New superintendent leads Grossmont Union High School district into ‘unprecedented’ school year

District will start 2020 with all online classes
Posted at 11:36 AM, Aug 06, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-06 14:36:36-04

EL CAJON, Calif. (KGTV) -- Students in the Grossmont Union High School District will head back to class on Monday, Aug. 10, but the start of the new school year comes with a number of changes.

For starters, all classes will be online because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The district will also have new leadership, as Superintendent Theresa Kemper takes over.

"We have a plan that's scalable and flexible," Kemper told ABC 10News.

Kemper took over as the superintendent on July 1 after Tim Glover left the position. Kemper has been with the district for nearly 25 years, with stints as an assistant principal, principal and assistant superintendent.

Since May, Kemper has been leading the effort to create a back to school plan for this fall amidst the pandemic.

"We knew it was not entirely in our control which is exactly why we created the plan the way we did," she said. "We're committed to moving into it slowly and carefully and not making mistakes as we go."

According to their "Roadmap for Reopening," GUHSD will start the 2020-21 school year entirely online, complying with state and county health guidelines that say schools cannot return to in-person learning until San Diego County has been off the state coronavirus watch-list for 14 days.

The full plan calls for five levels of reopening that gradually increase the number of students on campus. Level 2 allows for 25% capacity and Level 3 is 50%; Level 4 is 100% capacity, with some limited online learning. Level 5 is a return to full, in-person school.

Kemper said the goal is to ease teachers and students back into the classroom, and allow for flexibility as things change.

"It's been a long time since teachers and students have been in classrooms together," she said. "So, we want to ease them into the process and make sure conditions are still holding for them to all be there."

In response to the plan, the Grossmont Education Association, which represents the teachers in the district, released a statement on their Facebook page on July 2. It says, in part, that the changes for the coming school year "reflect our ongoing commitment to innovation and learning for all students."

The statement concludes by saying, "While there are many, many other issues and details that still need to be determined, we are excited to move forward with our plans to prepare to have students on campus this fall."

Teachers, meanwhile, spent the summer training and adapting their lesson plans to what Kemper calls "distance learning 2.0."

"It's more interactive," she explained. "We'll have daily interaction with students and teachers. More hands-on experiences for students, more project based and more interactive learning."

Grossmont also just completed $75 million worth of construction projects. They were part of more than $800 million in voter-approved bonds since 2004.

But the pandemic has left the new buildings empty and unused. They'll stay that way until students come back.

Kemper said the new facilities will help the students readjust to the new normal.

"They're modernized, updated, better able to use the technology that is state-of-the-art," she said. "We have spaces for students that we didn't have, inside and outside."

Even before the pandemic, the district gave every incoming student a Chromebook laptop and made them comfortable with online and digital learning. Kemper said that's helping students and teachers adapt to distance learning.

Now, she's waiting to see what the new school year brings.

"We've never gone through this before and it's really challenging opening school in the midst of a pandemic," said Kemper. "But we've created a plan, we are opening school and I think it's going to be amazing."