Sacramento City Unified School District Announces Next School Year to Begin with Full Distance Learning

Press release

SACRAMENTO – Sacramento City Unified School District announced today that students will begin the school year on September 3 with a full distance learning program. This decision was made in close consultation with public health officials and the Sacramento County Office of Education, to protect the health and safety of students and staff as new COVID-19 cases have drastically surged and testing results are delayed.

As part of its “Return Together” reopening plan, Sac City Unified has planned for multiple teaching and learning scenarios in response to the ongoing COVID-19 public health emergency. On July 8, 2020 the district released a preliminary draft of its 44-page Health & Safety Requirements, a comprehensive guide to keeping students and staff safe on SCUSD campuses. While the district hoped and planned to offer students the options to choose between in-person and distance learning, we noted in our Health & Safety Requirements that public health conditions and recommendations by state and county officials could require a shift to a full distance learning scenario. While COVID-19 cases are spiking in California, a delayed time lag exists between testing and receiving test results, and widespread contact tracing remains inefficient. Given these factors and based on the recommendation of the Sacramento County Department of Public Health, the district has determined that the semester will start with students participating in school remotely.

“It is deeply disappointing that we will not be returning to school in-person on September 3,” said Sacramento City Unified Superintendent Jorge Aguilar. “While we will start the fall semester with distance learning, we commit to our community that Sacramento City Unified’s distance learning plan will include high-quality instruction, structures to measure student progress, and accountability to meet the academic, social, and emotional needs of all students. Our robust plan will include professional development and collaboration for teachers so that we support the success of all students despite these trying circumstances. Our students cannot afford any additional learning loss. As we implement a robust distance learning program, we call on everyone to take steps to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and urge federal and state policymakers to increase funding for and availability of expanded testing and contact tracing.”

“Our students, families, teachers and staff are grappling with tremendous fear and anxiety over how we will safely resume teaching and learning amidst so much uncertainty,” said Board President Jessie Ryan. “As a mother, I am feeling it too. What comforts me is our district’s strong commitment to use guidance from public health experts to protect our students, staff and community.  We are also holding the needs of tens of thousands of our most vulnerable students on our shoulders. The trauma many students will experience away from caring adults in their school communities is what keeps me up at night. We must consider every facet, every student, and every possibility to rethink and improve distance learning with intense student support. We must use the time before us to work with our teachers to design a comprehensive plan that will meet the needs of all children through these remarkably difficult times.”

The district is currently developing a six-part Return Together plan for the fall, which includes a detailed vision for distance learning that includes high-quality standards-based instruction with live interaction and instruction from teachers. As part of that document, and other communications by the district, the district communicated a vision with a choice between a blended and distance learning. Upon conclusion of the previous academic year, the district surveyed students and parents on their experiences with distance learning. In response, the community overwhelmingly expressed that they wanted more direct instruction, more support, and more accountability. Results and open-ended comments from that survey may be viewed here.

As the District plans for the upcoming school year, the District will continue to conduct outreach with stakeholders, including negotiations with labor partners, and will continue to plan for multiple scenarios for high quality teaching and learning, including full distance learning, full in-person instruction, and blended models that combine in-person instruction with some distance learning.