Schools struggle over distance learning decisions for the fall

Among the Bay Area’s largest school districts, Oakland and Fremont Unified have decided only distance learning will resume in the fall. San Francisco and San Jose Unified are considering the same. Many parents are frustrated trying to figure out how to make it work.

“It’s very frustrating for parents that we now have to scramble,” said Parent Mike Flynn.

Flynn is a proponent for in-class instruction for the social and emotional benefits. His teenage son is expected to return to distance learning in the Fall in San Jose with a twist.

“I plan on offering pods or cohorts of 12 students or less where friends can come in,” said Flynn. “We will offer assisted remote learning.”

It’s a new business concept for kids K thru 12 essentially going to school but at one of the six learning centers that Flynn owns in the South Bay. Proper safety protocols will be in place.

“We will have masks,” said Flynn. “We will have barriers. We will have temperature checks.”

“My daughter has ADHD and being in a classroom is what helps her focus,” said Parent Lisa Eckstrom.

Lisa Eckstrom’s daughter will be a senior at Willow Glen High School. Her daughter isn't thrilled about 100 percent online learning. Eckstrom is considering forming a home school cohort with her daughter’s friends and taking road trips to an area with Wi-Fi.

“You can take your classes from Yellowstone or something like that,” said Eckstrom. “How can we make lemonade out of this bowl of lemons?”

“We need to bend the curve again,” said Patrick Bernhardt, president of San Jose Teachers Association. “We need to get themetrics moving in the right direction.”

The San Jose Teachers Association said that’s what it will take for the majority of its 1,500 members to return to the classroom who are not willing to risk their health.

“The dynamic nature of this virus means you will be hearing a lot more in the next few days,” said Governor Gavin Newsom.

On Monday, Newsom was asked repeatedly about state guidance for reopening schools now that many indoor activities have been deemed unsafe. He provided no clear answer alluding to more details on Friday.

As for Flynn, he’s hoping his concept is temporarily slated to start when school does in less than a month.

“The virus doesn't seem to play by the rules so we have to be flexible and adapt,” said Flynn.

The San Jose Teachers Union said San Jose Unified could make a decision later this week about distance learning. San Francisco’s Board of Education will discuss fall options on Tuesday and is expected to make a final decision on July 28. The Berkeley schools superintendent will recommend distance-learning at its next board meeting July 15.