By Collin Breaux | Email: cbreaux@picketfencemedia.com | Twitter: @collin_breaux

Capistrano Unified School District (CUSD) is planning for distance learning—another term for online education—while schools are closed to students during the coronavirus pandemic. Schools are expected to reopen April 13.

The CUSD Board of Trustees heard a presentation about distance learning plans during a regular meeting on Wednesday, March 18. The proposed start date for the distance learning program is Tuesday, March 24.

Teachers will use online platforms including Google Classroom, SchoolLoop and other resources to connect with students and provide educational opportunities, according to an informational slide.

CUSD staff is also working on a plan tentatively named Distance Learning Student Club for students who lack access to a device or Internet connection for distance learning, intended to open by Wednesday, March 25.

As for AP testing, the College Board is considering allowing those to be taken at home. Upcoming SAT testing has been canceled. Gov. Gavin Newsom has issued an executive order—pending federal approval—waiving standardized testing for California students in K-12 schools.

CUSD has been providing food to students during the closure, with pick-up meals available on a drive-through basis at various school sites, including RH Dana Elementary School in Dana Point and San Juan Elementary School in San Juan Capistrano.

Custodians increased daily cleaning and disinfecting in every classroom and common area in every school since March 11, and they began deep cleaning at every school site beginning March 16. There were no confirmed cases of coronavirus in CUSD as of March 17.

CUSD plans to communicate with weekly updates—and more frequent updates when necessary—to families through email, social media and the district website. School administrators will receive daily updates.

District officials also have plans in place for different coronavirus scenarios, including preventing the spread and what to do if someone in the district tests positive. Prevention plans include current measures, such as sending people home immediately if they develop a fever or symptoms of a respiratory infection.

If one school within CUSD has someone that tests positive, plans include consulting with the Orange County Health Care Agency to determine if school closure is warranted and for how long, and reminding the community of social distancing measures.

CUSD Superintendent Kirsten Vital reflected on the shifts brought about by the pandemic, gave words of encouragement and thanked teachers and staff for their work.

“I want to thank our families and students for your support and flexibility during this very challenging time,” Vital said.  “I want us all to be patient and clear that things are changing rapidly and what I share with you tonight may change tomorrow or the next day or next week or next month.”

Trustee Amy Hanacek also expressed appreciation to students, especially seniors.

“They’re a resilient generation,” Hanacek said. “They’ve come through school shootings, active shooter drills, and now they have this. They will continue to make us very, very proud.”

The CUSD Board of Trustees will further discuss coronavirus-related developments as they apply to schools during a special meeting on Wednesday, March 25.

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