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Messages from the Superintendent


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Pasadena Unified School District
A Message from Superintendent Brian McDonald


July 24, 2020

Dear PUSD Community,

Today I am writing to share some next steps as we approach the first day of school for students. We are finalizing a guide that will contain more detailed information about the new school year, and this will be shared with you in the next few days.

All PUSD students will begin the new school year in a single distance learning environment on August 17, 2020.  We had initially considered offering two online options but will instead offer a single distance learning model for all students. Later in the fall semester, parents will be asked to indicate whether they want their student(s) to stay with the online-only model or participate in the hybrid model once it is deemed safe to offer in-person instruction.

We will closely monitor health conditions and will abide by county and state public health requirements for school reopening. Although things continue to change rapidly, we are tentatively anticipating that the earliest we can transition to a hybrid model is at the start of the second quarter, which begins October 19. However, we should be prepared to stay in distance learning through the end of the fall semester unless conditions change.

Features of PUSD’s distance learning model that begins August 17 include:

  • Structure through daily schedules for students and teachers, with increased live interaction that meet AB 77 & SB 98 universal requirements for California school districts
  • Standards-based curriculum that is UC a-g & NCAA approved
  • Combines PUSD core curriculum adoptions with a pre-built online resource, along with and model units developed by specialists and PUSD teachers.
  • Content developed and designed in alignment with best practices for online instruction
  • Canvas, a new unified learning management system with parent account tools. This replaces Powerschool Learning, which was used last spring. 
  • WebEx, a new and video conferencing tool with more robust video conferencing tools for a live classroom environment that includes smaller breakout group learning. This replaces Google Meets. 
  • More details are included in the table below. 

How PUSD will determine when it’s safe to return to in-person instruction
PUSD’s plan is designed to allow for a smooth transition from one instructional model to another.   A waiver application process is being designed by the Pasadena Public Health Department (PPHD) and the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health to allow schools to transition from distance learning to in-person learning models.  If health and safety conditions change during in-person learning, a cohort, classroom, school, or District may have to return to distance learning.  Movement between PUSD Instructional Models is determined through consultation with PPHD and subject to agreements with our labor partners. 

Although things continue to change rapidly, we are tentatively anticipating that the earliest we can open in a hybrid model is at the start of the first quarter, which begins October 19. However, we should be prepared to stay in distance learning through the end of the first semester unless conditions change.

Hybrid and Online Learning Models 
Later in the fall semester parents will be asked to indicate if they want their student to continue in the online model or return in a hybrid model once it is deemed safe to offer in-person instruction.

Below is a description of the models. 

What is the Hybrid Model?
PUSD’s 2020-21 structure of learning wherein students attend school with a combination of in-person and distance learning environments.

    • In-person learning environment - Learning that occurs in the classroom on campus
    • Distance learning environment - Learning that occurs from a remote location not on campus. 

What does the Hybrid Model include?

  • Standards-based curriculum that is UC a-g & NCAA approved
  • Combines PUSD core adoptions with a pre-built online resource, along with and model units developed by specialists and PUSD teachers.
  • Supports for English Language Learners and students receiving GATE and/or Special Education services.
  • Instruction delivered by PUSD teachers following a cohort schedule.
  • Ability to participate in learning on-campus in smaller student cohorts.
  • Directly supports special programs such as DLIP, AP, IB, Magnet, etc.
  • TK-12th grade

What is the Online Model?
PUSD’s 2020-21 structure of learning wherein students attend school in an entirely online environment while remaining enrolled at their current school. The Online Model is intended as a continuation of distance learning for a longer term or full school year.

PUSD will work with students and families to ensure equity and access to quality instruction. Accommodations for students with disabilities, students with diverse learning needs, students who are medically vulnerable, and English Language Learners will be made as needed.

What does the Online Model include?

  • Standards-based curriculum that is UC a-g & NCAA approved
  • Combines PUSD core adoptions with a pre-built online resource, along with and model units developed by specialists and PUSD teachers.
  • Supports for English Language Learners and students receiving GATE and/or Special Education services.
  • Daily live instruction delivered virtually by PUSD teachers.
  • Continuation of distance learning for a longer term or full school year.
  • Supports are in development for special programs such as DLIP, AP, IB, Magnet, etc. 
  • K-12 (No TK)

PUSD will work with students and families to ensure equity and access to quality instruction. Accommodations for students with disabilities, students with diverse learning needs, students who are medically vulnerable, and English Language Learners will be made as needed.

2020-21 Learning Options

Selecting Hybrid or Online: 
Later in the fall semester, parents will be asked to indicate if they want their student to continue in the online model for the remainder of the year. A notification will be sent to parents from the school in which the student is enrolled.

