NewsLocal News


Alpine school district to help set up learning pods on school property

Posted at 4:57 PM, Aug 14, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-14 21:16:18-04

ALPINE, Calif. (KGTV) - When students in one East County school district start their school year, they may have the option to be in a learning pod, organized by the district.

When Gov. Newsom's orders pointed to distance learning for local schools, Alpine Union School District's superintendent, Rich Newman, says the feedback from parents came quickly. Though the district took pride in their virtual classes, parents were worried.

"Parents had deep feelings of concern for the future of their children and their potential learning loss from distance learning," said Newman.

Those specific concerns are familiar ones: access to computers and internet access, students' social isolation and distractions, and parents' work schedules. So officials in the school district, which includes nearly 1,700 students from pre-K to 8th grade, came up with a plan.

"We are replicating the normal school day our students would normally be in," said Newman.

Newman says they'll be offering up space for free at schools, from gyms and classrooms to outdoor spaces for 12-student learning pods. Each pod will be supervised by one parent every day. The parents would divvy out their shifts within the group.

"Parents have to fill out a facilities use agreement, just like a sports league ... that would allow them to go on campus. They'll have to sign a waiver," said Newman.

The district won't be just providing space. Students will have access to computers and tutors, both in-person and online. Newman says the pods will follow state COVID-19 guidelines, including social distancing and mandatory masks for students in the 3rd grade and higher.

"This allows our parents to return to work, and know that their child has a safe to be and support for their distance learning," said Newman.

The district also plans to expand its current before-and-after-school care into a 10-and-a-half hour day, with similar learning pods. Between the two programs, they hope to reach 100% of families needing help.

"We hope to leave our students and parents with a sense of normalcy ... and ensure there will be no loss of learning ... So far, the response has been overwhelming," said Newman.

Class is set to begin August 24.

Newman says the district has consulted with attorneys who say the district's plans do fall within state guidelines.

In a statement, a county spokesperson says, "Our current understanding is that this type of program would not be allowed under current state guidance. However, we are seeking clarity from the State on this issue."