Teachers, parents concerned over San Francisco and Oakland's plans to start distance learning this fall

Saturday, July 11, 2020
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What school will look like for Bay Area students of all ages is coming into sharper focus. Districts are detailing their plans for fall, with distance learning a top priority.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- What school will look like for Bay Area students of all ages is coming into sharper focus. Districts are detailing their plans for fall, with distance learning a top priority.

The plans have created concern for both teachers and parents.

RELATED: Oakland elementary school reopening plan includes online assessment, small group instruction

In a presentation for July 14th's Board of Education meeting, San Francisco Unified School District laid out a plan for the fall. While staff has not yet agreed, the district is recommending almost all students distance learn when school starts on August 17th. Small groups of priority students may be able to do in-person school. And once data suggests it's safe, a gradual return to a hybrid distance and in-person plan would begin.

"I guess the writing was on the wall, but I was still hoping we could at least return with at least a few students," said a SFUSD elementary school teacher, who spoke to ABC7 by phone. She did not want to share her name.

She says she's crushed she can't return to her classroom at the start of school. "I think it's kind of coming from the view point of seeing my son's preschool teachers be comfortable with going back," she said, adding that she's "missing the students and the connections we were building."

RELATED: SF health officials release school reopening guidelines amid COVID-19 pandemic

Oakland Unified School District announced their plan to also start at a distance. Phase one will be four weeks of remote learning. The science will determine the next blended phase of distance and in person learning.

"The kids will who have the highest needs, we'll be focusing on them first to get then back to in person instruction. That would special ed, homeless kids, and foster kids," said OUSD spokesperson, John Sasaki.

"We are still trying to work out exactly how this is going to work for parents who need to work," explained Sasaki during a remote news conference on Friday.

"Logistically, it is a nightmare. We're two working parents, both expected to be teaching and working on site at our place of work with two kids at two different places," said Mark Schneider, whose daughter is starting kindergarten at Thornhill Elementary in Oakland on August 10th. Meanwhile, he's supposed to go back to his classroom to teach history at an independent East Bay high school.

RELATED: Expect possible 'hybrid' learning when kids return to classrooms, CA superintendent says

"It's almost a zero sum game. I'm either giving my best to my students or I'm helping my kindergartener."

Many teachers in Oakland are on board with the distance learning plan.

"I think it's a step in the right direction that we're going to be online," said Amy Burns a special education teacher at Skyline, a Title I high school in Oakland. Many of her students have medical conditions that make them more vulnerable to COVID-19. She's worried the district won't be able to keep staff and students safe, once they return to in-person instruction.

"How are we going to get supplies during the pandemic when so much more is needed," she asked. "Students are going to come with no masks. We are going to have to provide the masks."

OUSD is also still trying to distribute more laptops and devices to students in need.

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