Santa Clarita Schools Officially Begin Fall Semester With Distance Learning

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Schools in the William S. Hart Union High School District and Castaic Union School District began their fall semester utilizing an online-only, distance-learning format on Tuesday.

In the weeks and months leading up to the start of the school year, school districts across the Santa Clarita Valley discussed the various potential scenarios for a return to campus, but ultimately the reality of the on-going COVID-19 pandemic has created an environment where the health and safety of students and staff on campus is not a guarantee.

With Hart District schools moving forward with an online-only format, the district’s nonprofit partner, the WISH Education Foundation, has made Chromebook laptops available to any students who need them, according to Hart District Spokesperson Dave Caldwell.

When the Los Angeles County “Safer at Home” order was announced in March, schools had to scramble to adapt to the new distance learning model. Understandably, this rapid change came with an amount of leniency for students who also found themselves in an unexpected and unprecedented situation.

Now with the benefit of time and experience, the bar has been raised for students and teachers alike in the digital classroom.

The expectation for the students is that they will be held accountable, if their class begins at 8 o’clock, teachers will be taking attendance and they expect all students in that class to be ready to go at 8 o’clock,” said Caldwell. “Teachers will be going over the curriculum that is much more relevant and rigorous.”

While many aspects of the traditional education experience have changed for the fall, some remain the same even while communicating with laptops and webcams.

“Just like any school year, this first day of school the key thing is to build connections with students and so that is the first goal that teachers are going to have with their students,” Caldwell said. “Building that connection is what is going to lead to student success ultimately, and so that is a big part of what we’re doing here on the first day of school.”

A full overview of the Hart District’s Fall planning is available from the district, .

Castaic Union School District’s member schools were the first elementary schools to begin fall instruction in the Santa Clarita Valley, with Saugus Union School District scheduled to begin their school year on Wednesday, Aug. 12, while Newhall Union School District and Sulfur Springs Union School District are set to start on Thursday, Aug. 13.

Briefly, the possibility of elementary schools applying for a reopening waiver due to the Santa Clarita Valley’s unique geographic isolation from much of the rest of Los Angeles County, however approval for such a waiver is based upon county-wide case rates.

The California Department of Public Health has recommended counties with case rates at or above 200 cases per 100,000 residents not be considered for reopening waivers, as of last week L.A. County stood at 355 cases per 100,000 residents. 

Additionally, last week it was revealed that 300,000 test results in California had not been reported due to a computer error, which brings further into question L.A. County’s current case rate.

“This incredibly frustrating misstep by the state has created a hurdle that the county must address before we can move forward with school waivers,” said Los Angeles County Fifth District Supervisor Kathryn Barger. “I am committed to the social and emotional well-being of children and youth, in addition to ensuring protections for their health.”

In his Monday coronavirus update, Governor Gavin Newsom addressed the reporting error and said he expected the results of the tests to be available in the next 24-48 hours.

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