On March 8, FUSD launched the Learning Hubs program to support students who most greatly benefit from a structured environment and in-person learning, including special education students, students with an Individualized Education Program (IEP), and those who need stable access to technology. Following all state and county COVID-19 guidelines for proper sanitation and socially distanced desks, the Learning Hubs create safe spaces for small cohorts of a maximum of 16 individuals, including staff.
Learning Hubs were implemented at multiple schools across the district, including Grimmer Elementary School, Green Elementary School, Horner Middle School, Kennedy High School, and MSJ. Director of Secondary Education Zack Larsen said, “Learning Hubs have been established to provide a secure, quiet, consistent location for students to access their online learning environment. The hubs allow students who have spotty internet access or a home environment that is less than conducive to distance learning a place to work.”
While students at Learning Hubs are able to interact with other students and staff on-campus at a socially distanced capacity, the hubs are not a direct instruction classroom environment and students do not engage in face-to-face instruction with their teachers. According to FUSD, students in the hubs participate in distance learning instruction like all other FUSD students, but with in-person child supervision, limited teacher-to-student instruction, targeted support services, and technology and internet support.
On December 4, FUSD and FUDTA reached a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for Special Education Services staff to designate students at specific school sites to participate in the Learning Hubs. Using in-person assessments as outlined in the MOU, Special Education Services staff can identify students who would benefit from in-person psycho-education, speech and language therapy, adapted physical education, and direct access to technology.
The Learning Hubs form Phase Two of the district’s Phased Return to Campus hybrid model plan, following in-person special education assessments that the MOU Board approved on December 16, 2020.
Phase Three would bring back preschool and elementary students through a hybrid model, while Phase Four would introduce secondary school students, pending negotiations with FUSD unions over instructional minutes and COVID-19 safety provisions. According to information from the district’s March 5 COVID-19 Safety Plan & Cal/OSHA Prevention Program plan (CSP), preschool through 5th/6th grade elementary school students are slated to return to campus by April 3, and secondary school students will be returning after, as FUDTA and FUSD discussions continue. The schedule for return to school has no set schedule as of now, however, both groups of students will likely participate in a hybrid model rotating between in-person and asynchronous distance learning to allow for social distancing between students and staff.
In order to prepare for the tiered reopening plan, FUSD has been revamping its ongoing COVID-19 prevention efforts, including mandating physical distancing in classrooms, establishing districtwide hand-washing protocols, purchasing disinfecting supplies for school sites, repairing faulty HVAC systems, and assigning a staff member as the district’s COVID-19 liaison to work with identification and contact tracing for positive cases on campus. In addition, the district said that they will be providing staff and families with training related to these safety protocols in the upcoming weeks via print and video platforms.
As FUSD continues to move forward with these plans, district administration will continue to monitor Alameda County and CA state guidelines for reopening and preventing COVID-19 transmission in schools. On March 24, the FUSD Board of Education voted unanimously to approve the district’s CSP, and is currently negotiating with FUSD unions to finalize the reopening timeline and other site preparations for the return to campus.
In the March 18 Community Conversations – Reopening Update, FUSD Elementary Education Director Robin Sehrt said regarding learning hubs, “It is really nice to see schools come back to life. Even that human interaction of … having kids being dropped off and the parents waving goodbye … it feels normal.”