Assemblywoman Shirley Weber speaks at Voice of San Diego’s 15th Anniversary event. / Photo by Vito Di Stefano
Assemblywoman Shirley Weber speaks at Voice of San Diego’s 15th Anniversary event. / Photo by Vito Di Stefano

This post originally appeared in the April 10 Sacramento Report. Get the Sacramento Report delivered to your inbox.

San Diego schools have been closed for nearly a month due to the coronavirus.

At a teleconference last week, Assemblywoman Shirley Weber said districts should stop expecting schools to reopen this semester and instead focus on how to make sure kids are caught up when they likely walk back on campus in September.

She’s working with state Superintendent Tony Thurmond on a plan for California schools that could include intensive summer school and Saturday school, though the details have yet to be hashed out.

The teleconference included six local superintendents, all of whom gave a rundown of how their districts are supporting students and families during the pandemic. They said they’re all experiencing similar challenges, including computer and wifi availability, implementation of distance learning, food distribution and homelessness among the student population.

With families needing to depend on internet resources now more than ever, schools have been forced to grapple with the fact that not all students have the technology or space necessary to engage in distance learning.

“There are 6,000 students in our district who are currently homeless,” said Cindy Marten, superintendent of the San Diego Unified School District. “We need help figuring out how to reach them so we can teach them.”

Some districts are trying to erase those inequities by sending thousands of Chromebook computers directly to families. At San Diego Unified, Marten said the goal is to distribute more than 40,000 laptops to families, about 30,000 more than have already gone out. Whether families have reliable internet connection in their homes is a separate issue.

Paul Gothold, San Diego County superintendent of schools, which oversees some schools but mostly provides services and oversight for districts in the area, said officials are working within an imperfect system.

“We’re trying to mitigate some of these gaps that have historically existed and we’re making big investments in some of our communities to make sure our kids know they’re going to be OK,” he said.

He also noted that most districts do not have specific plans in place for addressing less urgent matters, like high school graduation ceremonies and summer sessions, but those ideas are in the works.

Marten is also scheduled to discuss the district’s challenges on a teleconference with Assemblyman Todd Gloria on Friday.

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