Crack open your computers, school is in session

Ventura High students will be using the program Canvas for the fall semester. Drawing by: Katie Medina

Ventura High students will be using the program Canvas for the fall semester. Drawing by: Katie Medina

Katie Medina and Riley Ramirez

VUSD shares new details regarding the fall closure.

Ventura Unified School District has introduced multiple learning programs during the school closure and has recently presented two programs that are available for the fall semester: Homestead and Weave. These two programs’ primary role is for elementary and middle school students while high school students will remain primarily on Canvas and Google Classroom. Edgenuity was used as a quick and temporary resource to complete the 2019-20 school year and–with lots of feedback and thought–will not be returning to VUSD in the fall.

Although students will not be learning in physical classrooms this year, the district has made a unique schedule that features live zooms with specific classes in the morning, and independent learning for after-hours to mimic the normal school routine. Mondays and Thursdays will feature periods one, three, five, seven while Tuesdays and Fridays will have periods two, four and six. These live instruction periods will take place on Zoom and last an hour long, each class around 15 minutes apart so students have time to prepare or get a snack.   

Confused about textbooks for this year? All textbooks and other materials will be distributed Aug. 24 through Aug. 27, each day designed to be distributed by grade level. All that is required on those days are students’ completed emergency and disaster cards. It’s okay if you missed your designated distribution day, there is a makeup day for all grade levels on Aug. 28 from 9 a.m. to noon, as well as 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Along with the distribution of school materials, planning meal distribution to students and their families have also been a top priority to sort out for the district.

    VUSD Food and Nutrition Director Kara Muniz shared tentative details for meal distribution based on the board decision: “Atlas, Montalvo, Portola, Balboa, Anacapa, Will Rogers, Ventura High, Sheridan Way, EP Foster and Sunset. They will be offering a weeks’ worth of breakfasts and lunches on Mondays from 11:30 a.m. [to] 1 p.m. Students that qualify for free/reduced-price meals or students that attend Montalvo, Will Rogers, Sheridan Way or EP Foster, will receive meals at no charge.  Those that do not qualify for free/reduced meals or do not attend those four schools have the option of purchasing a week’s worth of meals.  Meals are for VUSD students only and can be picked up at any of the 10 sites.”

Ventura Unified recently released the new schedule regarding live teaching for high school students. Photo from: VUSD website

According to the district website, “VUSD Athletic Directors and others are working on a statement of philosophy for this year and a framework for the sharing of athletes (those that play multiple sports) and facilities.” High school courses for physical education are being developed by VUSD teachers in Canvas and the board is working to encourage safe activities for students.

Ventura High students also questioned the continuation of their normal high school experiences, such as dances, sports games and rallies. “The planning and/or having of any activity will be in accordance with state and local COVID-19 guidelines. Activities will look and feel different as a result of adhering to safety guidelines but we will be working on ways to connect the student body. Your safety and education are our number [one] priority. Please know that we want to do what is best for all of you and look for ways to still provide you an incredible experience during this difficult time,” stated Cohen in an email.

With a school closure comes the loss of face-to-face contact with students’ designated counselors. VUSD has made mental health one of their top priorities and has designated a new part of their website solely to provide all students the help that they may need. The website, known as the S.A.F.E Center, gives students advice and support for dealing with issues such as anxiety and depression. Counselors’ emails are always open as well! If any student is struggling during these difficult times, their designated counselor will be there for them in any way they need.

According to Danielle Cortes, assistant superintendent of Educational Services, “In general we’ll still have school counselors. They’ll be an important part of the team. We’ll have lessons from students’ counselors in our coursework and we’re building kind of an orientation to address social and emotional learning overall at the very beginning of school and focusing on connections.”

Among all, VUSD has made the safety of students their number one priority in their decision of extending distance learning to the end of the fall semester. Again, all plans at this time are tentative and may be altered in the near future if events change and allow students to physically attend school safely. “All staff and all teachers really want to see our students again, that’s why we came into our jobs was to work with students and it’s been a big missing piece of our lives as well because we care about kids and miss them and miss the ability to watch them interact with their peers and do the things they love. If we feel this way as adults, we can’t imagine how it feels to be students knowing that those are the things that are most important to [them].”