  • If you opt-in for the online model for your child(ren) we ask that you commit for the entire year
  • If you return to the hybrid model, you may switch to the online learning model at any time should your child (or another member of your family) develop symptoms, need to quarantine, or become ill—whether that is a result of COVID-19 or another illness. 

Childcare
PUSD’s Early Childhood Education (ECE) program is currently operating and will also offer Emergency Child Care for essential workers and at-risk families. Beginning August 17,  PasadenaLEARNs After School Program will offer a 3-hour online program Monday-Friday beginning at dismissal from the online school day.  We are working with community partners to offer options for in-person childcare, and will provide more details as they become available. 

Conclusion
Things change quickly when it comes to COVID19, which has meant a series of pivots in our planning, sometimes within the same day, and has made our planning both challenging and complex.  We truly appreciate your understanding and patience as we analyze and adapt to constantly changing information and guidelines. 

 I will continue to keep you updated with more information.

Sincerely,

Brian McDonald, Ed.D.
Superintendent


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Pasadena Unified School District
A Message from Superintendent Brian McDonald


July 14, 2020

Dear PUSD Community, 

The COVID-19 pandemic is continuing to have a tremendous impact on our lives. In the last several weeks, we have seen an alarming rise in COVID-19 cases. 

Yesterday, Governor Newsom announced modifications to the “Stay at Home” orders and closed indoor activities in Los Angeles and other counties in California due to current public health conditions. Also yesterday, the L.A. County Department of Public Health and the L.A. County Office of Education issued new guidelines and protocols for opening K-12 schools in the new academic year. L.A. County Public Health stated that, given current health data, we must all prepare to remain in a remote learning environment in the new school year. 

From the beginning of the pandemic, every decision that our district has made has been based on science, facts, and the law, with the safety and well-being of our students and staff at the forefront. We have been working in collaboration with the Board of Education, our labor partners, families, and community partners to plan for the safe reopening of our campuses in the new school year. After surveying parents, we had hoped to safely reopen schools in a hybrid model with students attending school on campus on alternate days and an option for 100% online learning. In our online school survey which ended Sunday, we had more than 13,000 responses, a very high completion rate for a survey. We appreciate your engaging with us and sharing your thoughts. 

All of us would like to see students back in school when it’s safe to do so. But Los Angeles County has recorded a surge in new cases in the last week, with a 9% rate of positive cases. 

We cannot and will not take chances with the health and safety of our students and staff. I plan to bring a recommendation to the Board of Education at a special meeting on July 16 that Pasadena Unified open in a 100% distance learning model on August 17.  

We will continue to monitor and evaluate public health conditions and guidelines and will let you know when it is possible to return to in-person learning on campus. 

We have been preparing for the possibility of a full distance learning model. Our school reopening plan is designed to allow us to move seamlessly from a hybrid model to a full distance learning environment and back again as conditions change. 

Distance learning will have a strengthened emphasis on teacher-student engagement, including more live interaction with certificated employees and peers for the purpose of instruction, progress monitoring, and maintaining school connectedness. We will provide specific details in the weeks ahead. 

We will continue planning for a return to in-person learning during the 2020-21 academic year as soon as public health conditions allow and adequate resources are allocated by both the state and federal governments for the safe return to schools.

This ongoing situation is challenging for every one of us. But I know that with the strength, unity, and resolve that PUSD students, staff, and families have demonstrated during these last difficult months, we will get through this time.

Sincerely,

Brian McDonald, Ed.D.
Superintendent


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Pasadena Unified School District
A Message from Superintendent Brian McDonald


July 1, 2020

Dear Pasadena Unified families and community:

I hope you and your family are doing well.  

I would like to congratulate our 2020 graduates and wish them well in their future endeavors.  Those virtual graduations are occurred last week; videos are available at pusd.us/pusdgraduates

Future of PUSD: Opening in the 2020-2021 School Year
Although the situation with COVID-19 continues to rapidly change, as of right now we are planning to reopen our schools on August 17, 2020, using a hybrid model that blends in-person and distance learning. 

While we would rather open schools in person, we are planning to reopen in a way that accounts for the fact that the COVID-19 virus will more than likely still be with us with no vaccine available.  The health and safety of our students and staff is at the forefront of our minds.  If health restrictions are lifted by the appropriate authorities and we deem it safe, we will move into a regular, in-classroom mode.

Based on state and local public health guidelines for school and the results of parent and staff surveys, our Pasadena Unified School District Reopening Task Force has developed plans to create safe learning environments for all students. See the plan at pusd.us/reopening 

Families will continue to be essential partners and we thank you for the feedback you have given so far. I would also like to take this opportunity to thank the PUSD team for their hard and excellent work in formulating this plan. 

