Culver City Unified introduces plan to begin return to schools

District officials hope to welcome 1st graders back on March 15

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As COVID-19 cases begin to drop to an acceptable level by state and county health departments, Culver City Unified School District has begun planning for the return of students to campus and the reintroduction of in-person learning to curriculum for elementary school.

On Feb. 3, Superintendent Leslie Lockhart sent a letter to parents to update them on the plans for the district to reopen.

With the cases dropping to that acceptable threshold, the district hosted several “Listen and Learn” events via Zoom on Feb. 22 that detailed the plans to integrate classroom life back into the school without forcing parents who are uncomfortable sending their children back to do so.

The solution that district officials came up with a “cohort model,” which separates students into three different groups and bases their schedule on what group they are placed in.

In the theoretical model presented to parents at these meetings, students in each class would be separated into three groups, or ‘cohorts.’ Cohort A would come to school on Mondays and Thursdays and work from home the other weekdays, while Cohort B would come to school on Tuesdays and Fridays and stay at home on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays. Those who wanted to stay explicitly at home would be placed in Cohort C, where they would work with the home schedules of the other two groups or continue with their current schedule depending on various circumstances.

But even for those who are eager to spend time with friends, the district is playing it safe by limiting time in the classrooms. Only the morning sessions of school — from when classes start at 8:45 to 11:30 a.m., when students are released for a ‘Grab and Go’ lunch. For all groups, classes from 12:30 to 2:30 p.m. will be conducted virtually as they have been.

With this system comes other challenges, the main one being that there is only one teacher for each class, and that one teacher cannot conduct a class in person for cohort A and an online lesson for cohort B and C at the same time. Additionally, state regulations require that teachers give a certain amount of live attention in a school day, further complicating the system.

To solve this, the district is using a “synchronous/asynchronous” curriculum system, which involves setting up a separate virtual lesson plan for kids learning at home while a teacher is conducting an in-person class. When the in-person cohort returns home for the afternoon virtual sessions, they would receive a video or similar form of automated lesson plan for students to complete on their own, while the cohort who had done the virtual at home learning would now participate in a live virtual class with the teacher.

In order to simplify this process for teachers, only certain subjects will be taught synchronously, while others will only be done with the virtual asynchronous lesson. In the theoretical model, those cohorts in school would be limited to Language Arts, Math, and Social-Emotional Development classes, while the asynchronous classes for the other cohort would be working on Science and Social Studies classes, as well as “independent academic extension activities.” 

In the afternoons, those roles would swap, with the cohort who remained at home now receiving Language Arts, Math, and Social-Emotional Development classes and the other doing the asynchronous Science and Social Studies classes.

For those still on the fence about whether or not they wanted to send their kids back, a set of pros and cons for each decision was presented, but the need for a decision soon from parents was emphasized.

In terms of a timeline, the presentation emphasized that a lot of the talk was predicated on a ‘perfect scenario.’ In such a scenario, the district hopes to have first grade back on campus March 15.

For more information, view the full meeting at ccusd.org/ (ccusd.org > COVID-19/Distance Learning Updates