LTUSD begins in person instruction; Classes may last through late June
SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. — After a tumultuous start to the academic year, students in the Lake Tahoe Unified School District began in-person classes on Thursday, Sept. 16.
With an original start date of Aug. 30, students were forced to wait to return to campuses after wildfire smoke put their safety at risk, and led up to the residents of South Lake ultimately having to evacuate.
LTUSD Superintendent Dr. Todd Cutler could make informed decisions partly due to the fact that he was welcomed onto the South Lake Tahoe incident command, as well as the Caldor Fire incident command emergency operation centers.
“I’m incredibly thankful … I was able to hear the conversations and be a part of the conversations around repopulation [in the South Lake area],” said Cutler. “That gave me immediate information to be able to make good, quality decisions about when we could get back safely into school.”
There are a wide variety of concerns for students going to school so late into the year, but Cutler is confident that by going day by day and adjusting as needed, students will still receive the quality education they need and deserve.
“That’s an ongoing focus of us assessing where our students are and what their needs are, and focusing on how we can meet those needs,” said Cutler.
Opportunities for extended learning, as well as after school activities and scheduled events will still be provided for students, while following COVID safety guidelines, but one thing the district will have problems providing due to state regulations is online learning.
California mandates that students be in school 180 days per academic year, physically. After an extended period of time with learning online, Cutler said the state is no longer making that option available.
“They waived that,” said Cutler. “I do believe that the state’s going to circle back and realize that we’re going to have to have some opportunity for us to have virtual learning for such things as fires, or COVID.”
So far, the LTUSD has only missed a total of 12 school days. Cutler said that as of right now, the district will begin to work with the El Dorado County Office of Education and the State Department to determine the amount of makeup days needed.
With the possibility of having to push into already set-aside snow days, Cutler believes the school year will be finished by June 21, tentatively.
Cutler explained that the final academic calendar won’t be ready until it’s approved by the state, which could be a timely process. Until then, the district will adjust grading periods and other internal schedules as needed, with the ease of students, parents, and faculty in mind.
Cutler said while these decisions are made, the intention to keep all pre-scheduled vacations is a top priority.
“People plan for those months in advance,” said Cutler. “We’ll engage with our employee groups… and families to look at the best possible option, but our intention is to not impact the holiday vacations that are already scheduled.”
Beyond the difficult start, Cutler said he’s excited to welcome students back to campuses.
“I’m just so thankful we’re getting the kids back,” said Cutler. “It’s been so challenging through this last year and a half. I’m really excited to get our students in school. I’m really excited for our teachers to be there and our staff to be there for them. To let them know we care about them. We’re happy they’re with us.”
In preparation for students to arrive on campus, custodian, maintenance and ground crews, along with LTUSD driver’s started to clean out campuses, starting with cleaning all of the ash from the fires, and finishing off with cleaning all of the buildings inside and out, and replacing the air filters. The preparation finished off with an AMB employee approving the buildings as safe.
“They came in and assessed and evaluated if all of our systems are working properly and signed off on that … to ensure the healthiest environment possible for the health and safety of our students.”
For more information on the current academic calendar, as well as the current COVID regulations in place on campuses, visit the LTUSD website at ltusd.org.
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