected to make a decision by Aug. 2 and stick to that decision for the entirety of the school year.
The only exception is that students who choose the LEVS yearlong online option may apply to return to remote learning/in person at the semester if space allows.
It should be noted that switching from LEVS to in-person learning would mean shifting from a project-based learning model to a standard learning model, which some parents have raised concerns about.
“The online option, which is a new curriculum and a new approach that we’ve never seen before, requires a commitment for an entire year,” said Sandra Greefkes, a SMUSD parent. “But if you initially chose the remote learning/in-person learning, and you’re not comfortable that it’s still safe to do so, it’s unclear about whether we can still keep our child in this distance-learning mode until we, as a parent and as a family, are ready to send our kid back to school.”
Greefkes added that many parents were also offended by a comment that was made during the meeting by Victor Graham, the vice president of the SMUSD board:
“Not saying that people aren’t dying, they are. Not saying that people shouldn’t be concerned, they should be, but we shouldn’t be driven by fear… you want to keep all teenagers safe, then don’t give them a car… We’re not trying to get to zero, we’re just trying to reduce. Life is a dangerous game, we’re all going to die, so no one’s going to get out of this alive, but the fact is we’re trying to push that date off as much as we can… it’s all risk and return, it’s all trade-offs, and that’s fine.
“When the question is posed saying ‘If I open up the schools, and a kid dies, it’s on me,’ no, public policy is different than the individual… we have to do what’s best for 80-90% of the people, from a policy standpoint.”
After the failed vote and a wave of confusion that followed from parents, the district held an additional informational webinar on July 27 and presented both options in more detail along with planned safety measures for in-person learning that include face masks, social distancing, plexiglass barriers for classrooms, daily health screenings, etc.
A second vote on the plan was not held during Monday’s virtual webinar. It is unclear when the board will vote again.
“The plan to physically reopen our schools will be finalized at a future time,” said Superintendent Dr. Carmen García. “We recognize that pre-COVID-19, in-person instruction with a teacher along with social interaction with peers is what has always been best for students. Simultaneously, we understand the angst some parents feel with sending their students back to in-person instruction and plan to address that concern with yearlong virtual school experience.”
VP of the Board Victor Graham and two other members of the board are up for re-election in November.