Students in the Grossmont Union High School District (GUHSD) are headed back to school this week with a new learning plan, one that requires distance learning at the start due to public health orders amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The district has created a program with five levels that will ease students back into the classroom as public health officials ease restrictions. The school year will begin with all students in Level 1, which requires students to learn from home. As conditions improve, schools can move to Level 2, which means 25% of students can return to class, and so on until, eventually, the district reaches Level 5, when all students will be allowed back in the classroom.
"It was really challenging but we came up with this model, I think, which is pretty unique," GUHSD Superintendent Theresa Kemper said. "Teachers helped us develop it, and it allows fewer kids on campus as well as fewer contacts, and because of the multi-levels, we can pivot between the levels as we need to, depending on the health conditions."
But as of now, students will go back to school from home. That's why a banner flashing across the website to welcome kids back to their now-virtual Mount Miguel High School seems fitting before classes kicked off on Monday.
This year will also be constructed differently using a quarter system instead of a semester system. Many changes to adapt to the changing world because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It’s forcing us to adapt, it is forcing us to change our ways and I think we’re seeing some great results out of many kids,” said Digital Arts teacher John Duran.
Duran says he is ready to inspire and be inspired by his digital arts students but getting ready for an unprecedented school year has been a challenge.
“Just coming up with a whole new curriculum, trying to new ideas of trying to teach digital arts," he said.
But he's encouraged by the camaraderie of his fellow instructors.
“Everyone on campus has been supportive sharing ideas,” he said.
Duran has had to come up with creative ways to teach his students, especially because they don’t have enough cameras for all of the students in his class to take home.
“We are giving them a lot of options to see what they gravitate towards, so they can keep that attention during distance learning," he said.
They can choose between photography, videography, podcasting, or other digital mediums for their projects.
Changes to the school year have also affected students like Bryce Hemmie, a freshman this year. His mom, Sandra Hemmie, said scheduling hasn't been clear and she's frustrated with what she says is a lack of communication from the district.
"These guys picked up their stuff on Friday, freshmen, and school starts today," Hemmie said on Monday. "So we didn’t have any time to ask anybody any questions or anything like that. And it was very aggravating.”
But the district is doing its best to adjust to a different type of education system.
"No one ever would anticipate something like this -- a pandemic. Like, what do you do?" Kemper said. "Kids need to keep learning, the economy needs to keep going, we need to keep connecting. So it’s just forced us all to find alternative means to do that."
Each freshman student in the district will be outfitted with a Chromebook laptop, Kemper said.
The Grossmont Union High School District is celebrating their centennial this year. The district serves about 20,000 students and has 12 comprehensive high schools.
NBC 7 is tracking how all 42 school districts in San Diego County plan to tackle the 2020-2021 school year. For now, in-person instruction is not possible, as San Diego County remains on the state's COVID-19 monitoring list.