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How One District Got Its Students Back Into Classrooms

After a set of marathon negotiations in late August with the unions, the district announced a plan under which most students could choose between full-time remote instruction or a blended course of study starting with two days a week in person, up to full-time. (Three of the district’s schools have opened for classes five days a week.)

Mr. Miyashiro praised the union for bringing forward safety concerns he had failed to see, and committed to using the rest of his federal stimulus funding to offer wraparound services — nutrition, recreation, distance-learning support — for families who need support during the three days that students are not in school. Thirty percent of children’s families opted for all-remote leaning until December, while the rest have returned two days a week.

These figures present a contrast to what is happening in many parts of the country, where high-poverty schools are significantly more likely to be opening with remote-only instruction.

Mr. Miyashiro said his drive to get back stemmed from the frustration he heard from parents. “The truth is, distance learning isn’t working for most families,” he said. “Parenting, teaching and working do not make for manageable multitasking.”

Learning Heroes, a nonpartisan nonprofit group that regularly surveys parents, has found the most important priorities for reopening were safety and trust. “If parents did not trust the school to serve their children pre-Covid, the bar is much higher now,” wrote Bibb Hubbard, founder of Learning Heroes.

In districts around the country, shifting school opening plans have also fueled parents’ frustration. New York City on Thursday abruptly delayed in-person instruction because of personnel shortages. Many New Jersey districts reversed plans to open in person. And Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida threatened to withhold funding from the Hillsborough County School District if it did not reopen for in-person learning, leading to a legal battle.

Cajon Valley was not immune to course changes. Mr. Miyashiro announced in June, far ahead of others, a plan to let parents pick one of four options, including full in-person learning. Most parents said they wanted their children back in classrooms. Then California’s governor ordered that all districts on a Covid-19 watch list could only offer remote instruction. That included Cajon Valley, which reopened for remote instruction on Aug. 19.

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