By CATHERINE RHA
IUSD will provide virtual, blended, and hybrid learning options to its high schools for the 2020-2021 school year. Students and parents have until July 19th to decide which academic model they will use; anyone who has not made a choice until then will be auto-enrolled into their respective school’s hybrid learning option.
Having taken into account state and local guidelines for reopening schools, as well as IUSD family and teacher preferences, on Monday the IUSD school board approved the decision to move forward with these learning options.
“We have experienced incredible disruption, and we don’t want that for our students any longer,” said Assistant Superintendent of Education Services Cassie Parham. “We want our families, to the greatest extent possible in this kind of environment, to have a choice, a model that ideally best serves their needs.”
According to IUSD, students who pick the hybrid learning option will attend school for two days a week and engage in virtual learning for the remaining three days of the school week. No live sessions will be held on the days that students do not go to in-person classes – instead, students will complete online assignments, and schools will take attendance based on completion of these assignments. Half of the school population will attend classes on Tuesday and Thursday, and the other half will attend school on Wednesday and Friday.
Students who choose the blended learning option will take both online courses from the Irvine Virtual Academy and in-person lessons at their respective school. They may take either four in-person classes and two virtual classes, or two in-person classes and four virtual classes.
Students who choose to participate in the Irvine Virtual Academy (IVA) will take all their classes exclusively online and learn from teachers across IUSD, not just from their respective schools. The IVA will provide real-time instruction as well as online assignments for a wide variety of courses designed by IUSD, including honors, Advanced Placement , English Learner, and Career Technical Education variants. IUSD will also attempt to group students from the same schools in the same virtual classes with teachers from their own schools, although they say it is likely that students will get teachers and classmates from other schools as well
The IVA will be run by IUSD’s first Director of Educational Technology, Kris Linville, who will act as the Director of IVA, and IUSD’s Director of Alternative Education, Rebecca Roberts.
As of now, students will only be able to change their academic model choice at the end of each semester or trimester, depending on what system their individual school uses.
In all three educational models, including IVA, students will receive letter grades that will count for their GPA. A credit/no credit grading model will not be offered for the 2020-2021 school year.
“Now that [IUSD is] no longer providing Emergency Distance Learning, and can plan effectively for both virtual and in-person instruction and assessment, classes across all instructional models will utilize letter grades for the 2020-2021 school year”, stated IUSD in its Opening and Planning FAQ.
In order to ensure student safety, IUSD plans to implement a broad array of tactics, including requiring all students and staff to wear face masks; decreasing class sizes; increasing the volume of cleaning in between and after classes; staggering lunch times, pick-up, and drop-off times; and distributing personal protective equipment (PPE) and hand sanitizer to all students.
“It is important for [IUSD] to be aggressive with the PPE,” said John Fogarty, who is the Assistant Superintendent of Business Services. IUSD has currently amassed over 98,000 masks, and has ordered 11,000 study carrels for use in schools, among other PPE supplies.
As of Wednesday, there have been 875 cases of the coronavirus in Irvine, and 7 deaths from COVID-19.
Earlier this week, the Los Angeles Unified and San Diego Unified School Districts, the two largest school districts in California, announced that they would be starting the school year exclusively through virtual learning, along with the Orange County districts Anaheim Unified and Santa Ana Unified.
Other OC districts, such as the Tustin Unified and Capistrano Unified School Districts, have decided on a similar approach to Irvine’s, providing both in-person and virtual learning options.
During the IUSD school board meeting on June 14th, board members justified their stance on providing multiple learning options, as opposed to only providing virtual learning like LAUSD and SDUSD, by citing differences in student numbers, funding, and school space.
“When members of the public see LA or San Diego or Santa Ana, each school district has a different reality,” said IUSD Board Member Paul Bokota. “There are things about Irvine that may make some of these other models more acceptable and possible here, that don’t exist in other districts, either in California or other parts of the country.”
IUSD’s school board hopes that families will be able to make a decision that will best suit their needs.
“Parents, whether you feel comfortable… about sending your children back to school, that is entirely your choice,” said IUSD Board President Betty Carroll. “That option is for you.”
IUSD 2020-2021 Planning Update #4: https://iusd.org/2020-21Update4
Explanations of Academic Models: https://iusd.org/2020-21-opening-and-safety-planning/2020-21-academic-models
Guide to Selecting Academic Models: https://docs.google.com/document/d/11xN_MCtZhhZB-A78VgtvEMornqqrmnmE-WiIpWAS-Xs/preview?ts=5f0e30e6&pru=AAABc3z36UE*le1zkIvCCnnGK2FHCd_Brw#
Irvine Virtual Academy Handbook: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1UXEoqzOP4WY0lj_O_-eAGM5STeeR7AjY0MJm_gyEoN4/edit
Irvine Virtual Academy Course Catalog: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1y29WH34EmuJ8uuwtgK3OewiR22pfteYweVLaZhX9k-A/edit
*UPDATED: It has not been confirmed if students can choose which classes to take virtually and in-person for the blended model.