LBUSD commits to grades for online learning; keeps negotiating live-teaching details

Long Beach Unified students won’t be going back to the classroom when school starts in the fall, but one aspect of their learning will be back to normal: grades.

“We are committed to giving grades this year, absolutely,” incoming LBUSD superintendent Jill Baker said in an interview last week about the district’s revamped online learning program for the upcoming school year.

LBUSD had originally planned on opening the school year with some in-person learning options, but announced last week that they will begin the school year on Sept. 1 with all online learning, through at least Oct. 5. And a subsequent announcement from the governor may have quickly rendered that Oct. 5 target date moot. He set strict coronavirus-related benchmarks Los Angles County will have to meet before LBUSD or any school campuses reopen. When that will happen is unclear.

Despite staying online only for now, Baker stressed that learning in the fall won’t look the same as it did in the spring, when the district and its teachers had to scramble to move their classrooms online when COVID-19 arrived.

“Will it be perfect? No. But we’ve been able to prepare for and solve technology issues and use our survey data in every way we can,” Baker said.

Not all the details have been ironed out, however. The district is still in negotiations with the Teachers Association of Long Beach, the union representing its teachers.

“We are working with the teacher’s association around the kinds of instruction, including live instruction, and we’re working with them to select a single platform to use so that there’s a single sign-on experience for students and parents,” Baker said. “Those are pretty high up in terms of feedback.”

After the spring semester ended, a survey by the district found 43% of students and 40% of parents were unhappy with the quickly assembled online learning system. A lack of graded assignments also became a flashpoint with hundreds of people signing an online petition asking the LBUSD to bring back an option for students to receive grades.

Parents overwhelmingly requested more live instruction for the upcoming school year, meaning dedicated times when teachers will be on a video call with students in a class. That’s one of many points the district will need to negotiate with TALB in the coming weeks.

“We’re in a very open and collaborative space,” said Baker of the conversations with TALB. “We’re at the table. We’re sharing a lot. We’re listening. They were with us for our advisory committees, they had representatives from all of those. After that, they’ve brought us other concerns from members so we can think about each of those.”

Baker also acknowledged the difficulty of charting the path forward with the national politicization of schools reopening—something President Donald Trump has pushed for—as well as a divided group of parents in the city, some who say they need schools to open in order for them to go to work, and some who want schools closed even if the state and county authorize their reopening.

“It’s a really polarized issue,” said Baker. “We’ve had more families extend their worry about health and safety (since the online learning announcement), but there’s a frustrated group that are angry, too.”

More details about the LBUSD’s restart in the fall will be decided in tonight’s LBUSD Board of Education meeting, slated to begin at 5 p.m. and viewable by clicking here. TALB director Chris Callopy will be on the Long Beach Post’s live chat video series on Wednesday. You can tune in on the Post’s Facebook or Twitter accounts at 1 p.m. Wednesday, July 22.

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