ARROYO GRANDE, Calif. -- A day after its Board of Education voted to begin the upcoming 2020-21 school year exclusively online with full distancing learning, the Lucia Mar Unified School District is asking parents and students to begin preparations for the modified format.
Now that district management knows exactly was format will be used, it's in in the process of putting together the details.
"We hope to have a very complete plan out for our school community by the end of July," said Hillery Dixon, head of the district's curriculum and instruction. "At that time, we'll have a very good description for families for what online learning will look like in the fall, as opposed to what it looked like in spring."
Dixon stressed the online option was not the one district management preferred.
It had recommended a split day format that featured students coming in separate shifts, one in the morning, the other in the afternoon.
However, due to health concerns from the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the school board voted unanimously to start the year virtually.
Dixon added the district is aiming to create a virtual model that looks like regular in-class instruction as much as possible, only with the students at home, instead of in a classroom.
"It will be more rigorous," said Dixon. "There will be more time on task. Students will be back on their regular grading system. We will covering content as close to normal as we normally would if we were here in person."
She also admitted there will be significant challenges ahead for all parties involved, from the district leadership, to school administration, to teachers, staff, students and families.
"There will be hurdles we have to overcome," said Dixon. "We're working on plans for students to be able to meet their teacher virtually, and as discussed at our board meeting last night, there may be may be some opportunities for some groups to see their teachers for a limited amount of time in person, even if it's just a meet and greet, socially distanced of course."
She also said the district is trying to come up with ideas to help students that are transitioning to a new school site.
"We're looking at how to introduce students to their new school, if they are starting a new elementary, middle school or high school," said Dixon. "And also how to stay connected with teachers they don't know yet."
She is stressing to parents and guardians that they should begin conversations with their children right now about the upcoming changes.
"I think the most important for families right now is to help students know that school is still really important," said Dixon. "This may not be what some of our families wanted, and we know, it's not what some of our families wanted. However, kids take their cues from their parents, and if parents help their kids understand school is important, that's the most important thing."
Despite the many difficult challenge that lie ahead, he's also optimistic about the future.
"We have a great staff," said Dixon. "Our parents are incredible, so I think we'll be able to make it happen."
Lucia Mar begins the new school year on Thursday, Aug. 13.