With just a few weeks left until the Sept. 1 start of classes for the Long Beach Unified School District, plans for the Fall are starting to take shape.
At a Board of Education meeting last week, the district presented its plan for virtual learning, which is how all students will be attending class until at least Oct. 5. The district is asking parents to select a “learning plan” for the school year by logging onto their ParentVue account and accessing the choices under the School of Choice tab. The plans for the year will include full in-person class schedules for elementary school students, and a variety of hybrid all-online or hybrid options for middle and high school students.
The district is asking parents to make a year-long commitment to their learning plan in order to allow planning for teachers and district staff–the deadline to submit choices is this Friday, Aug. 14.
Because 100% of the district’s students will be starting the year virtually, most of the presentation centered around what that will look like, including the unveiling of the LBUSD choice of learning management system, which will be the Canvas application for the upcoming year. In the Spring, students and teachers interacted through a patchwork of software that included the district’s native SchoolLoop program, Zoom calls, Google Classroom, and other external resources.
The district chose Canvas because it will house all that interaction in one application with one login. Parents will also be able to create one account that will allow them to monitor all their students, as opposed to having to log in and out of multiple accounts as was the case in the Spring.
“Our hope is that it will be a seamless experience for students, teachers, and parents,” said Kristi Kahl, the LBUSD’s Assistant Superintendent in charge of research. Training on Canvas and how to use it is available for students and parents and a week of training will be provided for teachers in the week prior to instruction beginning.
While the skeleton of how the school year will go is taking place, much of the details are still up in the air. Part of that is an ongoing labor negotiation between the district and the Teachers Association of Long Beach. The district is the city’s largest employer and TALB is its largest union–there has never before been a teacher’s strike in Long Beach, but TALB officials wouldn’t rule that possibility out.
“No deal,” said TALB executive director Chris Callopy after another long day of bargaining last Friday. The next dates TALB and the district will sit down are August 13, August 17, and August 20.
In an interview before the Friday bargaining session, LBUSD superintendent Jill Baker acknowledged there’s still plenty to figure out between the two sides.
“No one has been through a time like this before,” said Baker. “We’re going to figure it out together.”
The biggest bone of contention is the district’s desire for teachers to do their virtual instruction from their classrooms when school resumes–teachers have asked for a choice in whether they’d work from home or the classroom. The issue is technically one that the district has final say over without bargaining, but TALB leadership wants them to come to the table because of the teachers’ concerns over health and safety.
“We would like to be optimistic,” said TALB president Christine Kelly in a bargaining update emailed to TALB membership. “The tone and tenor of the meeting was very cordial.”
Most of last week’s bargaining session was devoted to a TALB proposal that asked for flexibility on work location, school day schedules, and other points. This week’s session will see the two sides come together to see whether they can hammer out a plan.