It’s back to school for thousands of Poway Unified School District students on Wednesday as they’re set to return to virtual learning.
The school district announced last month it intends to remain fully virtual through at least December break due to the coronavirus pandemic after it previously said the district would allow families to choose between in-person or virtual learning. Now, Poway Unified is planning how to get students back to class through gradual phases while having them learn remotely in the meantime.
"We’re going to bring back our students with special needs first, and then we’re going to start reopening our elementary schools, which are easier to do," Superintendent Marian Kim-Phelps told NBC 7. “We’ll have an AM and a PM group splitting the day because any one class is too large to maintain the social distancing requirements.”
Schools were given permission last week to reopen if they wish after San Diego County’s state-calculated rate satisfied California metrics for 14 straight days. However, Poway Unified School District said online instruction will be in effect for the start of the school year.
“We needed to provide some solid, concrete answers so that our staff and our teachers could plan accordingly for their students, and so knowing that we had those 14 days and it kind of went right up to the day before our opening of school, we had to make that decision that we were gonna open virtually on Sept. 2nd," Kim-Phelps said.
The school district brainstormed ways to welcome students to the new school year and premiered a back to school music video on YouTube. Several teachers and students were featured in the video, which was accompanied by Thomas Rhett’s “Be a Light.”
“I know it’s been challenging times for everyone, being cooped up at home and being isolated from friends and not being able to do our normal activities that we all normally do but my hope is that we all have hope,” Kim-Phelps said. “That we all have an opportunity to make a difference and to be able to be a light for others.”
To lift students’ spirits, the school district has thought of ways to let them interact with their peers in a safe manner. Westview High School recently held a drive-thru pep rally to welcome the freshmen class.
Design39Campus held a drive-thru book distribution so students can meet their teachers in person on Wednesday,
"I liked it because I got to see my teacher," said 3rd grader Ryan Carlson. "Like, I got to see her, like in person."
The 9-year-old's mother said she could feel the passion and excitement from the school's staff and faculty at the event. She recognized the effort teachers made to make the online curriculum for their students.
"The teachers have all worked so hard, and I think having something that is a solid foundation for the kids and a plan, I think, gives people reassurance," said Amanda Carlson. "It's not what we want, we all want to be back in school for sure."