  • Face coverings will be required on campuses to ensure the safety of our students and staff. We are now designing protocols and policies for exemptions and reinforcement. 
  • We are also designing a fully online learning option. We will send out a survey in the next few days to determine the number of students who plan to enroll in virtual learning. Information on how to register is now being developed and will be shared with you as soon as possible.
  • Childcare during non-classroom days is an urgent matter, and we are working with community partners to provide services to our students and their families.

The plan was presented at the June 25, 2020 Board of Education meeting see the video (scroll to Item I) and incorporate your feedback from surveys and the parent forum.  

Adjustments to the plan will be made as state and local guidelines continue to evolve and as we incorporate feedback from the Board and our stakeholders.

We are pleased to present a plan that, while it does include increased costs, will not face significant budget cuts thanks to the agreement between the Governor and the state legislature which keeps our funding intact except for the loss of the 2% cost of living adjustment.

An outline of the plan is posted on our website at pusd.us/reopening

As plans continue to evolve, we will continue to communicate with you. We expect that the next update will be in late July and then more frequently as August 17 approaches.

Sincerely, 

Brian McDonald
Superintendent


June 19, 2020

Dear PUSD Community,

Superintendent Brian McDonald

Today we celebrate Juneteenth, Freedom Day, commemorating the ending of slavery in the United States. It’s fitting that last night, the Board of Education unanimously approved Commitment to Black Students, a resolution declaring our District’s unequivocal commitment to and responsibility for ensuring that all Black students fulfill their potential to achieve academically and socio-emotionally. 

Although slavery was abolished over 150 years ago, the vestiges of slavery are still with us. We must do more to ensure that all of our students have a fair opportunity to receive the best education possible that prepares them to take their place in society, be healthy, and to thrive.

This resolution is a starting point for us and we will be working diligently and in collaboration over the next months and years to ensure that our systems and policies all work together to benefit our students. 

Education has long been a key to long-term social and economic change.  Our motto at PUSD is “Our Children. Learning Today. Leading Tomorrow.”  

We need to empower our students with access to a quality education and motivation to do their very best so they can be leaders in changing and correcting the remaining vestiges of racism and disparity in our society. 

Our District’s policy on equity states that, in education, equity is the notion that EACH and EVERY learner will receive the necessary resources they need individually to thrive in PUSD’s schools regardless of their national origin, race, gender, sexual orientation, physical or mental ability, first language, religion, or other distinguishing characteristics. 

Every employee must unequivocally commit to being an equity warrior.

Educational equity ensures that every student can achieve at their highest potential, attain high academic outcomes, and experience equitable opportunities to learn with achievement gaps nonexistent at any level. 

As equity warriors, each of us, regardless of our role in a school or in the district, must passionately lead and embrace the mission of educational equity for all students.

We each have the power to influence teaching and learning. I encourage you to work with us in the coming months as we take bold action to fulfill our solemn duty and actualize our mission to provide a caring, engaging, and challenging educational experience for every student, every day.

Sincerely,

Brian McDonald
Superintendent


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Pasadena Unified School District
A Message from Superintendent Brian McDonald
June 1, 2020

Dear PUSD Community,

Last week’s death of George Floyd in Minneapolis Police custody shows us that the deep-seated biases that have existed in our country continue.  To fix the persistent inequities that are so pervasive in our society, we must face them head-on.  As an African American, as a father, and as an educator, my heart hurts for our nation, for all of us who have faced bias, and for Mr. Floyd and his family.  

The COVID-19 crisis has further exposed the deep divide in our country along racial and socioeconomic lines. 

Enough is enough. It is time for us as a community and as a country and make meaningful and impactful change. The solutions rest with us individually and collectively. 

As we saw images of peaceful protests and violence over the weekend, my thoughts turned to our students and the questions they may have.  It is important that we listen and respond with honesty, and recognize and address their feelings. As a community, we must help them learn, by our own example, to act peacefully against racism and bias by making sustaining changes.  Although the school year officially ended for students last week, we have counseling staff available for our students to help them process what is taking place in many communities across the nation. To get help, please contact the PUSD Family Hotline at (626) 396-3680 or visit our website here.

We as a community must see the humanity in each other and live out the ideals of our country’s Declaration of Independence that states, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness…”

One of the central guiding principles of the Pasadena Unified School District is equity – and the events in the news show the depth of emotion in our communities around this issue. The issues surrounding these events are complex and have deep roots, and we must resolve them. 

Our children’s future depends on the actions we take today. We as a school system must do more, through our methods and actions, to ensure that every child and every person, regardless of their race or circumstance, will be lifted up.  Then and only then will our society become one that is truly “out of many, one people.”

Sincerely, 

Brian McDonald
Superintendent