- West Contra Costa Unified School District plans to continue its K-12 virtual learning academy, necessitated by the COVID-19 pandemic, through at least the 2021-22 school year, EdSource reports, noting the district will also offer a virtual visual arts and performing academy as well as a career technical academy for a more robust distance learning experience.
- Though district schools will likely open for in-person classes in the fall, the district will keep the virtual option available for families that aren't yet comfortable sending students back. The virtual academy will include live lessons and guided assigned work, and its teachers will not be instructing in-person classes.
- Meanwhile, neighboring districts are in the process of meeting a Feb. 1 deadline to solidify reopening plans in line with Gov. Gavin Newsom’s “Safe Schools for All” plan, which includes allowing parents to continue choosing distance learning for their children if they prefer it but prioritizes the push to reopen.
Districts have invested millions of dollars during the pandemic to deliver distance learning to students. Now that the infrastructure is in place, stakeholders realize it would be wasteful to throw out the lessons learned from the emergency transition and not take advantage of what works as an additional option for families to choose. While many students report missing their friends, teachers and extracurricular activities during pandemic shutdowns, others say they enjoy working at their own pace without the distractions of the physical classroom.
The virtual learning infrastructure put in place to adapt to the COVID-19 crisis also creates a built-in “school choice” option many districts previously didn’t have the funds to offer. Now that much of the groundwork has been laid, it makes sense for districts to continue taking advantage of new possibilities — whether that means offering fully online programs for students who thrive in that environment or elective high school courses in subjects where local experts aren't available to teach.
Based on estimates from the Learning Policy Institute, the American Federation of Teachers suggested in a document released last summer it would cost $41 billion for schools to address the digital divide, provide nutrition and expand learning time for students. The Association of School Business Officials International and AASA, The School Superintendents Association, have also suggested the additional costs of reopening for an average district with around 3,659 students would be around $1.8 million to cover safety measures, protective equipment, transportation and childcare.