With class set to open tomorrow for the 70,000+ students of the Long Beach Unified School District, one thing is clear: there’s never been a year like this in the more than 100 year history of the district, its teachers, and its students. The Sept. 1 start date will see school conducted entirely online for at least a month, with all classes virtual until Oct. 5.
Normally, teachers spend the week before class starts lesson planning and getting their classrooms set up. It’s a time of anxiety but also anticipation, as well as the comfort of long-held traditions in getting ready.
Instead this year, LBUSD teachers–the city’s largest workforce–spent every day in several hours-long Zoom training sessions, learning to use Canvas, the online portal that all virtual learning will be conducted through this year.
According to the LBUSD, Monday’s trainings alone saw 70 simultaneous Zoom trainings, attended by more than 2,500 teachers, with lessons that were viewed more than 245,000 times that day.
“It’s a little bit like learning to fly a plane in five days and then taking off the next week,” said one Millikan teacher who requested not to be named. “And then knowing that there will be in-flight training while the plane is in the air.”
While teachers, students, and parents have some stability in knowing that Canvas will be the online tool used to teach this year, and that all school will be online through Oct. 5, that’s about where the certainty ends. If and when the California Department of Health allows Los Angeles County to open its schools, and presuming the county and city health departments agree and begin that process, a strange school year will become even stranger.
All of the city’s students and teachers will be online only when school starts next week–but if schools are allowed to re-open this school year there will be a major split. The LBUSD asked parents to submit their Instructional Program choice last week, meaning whether their students will attend school in-person or virtually if campuses open.
Parents were split. Fifty-eight percent of parents with students entering Kindergarten through 8th grade selected some form of in-person instruction, whether half day or full day. A higher percentage of high school parents (67%) selected the in-person option.
As teachers and students are training with Canvas to learn how online classes will go, school and district administrators are trying to solve the complex puzzle of how to assemble classes and schedule teachers for once school returns. Master schedules and teachers’ plans hae to be made up separately for those who will be teaching students in person and those who will teach the students whose parents have selected the online-only options.
As a whirlwind of training and planning is happening throughout the city this week, 2020-21 is unlike any year that’s come before.